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What is Fine Gold?

Closely examine a 1 oz Gold American Eagle coin. On the obverse, you will find Lady Liberty, hoisting a torch in one hand and carrying an olive branch in the other. On the reverse, the coin shows a group of eagles illustrated above the words, “1 OZ. FINE GOLD~50 DOLLARS.” The coin’s classification as fine Gold is of special importance.

What is it? In short, it is a guarantee on the long-term value of your Gold investment. Fine Gold is unalloyed and meets the Precious Metals industry’s highest standard of purity, yet the classification allows for varying degrees of fineness.

Gold’s purity and karat

Gold of perfect fineness, containing absolutely no impurities, is practically impossible, although the Royal Canadian Mint has come close. The mint will occasionally produce a limited number of 1 oz Gold Maple Leaf coins at a purity of .99999, also known as 999.99 or five nines fine, the highest level of fineness currently available to collectors. This number represents the parts per thousand of pure metal in the alloy, according to its mass.

Ordinary 1 oz Gold Maple Leaf coins and the U.S. Mint’s 1 oz Gold Buffalo coins each contain a purity of .9999, also known as 999.9 or four nines fine. These are followed by coins at a purity of .999, 999 or three nines fine, including 1 oz Gold Panda coins from the People's Bank of China.

Based on the London Bullion Market Association’s Good Delivery Rules, Gold bars are only acceptable at a minimum fineness of 995.0 parts per thousand fine Gold. This standard of fineness for Gold bars is shared by many mints, exchanges and associations around the world.

Gold coins, bars, bullion and jewelry in these top levels of fineness are also known as 24 karat Gold, though this classification is most often found regarding jewelry items.

Gold at a purity of .916 is still considered fine Gold, although its value is reduced to 22 karat Gold, rather than the 24 karat Gold of .999 fine. Many popular Gold coins from around the world contain a purity of .916, including the U.S. Mint’s 1 oz Gold American Eagle coin and the South African Mint’s 1 oz Gold Krugerrand coin.

Gold at purity levels below .900 are no longer considered fine Gold.

While fine Gold is the ideal choice for investment purposes, its malleability renders it less practical for jewelry and many industrial purposes. Gold is hardened when it is alloyed with other metals. For example, 14 karat Gold is the most common choice for jewelry. Its composition includes just over half fine Gold and is commonly combined with copper, silver or zinc. Variations on the alloy allow for manipulation of a piece’s color and durability.

Explore thousands of fine Gold coins, rounds and bars through APMEX’s extensive online inventory.

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