Gold is one of the most precious metals in the world, valued for its beauty, rarity, and usefulness in electronics and jewelry. When investing in gold bullion, an important specification to understand is gold purity or fineness. The two most common purities for gold bullion are .999 and .9999. But what exactly do these numbers mean and how do they differ?
What Do .999 and .9999 Mean?
The fineness numbers .999 and .9999 refer to the purity level of the gold. They indicate the parts per thousand of pure gold content.
.999 gold is 99.9% pure gold by weight. This means 999 parts out of 1000 are pure gold.
.9999 gold is 99.99% pure gold by weight. This means 9999 parts out of 10,000 are pure gold.
So in other words, .9999 gold is slightly purer than .999 gold. But the difference is very subtle at just 0.09% more gold content.
How is Gold Refined to .999 and .9999 Purity?
Refining gold to these high purities takes advanced processing by skilled refineries like the Royal Canadian Mint. Here is an overview of how they refine gold to .999 and .9999 fineness:
Sourcing - The gold comes from mines or scrap jewelry and electronics. It starts as low purity raw gold often less than 90% pure.
Melting - The raw gold is melted together which helps blend the metals and remove impurities.
Chemical Refining - The melted gold is treated with chemicals like chlorine or aqua regia which dissolve away base metals like copper.
Electrolysis - The gold goes through an electrolytic process that separates the last bits of silver and platinum using electric currents.
Pouring - The refined gold is poured into bars and minted into coins.
The extra step to reach .9999 takes more advanced electrolysis to remove those last trace metals. This makes .9999 slightly more labor-intensive and expensive to produce.
Advantages of .9999 Fine Gold
So why pay more for .9999 gold? Here are some of the advantages of the 4 nines purity:
Higher Purity - Having 99.99% pure gold content gives .9999 gold increased value over lower purities.
Softer - The fewer impurities make .9999 gold softer and more flexible than .999. This makes it easier to craft jewelry.
Hypoallergenic - The high purity also makes .9999 gold ideal for those with metal allergies.
Recognized Standard - .9999 is recognized globally as the leading standard for gold investment bullion. Coins like the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf are .9999.
When Is .999 Gold Preferred?
Despite .9999 gold being slightly more pure and prestigious, .999 gold has advantages that make it a preferable choice in some cases:
Lower Premiums - .999 gold coins and bars carry lower premiums over the spot gold price, making them more affordable.
Harder Alloy - The tiny bit of copper alloy in .999 gold makes it more durable for frequently handled coins and jewelry.
Historic Precedent - Many iconic gold coins like the American Gold Eagle and South African Krugerrand are .999 pure.
So .999 gold can be ideal for more frequently used items or collectors seeking historic coins at lower prices.
It’s important for gold buyers to be able to verify the fineness on gold bullion products. Reputable mints like the Royal Canadian Mint engrave each piece with its purity marking of either “.999 Fine Gold” or “.9999 Fine Gold”. Buyers should look for this stamped marking when purchasing gold to be sure of the exact purity level. Receipts from established dealers will also verify the fineness.
Testing gold at home is difficult without advanced equipment to detect the small impurities. Gold buyers therefore need to rely on the integrity of trusted manufacturers and dealers like the Royal Canadian Mint and gold bullion Canada.
The Takeaway on .9999 vs .999 Gold
While both .999 and .9999 represent very high purity gold, .9999 has become the premier standard for gold bullion investment today. Its slightly higher purity carries prestige and makes it ideal for those seeking the finest gold. But .999 remains a practical and affordable option, perfect for jewelry and collectors. When buying gold, be sure to verify the marked fineness and buy from reputable sources. This will ensure you get quality .999 or .9999 bullion you can trust.
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