What were the Golden Plates made of? Probably not 100% gold, because that would be too heavy. Could it have been a copper alloy? Jerry Grover gives more info as he attempts to translate the Caracters Document. Check out our conversation….

Composition of Plates

Jerry  15:21  Yeah. So what I did is, I wrote this book on was writing Ziff actually, and ended up publishing that later. But I figured out the number of plates that there were based, I did some experimentation because Emma said, you could rustle them like, like parchment.

GT  15:38  Well, and that’s a good anti-Mormon point. Because I’ve been to Sandra Tanner’s house, and she has a…

Jerry  15:46  So, I should be talking to you anymore?  {chuckles}

GT  15:49  She has a facsimile that’s made out of lead, and lead is supposed to be less heavy than gold. And she’s like, “Here. Pick this up.” And it’s really heavy. And so a lot of critics will say, there’s no way.

Jerry  16:04  Joseph could run through the forest and broke his thumb or whatever.

GT  16:07  Right, Because I mean, it’s heavy. And so, Ziff is a lighter form of gold?

Jerry  16:14  Wow, what I did is I didn’t assume Ziff is anything. I looked for the meaning of Ziff just because I was curious. I worked at a steel mill/metallurgy business that was involved in metals and smelting metals, and so that word interested me. What the heck is that? And so, what I did is, I did the research on Ziff but associated with that, I also looked at the plates. Because again, people are saying these kinds of things, like they’re lead or whatever. And so I said, Well…

GT  16:49  Dan Vogel is said he thinks that Joseph fashioned them out of tin.

Jerry  16:52  Yep. Right. So but I just took the original. Emma, she didn’t see them, at least as far as we know, but she handled them and then she mentioned that they rustle like parchment, or you can hear rustling and I think a similar statement was made maybe by somebody else. So I said, Okay, let’s see if I can figure out the thickness of the plates based on that. So I actually…

GT  17:15  John Pratt had said supposedly they’re in Brazil now. Right.

Jerry  17:19  Not the ones I looked at…{joking} Not the ones the angel gave to me.

GT  17:28  He said the Brazil plates are like 14 karat gold, so they wouldn’t be pure gold.

Jerry  17:33  Yeah. Well, they have to look at it. They were never described as gold. There was a golden, of ancient make or whatever. I mean, I think there was one newspaper, gold. but it wasn’t like…

GT  17:49  The Gold Bible.

Jerry  17:49  Yeah, right. But it wasn’t like the original people saying they were gold. How would they have known pure gold or not? I don’t know. They weren’t metallurgist, Joseph Smith, probably. Who knows? But I just said, Okay, well, let’s see what they describe. Okay, and see whether we can figure out what they are. What is the alloy mix? So basically, I said, first of all, I know roughly the dimensions: six by eight. I mean, there’s a few different descriptions, weight [was] 40 to 60 pounds. They were described somewhere, nobody weighed them on a scale. They just were estimating. So I said, okay, at least I have some parameters.

Jerry  21:26  Because, Nephi indicated it was his [workmanship.] There’s a chapter break there, which shouldn’t be there. And when he says, They came, he found ores of copper, gold and silver. And then he made the plates. Then there’s a chapter break. Then the next verses, he made the plate. So it’s actually looks like he’s saying that they were made of some sort of copper, gold, silver alloy. The other thing is silver and gold; gold almost always occurs if it’s native gold, not smelted which they weren’t doing. It actually has some silver in it. And the technology to separate that silver completely out, didn’t really exist at the time Lehi left. Jerusalem was in the old world. It was a little later for the Greeks. But there was a technique that they did use to get a gold surface. And what they did is called depletion gilding. And so it is found like in the lead and Papyrus, and there’s actually examples of it in Egyptian museums, the British Museum where they found this type of process that was used to create a gold surface. And they basically use some sort of reactant typically like a plant acid. And they’ll lay it on the surface and heat it and they will get the let’s say it’s a copper/silver/gold alloy. It could just be gold/silver. The gold will not react because it gold it’s difficult to get gold oxidize, except that super high pH. It doesn’t really oxidize environments that we have in nature. That’s why it doesn’t get tarnished. Right? But silver and copper clearly will. Copper will go green and silver will go black. And so they get those to oxidize with the acid and then they burnish them, heat them, and burnish it. You rub it really hard, and they can get those metals out of the surface. And so when they do it enough, they get left with about a 10 micron` deep thickness of gold on the surface. This is called depletion guilding. They also found the Columbian Indians in the pre-conquest were using this same technique. And that’s what’s typically known as tumbaga. It’s a form of tumbaga. Tumbaga is just a copper/silver/gold alloy. In fact the Spanish thought it was gold. Yeah, they took a lot of it back, hauled it all back to Spain and melted it. They got pretty angry because it was mostly copper.

