Testing Gold the Archimedes Way


Wealthymatters.comI’m sure most people have heard the Archimedes story.He was the Greek guy who got out of his bath tub and ran,naked, down the street,shouting Eureka!Eureka ! I’ve Found It !

Just to refresh memories,here is the story:

Archimedes was a Greek scientist who lived in ancient Syracuse . The King of Syracuse wanted a gold crown made. So he gave some gold to a goldsmith to have one made. After few days, the goldsmith brought the finished crown to the King. The King had the crown weighed. He found weight of the crown to be equal to the weight of the gold he had given the goldsmith . However the color of the crown made the King suspicious. He believed that the goldsmith had pocketed some of the gold he had been given for his own personal use. The King wanted to find out the truth. So he asked his court scientist Archimedes to find out how pure the gold in the crown was.Obviously Archimedes could not melt down the new crown to determine its purity.So to find a solution Archimedes thought about the problem day and night. One day,while he was preoccupied thinking about this problem, he proceeded to take a bath. He was so preoccupied that he failed to notice that the water in his bathtub was already full to the brim.So as he got into into the bathtub ,a large quantity of water flowed over the rim . Archimedes noticed this and had a brainwave . He was so excited to have at last found the solution to the King’s problem that he jumped out of the bathtub,and ran naked down the street, shouting, “Eureka! Eureka!” Eureka in Greek means ‘I have found it.’

What Archimedes had remembered was this:Different metals of the same weight have different volumes. This is because different metals have different densities.Also 0bjects, put in water, will displace water. The displaced water will be equal to their volumes. A metal or alloy that is less dense will displace more water than a denser one.

Using these basic facts, Archimedes worked out a plan to find out the purity of the gold in the crown. He took two bowls and filled them with water to the brim. He then he placed each bowl separately in the middle of 2 other larger vessels. He then placed the crown in one bowl and as the water overflowed he collected the water at the bottom of the outer vessel. Then he took a piece of pure gold,equal in weight to the crown. He put this gold piece in the middle of the second bowl. Here too the  water overflowed and got collected at the bottom of the outer bowl. Archimedes then measured the quantity of water in the two vessels. He found out the difference in the water that overflew in each case. The crown had displaced more water than the pure gold piece.So he concluded that, the gold in the crown had some other metals mixed in it.  Archimedes reported his finding to the King who was then able to wring out a confession from the goldsmith.

This same principle can be  used to determine the purity of gold ,approximately, at home.First weigh the unknown sample. Then determine the water displaced by a known quantity of gold of given purity.Then use ratios to determine how much water a piece of gold of the given purity and the same weight as the unknown sample would displace.If necessary use ratios again to adjust for a different caratage.Here is a worked example on how to do it http://www.chemicalforums.com/index.php?topic=8490.0 .Then compare the amount of water displaced by the unknown sample with what it should theoretically displace and  check the purity of the unknown sample of gold.

This method comes in handy to detect the modern day gold -plated titanium fakes.Titanium is denser than gold and so would displace less water.For more details check this post :http://strats4ever.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/rumours-of-gold-plated-tungsten-how-to-easily-test-yours/ .This is also why it’s safer buying 22k gold over 24k for investment purposes.

About Keerthika Singaravel
Engineer,Investor,Businessperson

18 Responses to Testing Gold the Archimedes Way

  1. Shreya Jha says:

    Does this Archimedes principle work for all metals?

  2. Pingback: Is Chaos Life? Is Life chaos? – Emotional Idiot

  3. SHUVO says:

    so,what is the differences between pure and impure metals through archemidis law???

  4. chitti18 says:

    Nice. It tells us that if we focus deeply on finding out the solutions for the problems we have rather than mourning on the problems all the time, then we will surely get a way out.

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Great story.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. s.santhanam says:

    to test in lab in archemidies way gold testing water purity temperature, and the nylon to suspend the gold should not absorb water and the displaced water to be measured accurately with electronic balance and the formula to determine carat of the ornament is required reply

  6. rajesh says:

    you did not mentioned when it was discovered

  7. Bunny says:

    You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!

  8. Roho says:

    Nice post! i like it. please bookmark this page in digg or mixx so that everybody cam find it easily. )) Thankee for sharing this information. You have made a cool blog.

  9. Glen Fitgerald says:

    Thank you for a great post.

  10. rajendhar says:

    too good

  11. Ankit says:

    Very easy way to understand.Thanks.

Please Leave Me Your Comments!I Love Reading Them!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: