What the World’s Largest Golden Buddha Tells Us About Recycling Gold

If you want to see what is probably the most valuable piece of metallic art on the planet, you’re going to have to hop on a plane, go to Thailand and go see the Golden Buddha (called the “Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan” in Thai), located in the Wat Traimit temple in Bangkok.

 Screen grab of Golden Buddha from video for a Gold Refiners blog post, What the World’s Largest Golden Buddha Tells Us About Recycling Gold.

But once you get there and stand in front of this statue of the Buddha, chances are pretty good you won’t be disappointed. The statue could rightly be called one of the great wonders of the world. It weighs 5.5 tons and is about 10 feet tall. And as you might expect, its history is clouded in mystery. Art scholars who have examined it and say that it appears to date from the 13th or 14th century. But here’s the really cool part of the story. Sometime after it was made somebody (Buddhist monks are a good bet) covered it with plaster to discourage thieves from carrying it away. It stayed in that plastered condition for hundreds of years – who know how many? Then on May 25, 1955, some workers dropped the statue as they were trying to move it and the plaster cracked and – guess what? – they discovered that the Buddha was really made of gold.

What is the gold in this masterpiece worth? Well, let’s figure that 5.5 tons of gold – even if it’s not 24k gold – is worth an awful lot of money. Maybe $300 million, just to work up a ballpark figure. According to some estimates of the Buddha’s worth that you can find online, different parts of the statue have different karat ratings. We don’t know how those analyses were conducted but if they are accurate, they report that Buddha’s hair is made of 24k gold, while the face is about 18k and the body is only 10k. We don’t know how accurate those estimates are. We wouldn’t drill into this masterpiece to make accurate estimates of its gold content or its value, would you? But if you watch this video of the statue, you will stand in awe of its beauty and spirituality.


What the Gold Buddha Tells Us about Investing in Precious Metals

We could tell you to “Go find a five-ton golden statue and send it to us for analysis.” But of course, that isn’t going to happen. But nonetheless, the magnificent Thai Buddha teaches us some important lessons about finding and recycling gold . . .

  • Older gold items can contain more gold than we think possible today. We have to remember that a variety of items that were made only 50 or 60 years ago (including charms and eyeglass frames) often contain a lot more gold than similar items that are being manufactured today.
  • Over the ages, people have hidden gold in order to protect it from theft. Not everybody has coated gold with plaster, but over the centuries people have buried it, stashed it under stairs and floorboards, and taken other steps to keep it from view. (That explains why expressions like “hidden treasure,” “sunken treasure,” and “treasure map” have become commonplace when discussing gold.) The lesson for us is that we need to keep hunting for gold and not give up too easily, whether that means examining our houses carefully for hidden gold items, heading to the park with a metal detector, or looking everywhere for gold in old factories, dental labs and other buildings.
  • Careful testing is needed to determine the gold content of many older items. We don’t know how this Buddha was made 700 or so years ago. If we were making it today, chances are we would apply a relatively thin layer of gold over a core of base metals, just to keep costs down. But the lesson is that you cannot always tell what a gold item is worth just by testing the gold that is on its surface. To really establish value, you need the services of a highly qualified precious metals refinery like Gold Refiners, part of Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners. We are experts at evaluating gold artifacts without damaging them.
  • Items with great religious or personal significance are likely to be made of gold. That explains why items like religious metals, class rings, and even trophies are worth looking at closely when you’re on the hunt for gold.

When You Find Gold, Call Us

If you find a huge gold Buddha, we’ll be very glad to test it for you and document what it is worth. But if you find something smaller, we’ll be just as pleased to speak with you and explain how you can establish its value. Call us at 800-426-2344, mention this blog post, and ask about discounted or free shipping rates when you send your items to us for testing.

Related Posts:

How Much Gold Does the Catholic Church Own? 
Finding Gold and Silver in Ceremonial Religious Items and Artifacts 
Recovering Gold from Old Paintings - What We Can Learn from an Italian Renaissance Painter 
Recycling Gold: Do Older or Newer Sources Give You the Greater Yield?