Tips on Weighing and Selling Your Gold (Part 2)

In this post I'll be tying up some loose ends regarding the topic at hand. Additionally, I'll provide you with some personal tips on weighing and selling your gold (placer or gold jewelry), so read on if you want to learn more.

Beam Scales vs. Digital Scales

One of the questions Bedrock Dreams reader Tom V. asked in my previous post was how old-fashioned mechanical or beam scales compared to current digital scales in terms of their overall accuracy for weighing gold. From my point of view both types of scales can be very accurate (and I've used both in my mining and treasure hunting career) but I have to give the edge in accuracy and ease of use to the digital scale. This is only my opinion, of course, but it's backed up by real science. In my 22 years of technical/scientific/engineering employment at a major national laboratory we (myself and my team mates) did use balance beam scales for weighing certain bulk items but our weapon of choice for taking final weight measurements was invariably the digital scale. Again, it's a matter of choice and what you feel most comfortable with to some degree or another. But the practical edge in accuracy does go the digital route. So it's your call in the end. Me? I'll go digital every time for placer gold and junk jewelry.

Dry It Out!

Here's a little post script for you in this regard. Make sure your gold is totally dry before weighing it on any scale. I know this sounds almost stupid in terms of common sense, but if you weigh out your gold wet you are gonna get a false weight based on the added weight of the water. Yep, duh! So make certain any gold you weigh is completely dry before you dump it into a weighing tray or cup. Those of you who still watch those reality TV gold "stars" each week will often see them "cooking" their piles of gold in a frying pan on a gas stove. This is one thing some of those "stars" I classify as stumble bums got right. So you can follow suit or you can air dry your gold or even use a hair dryer on it. Whatever works. Just make sure it's dry before you weigh it. And once again, any container you use to weigh your gold in has to be tared out first and its weight subtracted from the gold + container's total weight.

The Purity Factor

The real bugaboo with determining true placer gold monetary value is not only based on its weight but on its purity factor. As I've said many times, placer gold can run a gamut of purity levels depending on how much iron, silver, copper, or other alloy(s) it contains. Certain gold areas tend to run in "averages" as far as the purity factor is concerned. This is especially true if the gold being recovered has eroded out of vein material from a single source (rare in most wet or dry placer mining locales). For example, historically speaking the majority of the gold recovered from the Old Placers District here in Northern New Mexico where I live runs an average of .917 fine out of a possible high purity level of .999. That's a very high purity level for placer gold in general and is probably due to a single source or a few sources close together putting out high purity yellow. Still, this doesn't mean that every flake, "chunker," or small nugget recovered in the Old Placers is or was .917 fine. It's just the average purity factor based on recoveries over time. I worked the Northern Motherlode of California for many years and the purity factor of the placer gold I recovered there ranged from a low of around .700-.750 fine to a high in the upper .800s. That's quite a range and one reason there is such variability in terms of gold purity is the simple fact that the placer gold in the Motherlode came from many fact, too many to count. On average, however, Northern Motherlode gold probably runs in the .800+ range. And again, some pieces of placer there will contain more gold and less alloy while other pieces will contain less gold and more alloy. Bewildering isn't it?

 (No, it ain't pure.)

Gold, "Contaminants," and Karats

Now here's a tip for you newbies out there and anyone else who is not up to speed on these things. Any gold buyer you may deal with doesn't give a good GD about the monetary value of any alloys in your gold...he or she is only interested in the gold content. Sure silver is valuable and so is copper to a lesser degree. But gold buyers see those alloys as "contaminants" when it comes to buying your placer gold, just so you know. And realistically speaking, how could a buyer determine the exact amount of lesser valuable alloy in the placer gold you sell them even if they were motivated to do so? This is true of any gold jewelry you may want to sell from your beach hunting or coin hunting activities if you're a miner and treasure hunter as I've been for four decades. In fact I started out as a treasure hunter swinging a detector before I became interested in small-scale gold mining. Getting back on track, gold jewelry in the United States (like most places in the known world today) is always alloyed with less-valuable metals like iron, copper, silver, etc. In that regard it's exactly like your placer gold from a purity standpoint, with the main difference being the gold purity value of a wedding or class ring, a bracelet, earrings, or a necklace is stamped with a "known" purity or karat value (10K, 14K, 18K, 22K and so on). As an aside, the reason alloys are used in gold jewelry is to prevent bending or warping of that jewelry. Remember, the closer you get to 24K or .999 fine gold the softer and more malleable gold is and its function in a piece of jewelry becomes problematic. Also, you may want to note that other countries will use gold in jewelry that's only 8K and produce jewelry that's 12K...karat values you typically won't find here in the United States. To further your education in this regard (yep, I'm playing teacher here!) you should know that most gold jewelry in Asia and India is 18K or 22K...very nice from a recovery standpoint for you detectorists out there. Here in the U.S. the typical karat regime is 10K (class rings, cheaper jewelry, etc.); 14K (wedding bands, nicer jewelry), and 18K (higher-end pieces and stuff from Asia, India, and the like). By the way here are your karat gold purity values:

  8K = .333 fine
10K = .417 fine
12K = .500 fine
14K = .585 fine
18K = .750 fine
22K = .917 fine
24K = .950 or higher (like .999 bullion)

(An 18K necklace.)

On the Other Hand

Your placer gold on the other hand, is not stamped with a purity level. In fact, it may contain a mixture of gold purity values which poses potential problems when you're trying to predetermine a purity value before selling that gold. Gold buyers (whoever or whatever they may be) are either going to buy your placer at a predetermined purity value that they've already set in concrete as a business practice or the more honest and ambitious buyers will conduct an acid test on your recovered yellow. And any gold buyer worth his or her salt will also acid test your junk or recovered gold jewelry despite its karat markings just to make sure they aren't getting scammed. And yes, shit like this happens every day and gold buyers ain't dummies. If they were they'd soon be out of business, don't ya know? Anyway, some of you may be wondering why I'm going on and on about jewelry karat values. The value of this information should come to light in my next and final post on this topic. Or at least that's my hope.

See you next time around.

(c) Jim Rocha 2019

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Somehow I missed this post until now...
    It's all a little confusing how gold varies so much from one area to the next. I understand it being alloyed with different metals, but it seems there should be an average worldwide...….I suppose there is. Still, it seems like it should all be pretty much the same. Nature does some strange things.
    The acid test...does it eat away impurities, or turn color with different alloys?
    Also, does the karat rating vary with who is doing the testing? How accurate is that?
    As always, interesting stuff here Jim.


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