Articles / Pre-Columbian Gold
Pre-Columbian gold - what you ain't buying...
There is more "Pre-Columbian" gold being offered for sale right now than ever before;
far more than was ever excavated.
The amazing things about this are that
1. some of it is being sold;
2. the clowns buying it actually believe it's authentic, and
3. the thieves selling it don't even know how to describe what they're selling.
The general rule has always been an 11 to 1 ratio.
A thousand dollars of gold would make $11,000 worth of fake "Pre-columbian" gold pieces.
It's a highly profitable business, perfectly suited to those collectors that know more than the experts, and love bargains; finding their own wonderful, cheaper than regular dealer sources.
Some of the usual bullcrap constantly refers to "Museum Quality" and Tumbaga.
The sellers don't know the first thing about either.
"Museum Quality" refers actually to anything that a museum wants to buy;
which can range from the most magnificent example of one style to a simple,
small, relatively unimportant, inexpensive fragment that happens to fit into the museums immediate desires.
Tumbaga is even more misused.
Pre-Columbian gold has always been classified by the gold content.
80% or more gold in a piece is classified as pure gold.
60-80% as fine gold.
40-60% as poor gold.
And, under 40% gold in a piece as Tumbaga.
What follows isn't giving away information to the fakers, since they could find the information themselves, if they wanted to bother.
Gold is almost always found with silver and copper mixed in with it. The ancients knew how to remove both of these impurities. By hammering on the gold mixture, then heating the gold, then boiling it in a saline solution, some of the surface layer of copper is dissolved.
Repeating this again and again will result in a surface of silvery gold, such as you see in Tairona pieces from Colombia. Almost always, due to the corrosive qualities present in the burial areas, the pieces are too fragile to wear.
On the other hand, gold pieces from Panama and Costa Rica are generally a rich deep gold color, much more solid, heavier, and almost always purer. They could remove the silver the Colombians couldn't.
Stale human or Dalmation urine will dissolve silver, as will a group of acids. The Oxalis plant can make a silver dissolving solution, Oxalic acid - but, unfortunately it didn't grow in Colombia, so they had no means of removal. The ancients in central America used it, producing much more pure gold pieces. They're wearable - almost as much so as the crap that's being sold as real on e-Bay.
Some things to look for are the forms of manufacture. The ancients didn't often cast a complete, finished piece. They'd usually cast a lump where wings and tails were going to be, then hammered them out to the form they wanted. If a piece had more than the most minor imperfections, it was destroyed and recast. If a piece has any areas that have been soldered, you've got a problem; since they just didn't have any form of flux to cleanse the surface and aid adhesion, their form of joining had to be by hammering.
So take a good look at the wondrous, fabulously cheap gold pieces you're being offered. Remember that anyone giving any guarantee of authenticity should be a true expert,
not some collector disposing of their un-authenticated collection - and realize that if it's a real masterpiece, or great piece; there are many auctions out there eager to sell it,
and a worldwide audience who will pay the going price. Check auction catalogs of the past sales.
If the seller is giving you a great deal, you'd better figure out why - and what they're really giving you.