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Gold Investments During a Recession: Be Sure of What Lies Beneath

By Gavin Soon, Senior Sales Manager Asia, Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science

Published on January 12, 2021

Gold is one of the most attractive forms of investment, resonating with current economical practicalities as well as age-old traditions of many cultures. Gold is also typically viewed as a safe-haven asset, given inflation, depreciating currencies due to various economic factors, and global uncertainty. In an uncertain economic environment with soaring gold prices, investors might buy more gold bullion, coins, bars or ingots, but individual customers tend to buy only what they need, causing a dip in sales at gold shops. On the other hand, pawn shops will experience an uptick in the redemption of gold valuables, with gold owners cashing in their holdings. These transactions have resulted in an increase in the number of fake gold scams all over the world, including recent prominent cases in Malaysia, China and Thailand, where millions of dollars have been lost.

Accurate analysis piece by piece

The real value of jewellery and gold bullion is largely determined by the precious metal’s elemental composition. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) enables quick and easy testing of precious metals in an accurate and non-destructive manner. XRF precious metal analysers enable testing to be conducted without the need for chemical assay, fire assay or alternative testing methods.

All XRF instruments are designed around two major components, an X-ray source, commonly an X-ray tube, and a detector. Primary X-rays are generated by the source and directed at the sample’s surface, sometimes passing through a filter to modify the X-ray beam. When the beam hits the atoms in the sample, they react by generating secondary X-rays that are collected and processed by a detector.

The X-rays emitted by the atoms in the sample are collected by a detector, and processed in the analyser to generate a spectrum showing the X-ray’s intensity peaks versus their energy. As we have seen, the peak energy identifies the element. Its peak area or intensity gives an indication of its amount in the sample. The analyser then uses this information to calculate the sample’s elemental composition. The whole process from pressing a start button or a trigger, to getting the analysis results, can be as quick as two seconds or it can take several minutes.

Hitachi’s product range

Hitachi’s XRF analysers for precious metals make determining gold (Au), silver (Ag), platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd) content fast and easy. They can also be used to verify rarer precious metals such as osmium (Os). Apart from determining precise composition, the instruments also measure plating thickness, such as gold coatings on copper alloys and rhodium coatings on gold alloys. With a minute measurement area and high accuracy, checking the composition, exact karat weight, plating and integrity of each piece is simple.

Hitachi’s gold spectrometer product range includes two non-destructive XRF analysers: the benchtop X-Strata920 microspot XRF analyser or the lightweight and handheld X-MET8000 XRF gun, depending on the verification process.

The X-Strata920 XRF gold testing machine is ideal for hallmarking centres, gold refineries, smelters and test labs. It is a high-precision instrument that can accommodate a wide range of pieces, with the ability to measure small features on pieces, such as links, clasps, settings and mounts. The ability to choose between several collimator, chamber and base configurations makes the X-Strata an extremely versatile instrument that delivers accurate results for the tiniest of features.

The X-MET8000 handheld XRF analyser is ideal for gold purity analysis on the go. It weighs only 1.5 kilograms, and as such, is ideal for small spaces. The “point-and-shoot” feature makes it easy for pawn shops, jewellery shops or verification authorities to get the karat value, classification or composition of the precious metal on-site, depending on the need. It comes with a light stand as standard for the Expert model and an optional benchtop stand, a very popular accessory for precious metal and jewellery testing.

To find out more about the range of analyzers for precious metals, visit

GAVIN SOON has over 20 years of experience in analytical instrumentation with solid technical expertise and understanding of spectroscopy applications, markets and customer needs.

* This article was published in partnership with Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science