The mythology of modern dating methods

If an art object is manufactured by melting of gold, the helium produced by the decay of uranium and thorium since the gold existed is degassed.After the gold cooled down, helium is stored again within the crystal lattice.Furthermore, only few milligrams of gold material of the valuable objects are available.We applied the U, Th–He method to numerous antique gold objects and to some forgeries [] by referring to the story of the gold tiara acquired for a large sum of money on April 1 (! The tiara had allegedly given more than two thousand years ago to the Scythian king Saitapharnes as part of a bribe not to attack the Greek colony of Olbia.The same method can be applied to antique gold objects for which the time of manufacturing is unknown.This research and application to gold antiquities is important because gold is probably the most difficult material in terms of detecting modern forgeries, as no patina is formed on its surface.Usually we obtain a sample of about 30 mg of an antique object for the determination of its authenticity.The sample is cleaned and etched in aqua regia in order to remove possible superficial pollution.

The feasibility of this application was mentioned in 1996 in an earlier article in Gold Bulletin, Eugster (Gold Bull 1–104, ).We show that our results indicate that the applied dating method opens a new perspective for the dating of gold deposits without assuming contemporaneity between gold and datable hydrothermal minerals.The second application of our dating method is authenticating archeological gold objects.Based on these studies we suggested that it might be possible to apply the U/Th–He dating method to antique gold objects.Inspired by our work, Kossolapov and coworkers [] used a specifically designed mass spectrometer for extremely low helium quantities to test gold samples of archeological (Maikop and Scythian Collections of the Hermitage Museum, St. Samples of about 50 mg of gold material were loaded into a molybdenum crucible and heated up to the melting point of gold of 1064 °C.

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