Warning: You appear to be using an obsolete browser, and soon you may not be able to access our website. We strongly recommend that you upgrade your browser as soon as possible.

Measuring Gold Weight

Feathers, Gold, and Word Play, or is it?

The old riddle goes: what weighs more a pound of feathers or a pound of gold? Some say gold because it is heavier. Others say they are both a pound so they weigh the same. Both are wrong. How can this be? Tradition. Gold is not weighed in the ordinary weights. Gold is weighed in the troy measurement system. One ounce of gold is not the same as the ordinary ounce (really called avoirdupois ounce).

The best way to understand this is to convert them both to a uniform system. A gram or gramme is a standard metric unit of mass. An avoirdupois ounce converts to 28.34 grams approximately. The troy ounce is 31.1 approximately. You say, “Aha! Gold weigh more, so a pound of gold weighs more than a pound of feathers.” Unfortunately there is one more piece of the puzzle. We all know 16 ounces equal a pound. True in the avoirdupois system, but not in the troy. In the Troy system only 12 ounces equal a pound. So a pound of feathers weighs 453.59 grams approximately and a pound of gold weighs 373.24 approximately. So a pound of feathers weighs more then a pound of gold.

Some say gold because it is heavier. Others say they are both a pound so they weigh the same. Both are wrong.

There is more trivia about gold weights. The troy system historically was used for measuring the weight of drugs, precious metals and gemstones. The name comes from the French city of Troyes. The noble metals (gold, silver and platinum) all use the troy system. A troy ounce is 20 pennyweights. The pennyweight was the weight of a silver penny in medieval England. When pennies were introduced in England in the 8th century, their original weight is believed to have been 24 grains. This was gradually reduced, in at least thirteen stages until it reached 7.27 grains by 1816. 24 grains = 1 pennyweight and 20 pennyweights = 1 ounce troy.

Even more trivia if you’d like to read on. “Grain is an ancient unit which was originally based on the weight of a grain of wheat. The grain is the smallest unit of weight in the avoirdupois, troy, and apothecaries systems. Surprisingly it is identical in all three systems.” 4 grains = 1 carat; 24 grains =1 pennyweight; 480 grains = 1 troy ounce; 15.432 grains = 1 gram.

“Although we have stated above that the grain weighed the same in all three of the above systems, there were at least two different grains. The troy system used the supposed weight of the barley grain, whereas the wheat grain was also used as a standard of weight. There were three barley grains to four wheat grains.”

That is enough trivia for now. If you wanted to update the old riddle, you could say: what weighs more, a kilo of feathers or a kilo of gold?

What people are saying

  1. Ethan Anderson says:

    This so wrong? In the beginning you ask what weighs more a pound of gold or a pound of feather but in the end you say they weigh different amounts. If they were to weigh different amounts that means that they both arenโ€™t same weight meaning they both arenโ€™t a pound. If you take good out it on a scale and it reads a pound then out feather on a scale and it reads a pound they are both a single pound. Like????

  2. Duke Polson says:

    Does a pinch of gold have a true measure of weight. Or it is what it weighs and they all are different?

    • Hi Duke, good question. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve heard someone refer to a pinch of gold. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t believe it has a standardized meaning, or if it does, it’s not commonly used.

      • Gary D. Snyder says:

        Actually, a pinch of gold dust during the gold rush days was literally the amount of dust taken from a poke by pinching the dust between the thumb and forefinger. Although this varied from person to person the value of a pinch generally was accepted to be $1 when gold was valued at $20.67 per troy ounce or $0.665 per gram Today a standard pinch of gold is accepted to be 1.5 g.

  3. Carl says:

    In 1976 I graduated and my class ring is made of I think they called it sladieum. Does this metal have much value? And is it used for any other purpose. I have not heard of it anywhere else. Carl.s Phoenix,Az.

    • Hello Carl, thanks for reaching out. Sladieum is still used in some class rings, but it’s an alternative metal and hasn’t found its place in the rest of the jewelry industry at this time. Unfortunately, it’s not a metal we buy currently and does not have a significant intrinsic value.

      • Gary D. Snyder says:

        I believe that the metal you are (or were) discussing is Siladium, a trade name for jeweler’s stainless. I recall from years ago that each class ring manufacturer like Josten’s, Hertff-Jones, and Balfour’s, hade their own trademarked name like Lustrium and Platrium. This was a marketing ploy to appeal to those who couldn’t afford gold or even sterling silver rings. Interestingly, these metals even were available in yellow as well as silver color to further the illusion of being a type of precious metal.

        • Thanks for commenting, Gary. You are probably right on the name of the metal there. It looks like we had a typo in the original comments. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with choosing an alternative metal for a ring as long as you are aware of the trade offs (intrinsic value, work-ability, etc.).

  4. Gem says:

    So a pound of feathers is heavier than a pound of gold, but an ounce of gold is heavier than an ounce of feathers.
    I’ll have to remember that for trivia purposes.

    • Ronie says:

      Yep. So if you want the old grade school riddle to work as a trick then ask…Which weighs more a gram of feathers or a gram of gold? The correct answer is they are the same. But then ask which weighs more and ounce of feathers or an ounce of gold? the new answer is that the gold at 31.1 grams weighs more than the 28 grams in an ounce of feathers. Now to get punched ask about a pound because the feathers weigh more.

