The gold world has been ablaze for the last few weeks with a sensational story from fifteen years ago that the US government allegedly manufactured/bought some 1.3 to 1.5 million 400 oz, tungsten gold plated bars. Some 640,000 of these bars were allegedly stored at Fort Knox, and the balance was sold/shipped to central banks/other parties around the world.
This story took off and eventually reached national TV at CNBC. The Internet is now alive with reports about it and even www.goldseek.com had a special question and answer session on Nov 25, 2009 which addressed the report on "Does the U.S. have a Secret Gold Stash?" Goldseek.com offered no conclusions on the report or its truthfulness; but used the word "if" at least twice to address the story (i.e. if tungsten filled bars are indeed circulating, and if true). Moreover, there have been at least two websites which have discussed this issue at some length (kirbyanalytics.com and goldenjackass.com).
While I fully know and understand that our government lies to us and would without hesitation undertake such a patently dishonest act of deception and fraud, and while I have come to realize that almost anything is possible in today's warped culture and civilization; I did have some reservations about the story.
I put the report in the context of a rumor (as indeed happened by numerous other reporters who also called the story a rumor). For my part, even the alleged reports of some such bars being found in Hong Kong must be put in the vein of being a rumor. I know of no proof on any of this. Immediately, a reader at www.analysis-news.com fired back to me about how bad I was and that the story was based on fact and not rumor. This backdrop brings on this presentation.
Internet searches have been run to determine the properties of tungsten gold plated bars. I found that the two metals are very similar and that it was plausible to use gold plating around tungsten bars. In fact, there were articles on this course a year ago on the net. For example, at least by Mar 17, 2008, boingboing.net had a story from PopSci about the feasibility of using gold plated tungsten bars to fake gold.
Other stories surfaced showing that indeed actual manufacturers were busy making gold plated tungsten wiring, antennas, jewelry, etc. One of these, in China, at China Tungsten Online (Xiamen) Manu & Sales Corp, had quite an Internet spread which suggested that the Chinese government had either closed down the Internet coverage or the business for alleged fear that it could bring bad publicity to China.
As far as the properties of tungsten versus gold, they are similar. But there are important differences, per the Ron Paul blog at dailypaul.com. In coins, there is a difference in the ring. The speed of sound thru tungsten is different from that with gold (as is detectible with a cheap ultrasound scanner). Tungsten is very hard and brittle (with a higher melting point) while gold is soft and pliable (on a hardness scale, it is alleged that talc at 1 means gold at 2.5, tungsten at 7.5 and diamonds at 10.0).
The atomic weight of gold is said to be 196.96 versus 183.86 for tungsten. Gold allegedly has a specific gravity of 19.32 and tungsten of 19.25. Precision measuring and weighing devices (which are now available all over the world) could measure a bar and easily calculate its exact volume and weight for either gold or for tungsten. These devices would immediately detect tungsten bars in contrast to gold bars. (News from www.analysis-news.com )
No matter what opinion we hold, tungsten gold plated bar has its own unique properties and meanings.