Gold bars may not be part of regular life for a consumer, but there are massive implications stemming from any counterfeiting activity around this precious commodity.

Gold bars are generally created by a central bank or authorized mint. The bar is manufactured from rolled gold sheets. Typical stakeholders during the supply chain are the distributors, retailers, bank or bullion agents, and any end user who has bought the bars.

Ennoventure designed the world’s first invisible ‘on the metal’ solution for Gold bar authentication, which can be verified by a simple photo. This solution was deployed for a leading gold re ner in the middle east region. This anti-counterfeit authentication technology can be used for verifying the gold bar purity, dimensions, source and other key metrics. Read the case study below to understand how Ennoventure designed the anti-counterfeit solution using cutting-edge technology.

Summary

The technology solution involved integrating an invisible cryptographic code onto gold bars, which can be ‘read’ by mobile applications provided by Ennoventure. The invisible code cannot be replicated or faked, while the authentication testing can be done by anyone with a smartphone camera.

Are fake gold bars common?

  1. $50 Million worth of gold bars worth ( stamped with Swiss refinery logos) that were stored in the JPMorgan Chase & Co vaults were found to not have originated from the facilities of Switzerland’s gold refiners. Even in an ecosystem with major players, counterfeiting has taken root.
  2. There was a scandal in 2020 in China when it was detected that a major Gold supplier engaged in counterfeiting gold, equivalent to 22 percent of China’s annual gold production and 4.2 percent of the state gold reserve as of 2019. The problem is further accentuated by the fact that China is the world’s largest gold producer and importer.
  3. In India, one of the world’s biggest consumers of gold jewellery, several duplicate gold stamping machines and fake bars were seized in Zaveri bazaar, one of the areas with the highest density of Gold jewellery shops in India.

From the world’s biggest gold producer to the world’s biggest consumer, and the bastion of quality and purity – the problem of counterfeit gold bars has not spared anyone.

The size of the problem

The gold industry creates 2.5M such bars every year, and this seems to be the tip of the iceberg, since many thousands more are expected to have gone undetected, adding up to hundreds of millions in value.

Current methods for authentication

Currently, gold bars are identified and protected by the following methods

  1. Certificate of authenticity matching the serial number on the bar
  2. Sealed protective packaging to prevent counterfeiting, damage and tampering
  3. Registered serial numbers stamped onto the bar
  4. Holograms

All these are subject to counterfeiting. Protective packaging could be faked, and original packaging could be used for fake gold bars. Serial numbers could be stamped onto the fake gold bar using machines. Certificates of authenticity could also be faked

The Ennoventure Solution – “On-the-metal Authentication”

The requirement

  1. The client manages the entire gold supply chain and wanted to deploy an anti-counterfeit solution that can allow for instant testing anywhere in the chain.
  2. Packaging of the gold bar was often counterfeited and original packaging was used to carry fake gold bars. The solution had to go onto the metal.
  3. The authentication process should be easy to carry out by any stakeholder in the system, with high accuracy and no specialized instruments.

Solution

Ennoventure’s invisible cryptographic code was usually integrated into product packaging graphics(no change to the factory process, ink or packaging material).
In this case, additional innovation was done to allow for the Gold bars to have the encryption cast onto them at the refinery itself.

A digital ‘photo’ verification certificate-

When using the Ennoventure gold bar authentication solution – each gold bar carries a de-facto certification of authenticity that cannot be faked. The photo of the gold bar, taken on the smartphone, literally becomes a certificate.

The encryption on the metal ensured that the authentication code cannot be replicated. The gold bar cannot be separated from the authentication code as would be the case for any kind of packaging.

Verify in a Snap

Any stakeholder along the entire gold supply chain could verify and authenticate the gold bar simply by taking a photo using Ennoventure’s mobile application.

The mobile application is supported by all major smartphone models – and replaces the need for any complex machinery.

Current methods of gold testing

Detecting minute variations in the purity requires specialized testing devices. Penetrative testing is too time-consuming and impractical for gold bars – both due to the time, and potential wastage

Currently, gold bars are tested using methods ranging from easy but inaccurate to complex and accurate.

  1. By checking if the weight of the gold bar matches the measurements given on the bar
  2. Use a magnet to test if there are other metals added to the bar
  3. Checking dimensions as given on the bar – to match the weight of gold, bars that have other metals need to be larger, as gold is denser.
  4. Water displacement test
  5. Using nitric acid – this can be done competently only by professional dealers and runs the risk of damaging the bar. Even here, the acid strengths have to vary to identify the gold purity.
  6. Electrical conductivity test
  7. X-ray fluorescence analysis

Advantages of Ennoventure’s gold authentication solution –

  1. Saves time – The authentication happens in seconds – allowing for quick testing of gold bars. When transporting Gold bars, time is of the essence due to security and logistics dependencies.
  2. Saves money – Apart from the savings from eliminating counterfeit gold bars, the stakeholders do not have to invest in expensive testing equipment.
  3. Increases mobility – For the use of sensitive testing equipment, the environment often has to be controlled for dust, noise and other factors. Ennoventure’s mobile app solution can work under any condition.
  4. Increases test frequency – Ennoventure’s solution vastly increases the number of people who can do the testing and the frequency of testing. Test devices are usually difficult to transport and cannot be assigned in large numbers. In this case anyone with a smartphone can test a gold bar for authenticity.
  5. Eliminates any need for training – The use of usual gold purity verification tools requires a minimum level of training for the person conducting the test. In the case of Ennoventure’s solution – the person testing does not need any training.

