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The digital fingerprint for gold

Gold Bar scanned by a system

Latest technologies improve the traceability of gold

The demand for gold from private investors has significantly increased since the corona crisis - at the same time, investors and private investors have a growing need for transparency across the value chain. Argor-Heraeus has been working for years to increase the traceability of gold. With a start-up cooperation, the company is now taking the next step within the traceability chain to further ensure transparency from the mine to the end consumer.

Alitheon is a U.S. company that specializes in authenticating physical products using artificial intelligence (AI). The company's so-called FeaturePrint technology is an optical software that creates a digital fingerprint for gold bars. The technology thus enables products to be authenticatable, identifiable, and traceable.

"Even if it appears so at first glance - no two items are alike, even if they come from the same production line. We take advantage of these minimal differences," says Roei Ganzarski, CEO of Alitheon. "We are proud to also be able to advance transparency in the precious metals industry through our collaboration with Argor-Heraeus."

Fingerprint in Blue and Pink

Gold bars get a "digital twin"

To create the digital fingerprint of an object, it is enough to take a picture. The optical AI software generates a digital twin based on data of the object’s unique surface details. For this, the AI uses more than 1,000 optical anchor points. This way identification is not based on embossing, labels, or serial numbers, which are easy to forge.

Buyers or investors can identify the gold bar by photo and can receive additional information stored during authentication such as the gold's place of origin or product-specific information on sustainability like its carbon footprint. This enables the end user to track exactly where the goods come from and whether it is in fact the product purchased.

Three gold bars in different sizes

Using FeaturePrint, all intermediaries can also authenticate the gold bar. Each authentication creates a new digital fingerprint that is compared with the previous ones. With each scan, dealers can retrieve stored information or add additional data.

"With Alitheon's technology, we are closing gaps in gold tracking, providing more transparency from mine to end user," said Robin Kolvenbach, Co-CEO of Argor-Heraeus. "For years, we have been working to increase transparency in the gold business with the help of new technologies and innovations. In addition to artificial intelligence, we also use DNA markers and PCR tests for traceability from mine to refinery."

PCR testing for gold

Besides artificial intelligence, Argor-Heraeus has been working with PCR tests since 2019 to increase the traceability of gold. The DNA labeling technology used in this process comes from the Swiss start-up Haelixa.

Argor-Heraeus marks raw gold bars at the mine with a DNA marker. Upon arrival at the refinery, these markers can be verified by PCR testing. Each mine has its own DNA marker, that is only accessible to the specific mine. Once the origin is confirmed, the bars are further processed in separate production lines. This helps to avoid that gold of different origins is mixed within the refinery. By means of these separate production processes, Argor-Heraeus ensures that the products can be traced back to their source even after melting and that they comply with global regulations for the provenance of gold.

DNA Helix in gold on a black background

To make sure that the mined gold meets ethical and sustainability standards, Argor-Heraeus follows a strict compliance management system based on the pillars of corporate governance and social responsibility. This includes comprehensive audits of the mines and independent reviews of the due diligence process.

In addition, Argor-Heraeus uses the blockchain solution of the Swiss company aXedras developed specifically for the precious metals industry. The blockchain enables digital storage of all relevant information along the life cycle of gold and provides an effective and secure exchange of data along the value chain.