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Author Topic: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types  (Read 236 times)

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Offline glebe

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Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« on: October 14, 2021, 01:36:44 am »
In the White Gold Studies in Early Electrum Coinage Gitler et al report the results of XRF analysis of various electrum issues.

The very first example they give however has an interesting mistake. The authors call it a 1/3 stater and identify it with the smooth type Weidauer Series I, which is usually attributed (if rather uncertainly) to Ephesus.

However the coin in question weighs 4.32g and is evidently a ¼ stater from Samos. That is, it belongs to what is presumably the earliest group of Samian issues, predating the commoner pebbly types.

The real point here though is the high gold content of this coin (74%). which suggests that it was struck on raw electrum.

There is as well in this report a smooth stater from Samos (no. 36) with a weight of 17.44g and a gold content of 79%.

Other Samian types generally have a lower gold content and were presumably made from electrum watered down with silver – there are a number listed in the Gitler report with gold contents varying from 52 to 58%.

Ross G.


Offline Altamura

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Re: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2021, 11:56:24 am »
... In the White Gold Studies in Early Electrum Coinage Gitler et al report the results of XRF analysis of various electrum issues. ...
Which can be seen here (not so difficult to find ;)):
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Haim-Gitler/publication/338676783_XRF_Analysis_of_Several_Groups_of_Electrum_Coins/links/611ce6640c2bfa282a514671/XRF-Analysis-of-Several-Groups-of-Electrum-Coins.pdf

... However the coin in question weighs 4.32g and is evidently a ¼ stater from Samos. ...
For me this is not evident :). Do you have a reference showing that this coin is from Samos?

... The real point here though is the high gold content of this coin (74%). which suggests that it was struck on raw electrum. ...
I don't think so. In the White Gold book there is an article by Nicholas Cahill, Jill Hari, Bülent Önay, Esra Dokumaci, "Depletion Gilding of Lydian Electrum Coins and the Sources of Lydian Gold", beginning on page 291 (and obviously not available online).
There they did an analysis of alluvial electrum from different spots around Sardis in Lydia. The result was that the samples hat a gold content of mostly more that 98% and thus had been nearly pure gold. The alloy for electrum coins had deliberately been mixed.

Regards

Altamura

Offline glebe

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Re: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2021, 05:40:12 pm »
... However the coin in question weighs 4.32g and is evidently a ¼ stater from Samos. ...
For me this is not evident :). Do you have a reference showing that this coin is from Samos?

No, but work it out for yourself - there are quite a number of unfigured electrum coins weighing c. 8.7 and 4.35 gm which can only be Euboic standard half and quarter staters from (it's reasonable to assume) Samos.

(There are also a number of similar 1/3 staters, which weigh c.5.8 gm as we would expect).

... The real point here though is the high gold content of this coin (74%). which suggests that it was struck on raw electrum. ...
I don't think so. In the White Gold book there is an article by Nicholas Cahill, Jill Hari, Bülent Önay, Esra Dokumaci, "Depletion Gilding of Lydian Electrum Coins and the Sources of Lydian Gold", beginning on page 291 (and obviously not available online).
There they did an analysis of alluvial electrum from different spots around Sardis in Lydia. The result was that the samples hat a gold content of mostly more that 98% and thus had been nearly pure gold. The alloy for electrum coins had deliberately been mixed.

Regards

Altamura
[/quote]

Lydia is of course not Samos. For the full story see here:

https://www.glebecoins.org/electrum/index.html

Ross G.

Offline Kevin D

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Re: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2021, 11:27:11 pm »
Triton X Lot 317, weighs 4.32 grams and is attributed as a 1/4 stater on the Samian-Euboic standard and might be a reverse punch match for the coin refered to in the Haim Gitler et al article in 'White Gold' (Forum rules prohibit links to commercial sites). The Triton Lot listing mentions that previously they had (in error) attributed some of these coins as trites.

Regarding the high gold content reported by Gitler, in addition to the possibilities of natural occuring electrum or depletion guilding accounting for this (as you both have mentioned), there is also the possibility of 'surface enrichment' occuring naturally over the centuries (XRF is a surface analysis).

Offline Altamura

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Re: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2021, 05:59:26 am »
... there are quite a number of unfigured electrum coins weighing c. 8.7 and 4.35 gm which can only be Euboic standard half and quarter staters from (it's reasonable to assume) Samos. ...
Thanks, that's the argument I was missing :).

... Lydia is of course not Samos. ...
Indeed it isn't, I knew that :).
But the research of the last two decades or so shows that the alloy of at least many electrum coinages is an artificial one. So it is not possible to conclude from te gold content of a coin that it has been made from natural electrum or an artificial alloy. (Apart from the fact that there is no "standard gold content" of natural electrum, this varies substancially depending on the find spot.)

... For the full story see here: ...
There I find "Recent measurements have partly answered that question, at least in the case of Samos, as two of the unfigured Samos types have yielded gold content figures of 72 and 78%, consistent with natural electrum."
Why are these percentages consistent with natural electrum? Are there finds and analyses of natural electrum from Samos showing that?

... Triton X Lot 317, weighs 4.32 grams and is attributed as a 1/4 stater on the Samian-Euboic standard and might be a reverse punch match for the coin refered to in the Haim Gitler et al article in 'White Gold' (Forum rules prohibit links to commercial sites). ...
Acsearch is not prohibited :) : https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=351055
and there are also third staters: https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=351054 (with an argumentation for the Samian-Euboic standard)  ,  https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=759073
But they are still filed under "uncertain" and not directly attributed to Samos.

Regards

Altamura

Offline glebe

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Re: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2021, 05:52:34 pm »
At present we don''t know where Samos got its electrum, but gold percentages in the 70-80% range are certainly consistent with many examples of natural electrum.

These figures are also a lot higher than figures typical of the obviously artificial alloys used later in Lydia and elsewhere, and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the alloys of these early unfigured "Samian" types are natural and undiluted.

Ross G.

Offline Joe Sermarini

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Re: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2021, 06:58:05 pm »
Links to commercial sites are OK if they are actually necessary and there isn't a good alternative. They are, however, almost never necessary and there almost always is an alternative. They are not actually prohibited, just discouraged.
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Offline Altamura

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Re: Gold Content of Samian Electrum types
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2021, 02:53:03 am »
... At present we don''t know where Samos got its electrum, but gold percentages in the 70-80% range are certainly consistent with many examples of natural electrum. ...
This is the same kind of argument being used some decades ago for the Lydian electrum coins, and it turned out not to reflect reality :-\.
Somewhere on the globe you probably find alluvial gold with such a concentration. But as long as we don't have samples of that found near Samos showing this, as long this is just a belief.

... These figures are also a lot higher than figures typical of the obviously artificial alloys used later in Lydia and elsewhere, and it is therefore reasonable to assume that the alloys of these early unfigured "Samian" types are natural and undiluted. ...
If the figures are higher than those of dilutet electrum then at present this just shows that the figures are higher, nothing more :-\.
There is no logic to derive from this that it has to be natural electrum. Perhaps the "Samians" (we still don't know where these coins have been produced) just had a different idea of how much gold a coin should contain. They also had a different idea of the weight a coin should have :).

For me it is therefore reasonable to keep the question of natural or artificial electrum for these coins open because we don't have clear evidence for one or the other.

Regards

Altamura

 

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