The gold route – tracking the testing

The global gold supply chain is incredibly complex. Ennoventure’s cloud-enabled solution allows the stakeholders in the supply chain to see the locations where the gold bar testing is being conducted, and the presence of fake gold bars. This data can be used in real time to take action in conjunction with regulatory authorities. The gold re ner or supplier can also reverse engineer this data to track the source of weakness that allows counterfeit gold to enter their supply chain.

The flow of gold

The key markets with gold dealers and trading houses are Hong kong, Japan and Thailand. The source of the gold can be from places like North Korea, Venezuela and other markets with large illegal operations.

Brand engagement for the gold industry –

Additional information about the gold bar can be revealed to the person conducting the gold bar verification

  1. Certificate of authenticity – A digital version of the physical gold purity authentication certificate can be shown on the mobile phone when the gold bar is scanned.
  2. Current value – A real-time report of the value of the gold can be shown based on applicable gold prices.
  3. Gold purity verification – The purity of the gold bar can be shown, based on the metrics captured during the refinery process.
  4. Cross-sell – Gold industry brands can showcase relevant products and services by showing a video or brochure of the brand on the phone

Raising the ‘bar’ on authentication

Ennoventure’s market-ready solution has been tested and deployed. If you are looking for the best solution to protect your brand, get in touch with us. We can work with refiners, jewellers, banks or authorised mints to integrate this solution with your supply chain.

Backdrop

Though gold counterfeiting has been around for millennia, the rise in forgeries has gone hand in hand with the rise of gold prices since the mid-2000’s.

  1. Gold has been used in transactions by illegal organizations – as they are fungible
  2. The compact nature of gold for the concentration of large value in small packages. This aids the easy transport of value across borders, often through smuggling.
  3. Gold is very malleable and allows for innovative ways of hiding precious metals. Counterfeiters continue to nd ways to dodge the authorities.
  4. Gold cannot be removed from circulation or devalued like a currency, or blocked/traced like online money.

Impact

  1. Gold is used as a hedge against inflation and collateral for commerce by governments and large organizations. The gold reserves are typically stored in the form of gold bars. Any disruption in the confidence of the quality of gold traded or stored can send shockwaves in the economy.
  2. Fake gold bars can be used to fund illicit operations and terrorism. There is a direct linkage to
    crime.
  3. Gold can be used for money laundering. Introduction of fake gold bars or bars with unclear
    sourcing can be an assist for money laundering.

Key factors in the business of Gold bars

  1. The sheer cost per ounce of gold dictates that there cannot be any error in the verification process.
  2. The gold bar counterfeiters can spend considerable sums of money to enable the fraud, because the rewards of success are substantially high. They can invest in the technology required to create gold bars that are as close to the real thing as possible.
  3. Gold is often used as collateral or hedge, and simply stored away – the actual fraud may be detected only years later – this increases the necessity that there must be an easy way to verify and authenticate at any given time with non-invasive processes.

Types of gold bar counterfeiting

  1. Purity adulteration – Even a small difference in purity can result in a massive difference in value, and because Gold is fungible, it is possible to blend it into the system.
  2. Illegal sourcing – Gold that is sourced from war zones or illicit operations is introduced into the supply chain. The purity of the gold bar may be higher than typical counterfeits, but the bars carry fake labels, packaging and stamps impersonating the ones provided by accredited refiners across the globe.
  3. Logo impersonation – This is an industry with very well-known and regarded players – so their logo itself is a sign of quality – this is used by the counterfeiters to stamp fake refinery logos on the bars.
  4. Fake identification numbers – Identification numbers are stamped on the bars, but those can be repeated as well, and tracking identification numbers is not instantaneous and can hold up the supply chain.

Gold bar counterfeiting at all levels

  1. Gold travels through a secure supply chain, so the big-ticket counterfeiters will be savvy enough to penetrate and infuse their counterfeit gold bars.
  2. Counterfeiting and the di culty in identifying fakes have prevented gold bars from being traded frequently in the consumer market – but through auction platforms and online scamsters continue to sell fake gold bars to unsuspecting customers who think they are getting a bargain on the prevailing prices

Sources –

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/fake-gold-bars-machines-seized-
in-zaveri-bazaar/articleshow/71205728.cms

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/chinas-biggest-gold-
fraud-4-of-its-reserves-may-be-fake-report/articleshow/76707339.cms?
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