Impure gold debuts in Vietnam

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Gold mixed with wolfram and some other heavy metals is currently available in Vietnam and costs clients up to VND10 million (US$483) per tael, a leading gold merchant in the country said Friday.

"I have received many calls from traders asking me about the impure gold which has appeared in Vietnam for the first time. They also asked me how to distinguish between it and pure gold," news website VnExpress quoted Nguyen Minh Chau, general director of Hanoi-based Bao Tin Minh Chau Jewelry Company, as saying on Friday.

Chau, also an executive of the Vietnam Gold Business Association, said the impure gold first appeared in the country in March.

Wolfram and some other heavy metals were mixed with pure gold in the process of melting in a sophisticated way, thus goldsmiths and most gold testing machines in Vietnam cannot recognize the impure gold, he said.

Chau said some traders bought the impure gold after tests by their gold analysis machines showed it was pure gold. They only discovered after melting the metal that the gold content was 60-80 percent. The remainder was an impurity looking like fine sand.

Tests in foreign laboratories showed that wolfram made up the main part of the impurity, Chau said.

Wolfram, also known as tungsten, is a very hard and heavy metal. It has a much higher melting point than gold. Wolfram is sold at around VND1 million per tael.

If customers buy a tael of gold containing 10-30 percent wolfram, they will lose up to VND10 million given that a tael of gold now retails at more than VND37 million, according to Chau.

For the moment, it is likely that losses have been suffered only by shop owners who bought the impure gold due to a lack of experience, he said, adding that no customer has so far complained about buying the impure gold.

Chau said the origin of the impure gold has not yet been identified, adding it must be a foreign country or countries as Vietnam does not have the technology to mix wolfram with gold.

VnExpress did not say who imported the impure gold or how it entered into the country.

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