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Synthesis

The 'Golden' Years

December 22, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 51

I READ the Newscripts item "Golden Years" regarding the loss of weight and value of gold jewelry over time with great interest (C&EN, Oct. 13, page 56). I am a retired chemist, and I recalled that through the years I had occasionally weighed my wedding ring when using an analytical balance and recorded the results in a personal notebook. I guess we chemists are just curious sorts; fortunately, I was able to retrieve these numbers even after so many years.

I had recorded nine weights from March 29, 1963, through May 16, 1979, a time span of 16.13 years during which the weight loss totaled 3.3%. Then I thought that if I were to continue by obtaining a current weight I would then have a record spanning 45 years! However, I couldn't get the ring off my finger due to some arthritic swelling, but in the interest of science I persisted. I took it to a jewelry store and they obliged by letting me use their gem balance, having an accuracy of ±1 mg.

My ring is a 14-carat gold plain band with some inscriptions on the inside. It dates back to 1947. It turns out that the rate of weight loss is not uniform; it decreases with time as revealed in a weight/time plot that is suggestive of a radioactive decay curve. The weight of the ring went from an initial 3.8222 g to a final value of 3.424 g in 45.62 years. The weight loss of 0.398 g averages 8.72 mg/year.

I can't begin to recall all that this ring and I have been through during our time together, and it has no doubt worn better than I have! As to the loss of value of this ring and others like it, the values of personal commitment and affection symbolized by a wedding ring remain unchanged and most likely increased.

Bernard Hofreiter
Peoria, Ill.

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