The latest record inflation data favor the decision to place savings in safe assets. One of such assets is gold, which, unlike money, does not lose value. It has been seen as a safe form of capital investment for thousands of years, which explains why it constantly attracts fraudsters. What must be checked before deciding to buy bullion? Where to buy good-quality gold, and what are the ways to recognize real gold from counterfeit? – analyzes Jarosław Żołędowski, President of the management board of Mennica Skarbowa.

Several options for investing capital in gold currently exist on the Polish market. There are bullion coins, bars, gold jewelry or so-called “paper gold” which is a financial instrument that only gives the investor the opportunity to track the price of this metal. When investing in gold, it is necessary to remember one simple rule – there is no such thing as a “bargain” in this market. Any overly attractive price should arouse the buyer’s vigilance if he does not want to expose himself to the loss of wealth. The safest option for buying gold is to visit a branch of a long-established gold dealer in person, buy online from the same seller, or to visit a National Bank of Poland outlet.

Gold attracts counterfeiters and fraudsters…

Gold has been counterfeited for centuries, but it was very difficult to come close to perfect forgery in earlier centuries. Nowadays it is easier. Most commonly, counterfeit coins or bars can be found on e-commerce platforms or in newly established companies. There are more and more such forgeries in circulation and they are of better quality, and consequently pawnshops or small gold buying points often accept such products and then sell them in good faith to other customers.

Counterfeit gold is especially prevalent in online trading. In particular, a person buying gold for the first time can have a problem telling the difference between a fabricated product and real gold. Counterfeits are often gold-plated, but made from a tungsten derivative, which has a similar density to gold and is difficult to recognize. One of the main ways to use tungsten is to drill a hole in the bar and fill it with this metal. Copper-zinc alloy, or so-called tombac, is also a popular material for preparing fake gold. However, it is worth knowing that there are many ways to verify the authenticity of gold. And what is important – it is possible to be done independently. A mint ruler is sufficient for gold bullion coins, while with bars it is necessary to use a magnetic scale or a spectrometer. The physical characteristics of gold make it not only valuable, but also very distinctive. Counterfeit bars and coins will always differ from the original in one parameter – weight or size. If they are to retain the weight of the original, they will be larger than it. If they are to retain the size, they will be lighter than the original. Counterfeits also differ in the sound they make when struck against a table, for example. As an interesting aside, I would like to add that last year a smartphone application appeared that allows you to verify coins using sound frequencies. It must be admitted that thanks to it, the resonance test has gained a strong foothold and is used even by professional traders. One last piece of advice – it is always a good idea to buy gold from pre-tested companies that have been in the market for years – says Jarosław Żołędowski, President of the management board of Mennica Skarbowa.

How to check if gold is real?

For several years, mints have been successfully fighting the flood of counterfeits and inventing new security features – micrographs, holograms or QR codes on packaging. Undoubtedly, however, the purchase of gold is an investment that should be properly prepared for. In favor of buyers is the fact that several basic tests can be performed nearly free of charge. In the case of a gold bar, the first sign of potential counterfeiting will be the packaging (CertiPack). It should fit perfectly and contain no signs of tampering. The next step to verify the supposition of counterfeiting of the viewed bar can be a test with a magnet – real gold will not be attracted by a magnet. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, so it is not fully reliable. It is also worth taking measurements with a spectrometer. This device, even without taking the product out of the CertiPak, states the chemical composition of examined metal.

The authenticity of coins can be determined by exactly the same methods as for the bar. What is more – an additional way to detect a counterfeit is the sound. A gold coin placed on the finger and struck with a metal object will produce a long and clear sound, while a tungsten coin will produce none.

However, the main tool for verifying the authenticity of gold coins is a mint ruler (Fisch ruler), which can be purchased for less than PLN 100. This is an instrument for checking the authenticity of gold bullion coins, which was developed for investors who choose physical bullion. The ruler combines the features of a caliper – it allows you to take precise measurements of the thickness and diameter of coins and indicates the correct weight using a counterweight of 1 ounce (oz). The design resembles a ruler equipped with symmetrical cutouts called test slots, where the coin to be verified is placed, and one indentation dedicated to determining authenticity based on weight. Two slots corresponding to the original size are provided for each reviewed coin. Along the edge of the Fisch ruler are indentations to confirm the correct length of the coin’s diameter, while perpendicular to them are shorter indentations to assess thickness. The slots have been cut according to the exact dimensions, so if the coin falls out or does not fit – a forgery can be suspected. The coin weight test also helps verify the authenticity of the product. When placed in the indentation, the coin should tip the balance, which is tantamount to its authenticity when the other parameters also match.