      • Steve Hoog says:

        Thank you for this. I’m trying to collect enough puzzles to write the most advanced puzzle book ever made. This is going in there. Many many puzzles Ive heard before are incorrect and I’m kinda nerd smart. Do you have more puzzles or bar bets? Example of how I’m “One Upping” = About how many grooves are on a standard regular 45(rpm) record? People guess “”IDK about 60?”. No it’s ONE GROOVE going round and round in a spiral right?? NO WRONG. On a regular 45 there is a B SIDE so it’s really TWO GROOVES. LOL AND for a bonus it’s really FOUR GROOVES bc back then songs were referred to
        “Grooves” as in Say baby I like that new groove you playin’. Lol ๐Ÿ˜‚

  5. Lightnin' says:

    As a lineman, over the years traveling doing electrical work, I have a wired some contacts from old high voltage switches supposedly made of silver, Do you think they have any value? They weigh about 8 to 12 oz each.

    • Hello and good question. Silver like you have would need to be refined to see how much actual silver content it has. If you can find a refiner that will refine it ask them to give you pure 1 oz. .999 silver bars/rounds. Then you can cash them out at anytime with a jeweler, bullion, or coin dealer.

  6. Bella says:

    I have a 10k gold ring and I do not know the weight. It is about 40 years old. How do I find the price of it?

    • Hi Bella, thanks for reaching out. Your best bet would probably be to bring to a local jewelry buyer like us. If you are in the Sacramento area, we would be happy to do a free value appraisal for you and let you know both how much we would buy the ring for and how much we think you could get if you sell it yourself on Craigslist, etc. Feel free to contact us for more info.

  7. Julie Dwight says:

    My husband just acquired a ring and inside it says: AGW 1/2 TW then it says: 1/20 PT. I canโ€™t find anything else, so what does that tell me?

    • Hi Julie, from those stamps the ring is most likely sterling silver. Beyond that, it is difficult to say. Some of the additional stamps may indicate what other metals besides silver are included in the alloy. Each manufacturer uses their own stamp system and many are offering unique sterling alloys that are marketed based on what other metals are included.

  8. Osakwe says:

    Does gold gain weight by use?

    • Hi Osakwe, that is an interesting question. Gold is a pretty soft metal so usually it will gradually lose weight over its lifetime. For example, a new wedding band may measure 1.5mm thick and weigh 3 grams. 20 years later afrer be scratched, polished, scratched again, etc. that same band may measure 0.5mm thick and weigh just 1.5 grams. However, since gold is a soft metal if it were to be bumped into a dense, heavy, stronger metal like steel, then it could actually weigh more, but that is only because steel was added to the gold ring.

  9. Louis says:

    Hi, someone came to my office & sells raw gold… According to him it’s 19 sp. what does he mean?

    Your reply is much appreciated.

    • Hi Louis, that’s a good question. My guess is that he’s referring to the specific gravity of the gold. The specific gravity of a material tells you how dense it is, and so it can be used to estimate how pure a gold nugget is. This page has a nice explanation.

      The specific gravity of gold is about 19.3, so he is saying that his material is over 98% pure gold. That said, specific gravity is not fool proof and most placer or raw nugget type gold is around 75-80% pure gold. So, depending on where the gold came from, I would be a bit skeptical of that purity claim.

      Hopefully that helps, and feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.

  10. flankflank says:

    “The old pun goes” …. Um, pun?

  11. Shelly says:

    I have found a ring that I like. It is a ruff band but a good size. On the inside it has 14K a g. Does that mean it has silver mixed in the band?

    • Hi Shelly, thanks for asking. The “a g” portion of that stamp most likely refers to the manufacturer who made the ring. While it is true that silver is often included in 14k gold alloys (especially yellow and green gold mixtures), the stamp doesn’t usually make any reference to the non-gold alloys used.

  12. Donna Mosera says:

    Love your website.

  13. Jacqueline says:

    I have a question but not sure if this is the correct place to ask.

    My Mother Rita who sadly passed away almost two years ago gave me her engagement ring. I am aware it is amethyst and 24 karat gold, but it also has a small chip in it and a few scratches all on the stone. I am trying to find out if I can and how much this will cost me.

    The ring means everything to me, something to hold on to when breaking down in tears as we were so close. As you may gather, I do not wish to replace the stone I would just want it fixed. Do you have an idea how much this will cost me? Do you also know how much a ring fixed with 24 karat gold is worth at this moment.

    Kind Regards,
    Mrs Jacqueline Mirenda

    • Hi Jacqueline, thanks for commenting, and I’m sorry for your loss. We would be happy to help with your repair. It would be very unusual for a ring to be made out of 24 karat gold, so we would definitely want to see the piece before we could quote you any prices for it.

      Depending on how badly the stone is scratched/damaged, we may be able to have it repolished for you. If you are in the Sacramento area, feel free to bring the ring by, so we can look at it in person. If not, you can email us some pictures of it, and we can go from there. Here is our contact information.

What do you think?

We love feedback. If you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns about this page, please leave us a comment.
Don't worry. We won't publish your email address or spam you.