GT  24:03  Oh really? El Dorado.

Jerry  24:07  So it’s not that they didn’t have some more gold but it was pretty common. it’s not a technique used now because it’s not an efficient way because you’re still leaving gold. Let’s say you have gold in the alloy you’re only getting the gold on the surface. The gold is still trapped in the alloy in the rest of the base metal, the base part..

GT  24:29  So we should really be calling these the copper plates instead of the gold plates?

Jerry  24:34  Well, they’re called golden. So you know, I mean,

GT  24:38  Copper is a lot lighter [than gold.]

Jerry  24:40  Yeah. And so what I did is I said Okay, so that looks like the technique. The other thing was the  engraving characters themselves are described as black with a stain or cement in them, which makes sense. Because what you have is you have a very thin layer of gold. When they engrave they get through that layer. Right? Now they’re into the base metal. And so they had to use some sort of patina or protective way. So that those engravings weren’t subject to corrosion, because you’re now exposing underlying copper and maybe a little bit of silver. And it was kind of interesting, because there is a fellow that just did all these experiments with the depletion gilding. He was not LDS not anything related. No religion, he was just curious. And so he did all these scratching and actually created in all the engraving, he created this black patina, basically oxidized copper, that then would protect the engravings themselves. It also gives this contrast of gold and black.

GT  25:51  It makes it easier to read.

Jerry  25:52  Right. And, who knows? Maybe it had some religious significance of the shiny, and I don’t know. So, I basically explained that looks like the technique is pretty straightforward. And then I basically said, Okay, since we know the weight, I know the dimensions and then the surface area, I know the thickness of least have the gold. And so I just kind of iteratively figured out probably the range of gold content. So it looks like a four to eight carat is what the alloy was.

GT  26:25  4-8 carats of gold, and the rest was copper and silver.

Jerry  26:30  Copper. And like I say there’s some range because you’d have silver and copper. You can use different amounts with the gold to arrive at the same weight. So it’s a range.

Translating the Caracters Document

Is there a translation of the Caracters document? Jerry Grover says yes! He’ll tell us how he translated this reformed Egyptian, which is a combination of hieratic and demotic languages, and whether it comes from the Lost 116 Pages! Check out our conversation…

Caracters Translation

GT  14:34  Could this be part of the last 116 pages?

Jerry  14:37  Yeah, probably. Yeah. I’m pretty sure

GT  14:40  It doesn’t translate to anything in our current Book of Mormon.

Jerry  14:43  Yeah. Well, that’s one thing. I figured out with the dates. There’s nothing in the Book of Mormon like that.

GT  14:47  So it’s not 1st Nephi 3:7.

Jerry  14:49  I didn’t expect some people though. They kind of like take the verse and try to match it all that matches. It looks like a boat, but no. I translate it right from [document.] I just took the Egyptian hieratic and demotic and interesting thing is when I couldn’t find it in hieratic. The glyph form in demotic if they use demotic it was because it was shorter. And actually the hieratic that they’re using, like, if there’s a word they’ll always select the shortest version.

GT  15:18  To save space?

Jerry  15:19  Yeah, I do think actually probably that this was a–it wasn’t a lingua franca. Right? It was maybe the medium itself dictated the evolution of the language.

GT  15:34  The media itself?

Jerry  15:35  The medium they were writing on, the engraving the plates, meaning they had a limited amount of plates. Do you know what I’m saying? So I just seemed like that’s what was indicated by Mormon and Moroni that it was more compact. Right? And then also is interesting because the dots wherever they went that tells you whether it was a power. So it actually mattered where the dot was, as to whether it multiplied, it took it to a different power. And what’s that we said. They are placing the glyphs. It actually mattered where it sat. So anyway, and then I translated the rest basically from hieratic and demotic, the text that surrounded the dates. So, I ended up with a translation. It’s actually somewhat straightforward. And, so I use Palestinian hieratic primarily. I mean that was the first glyphs that were available. And those numbers match pretty well. And then I would just use Hieratic and Demotic, and then there’s some Mesoamerican. Some of the glyphs are Mesoamerican, like the number nine, has that form. Actually, the bar dots are also found in the Sumerian Elamites. So it’s actually a form that used. I’m not saying that came from Jaredites but it could have. Right?

GT  17:00  This is a combination of demotic and hieratic.

Jerry  17:04  Yes, mostly hieratic, some demotic.

GT  17:05  With a little bit of Mayan thrown in there.

Jerry  17:07  Well, meaning there is correlation with the Maya date structure, but not really using the Maya; meaning there’s no Maya per se glyphs.

Do you think the Caracters document is translatable? What do you think of Jerry’s explanations?