Looking over what you guys search for in order to get to this page, and looking at the questions that come in to this site, either through our email address (it’s on our about page) or in comment sections, there are a few things that come back to haunt us every so often. Seeing that the need is there, and we are, after all, the “Nice Company” (Snälla Bolaget), we will try and deal with some of your questions the coming days and next week. First up: Precious metals!

What’s a precious metal?

precious metal is a rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical element of high economicvalue, which is not radioactive (excluding natural poloniumradiumactinium andprotactinium).

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There you have it. To put it in more simple terms, we’re talking about gold, silver and platinum. Those’re the ones that people will regularly carry with them, and that includes going through airport (or seaport) security with.

So what’s the question?

Well, it seems that there’s a lingering belief that airport security metal detectors will not “go off” on these kinds of metals, and that there’s some reason why gold and silver and such will pass through there without a peep. This usually means nothing more than that the line will be held up a little while someone harboring this belief goes back out through the portal in order to remove the jewellery, watch or bullion bar that they have somewhere on their bodies, but in more serious cases, people will actively try to hide precious metals on them in the belief that security or customs will not be able to detect them as they pass through and onto an airplane.

And the answer?

Well, if you’re anything like us, you read papers regularly, online or offline, it doesn’t matter. At some point or other, you’re almost bound to have come across articles about treasure hunters, right? People who roam the globe (or maybe just your neighborhood beach) with a portable metal detector looking for gold coins, jewellery and whatnot else that might have been forgotten, buried by time, or buried by people for that matter. Now… this should really be answer enough (but we know it isn’t, of course).

To be fair, the belief that airport security metal detectors are configured so as to not react to precious metals is a common misconception. There’s no reason to be ashamed of having believed it – you could just take a look at our search terms to see that there are a lot of people thinking the same thing out there.

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The fact remains, and we’ve talked about it a little bit on our Airport Security FAQ as well, that airport security metal detectors will detect any metal, be it precious or not. Gold, silver, platinum, whatever your liking, they will all be detected by the metal detector, as the contraption’s name implies. End of story.

Is it possible to fool the metal detector?

Yes it is, and we’ve talked about that here, and a little bit here as well, but the ways that you can do this involves severely limiting the amount of metal and it looks seriously weird when you do it, so there’s no real idea to try it unless you’re a hundred percent sure no one will see you. Granted, distract the security officer, and you might get away with it there, but what about the people in line behind you? In these fanatical times, people will scream blue murder and terrorism at anything that moves funny.

Also, get a lot of practice before you try it for real. It’s kinda hard.

Are you sure the detector will find my hidden stash of gold?

Yes.

The fact that the metal detector will detect your precious metals is undeniable, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to get it through the checkpoint – there’s just a need to think outside the box, so to speak, or in the case of airport security and their love of little boxes to put things in – think inside the box. We’ll get back to how you can disguise and hide your items when going through the airport security checkpoint in the coming days. Stay tuned.

1 COMMENT

  1. Question : Can the airport security metal detector distinguish the difference between gold or base metal , or does it just detect metal ? For example if I’m wearing a bracelet that weighs 3 pounds and is made of gold , I put it in the plastic tub and run it thru the X-Ray machine . Will the machine be aware that the bracelet is gold , or will it just detect that it’s a metal?

    • And here’s the answer:
      The metal detector works for all metals, but it will not distinguish between them.

      As for the x-ray machine, all metal will show up (provided it is thick/dense enough) as solid black. So no, the operator can not know that it is gold, he or she will simply know it’s metal.

  2. I just went through airport security with a 1 ounce silver bar in my pocket and the detector didn’t make a sound. Why?

    • Well, Terry, 1 ounce isn’t much, really. For those not familiar with the ounce, it’s just over 28 grams.

      The detector adds up all the metal you have on you, and will only give an alarm above a pre-set level. The fact that you could walk through with an ounce of silver probably means nothing other than that you had little else made of metal on your body. Everyone knows you have to take your watch off, for example, but how does that compare to 1 ounce of silver? As an example, the Omega Seamaster weighs in at 111 grams, or 3.92 ounces.

      It pretty much makes sense.

    • Hi Eric.
      Unless you’ve got a Rolex King Midas 9630, the chances that you’re actually wearing a 200g gold watch are pretty slim… also, 200 grams of metal would never pass through a metal detector without setting it off. Unless the detector was switched off, of course.

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  5. does x amount of of gold vs the same amount of steel based on surface area i would believe being the bigger factor be pretty much the same or would the more counteractive materials show up stronger and would rf adsorbing materials like Mylar be able to shield an item take say an item made of ferrite the stuff ceramic magnets are made of this stuff will adsorb allot of emf that a metal detectors use to detect metal but will not reflect much back and so that if your gold piece was held in a box made of ferrite it would prevent the emf from reaching your gold and what did reach your gold would be reduced coming back i doubt you could carry a 400 troy ounce gold bar though the check point but i would imagine you could just about any single gold coin though

    i think ideally you would want non square shaped chunk of gold with very small flat areas and no right angles on the encasement as well with you might be able to pass a few 400 troy ounce chunks worth of gold though but the big sag in your pants would become an issue unless you hid them as testacals and played off as an old man hoping you did not get the TSA hand job but if you did it would be funny likely have to take the door off i do not think you have to declare precious metals at customs so concealing it might not even be a crime just a hassle if you fail to conceal it completely

    • Punctuation, dude. Use it.

      The problem isn’t conductivity, RF or surface area. It’s density.
      Gold will show up on x-ray, it’ll set off the metal detector, and once found, it’ll raise suspicion.

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