The Centre for Chemical and Materials Analysis in the School of Chemistry recently tested a collection of Byzantine coins from the 7th century using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to analyse their gold purity. Despite being over 1300 years old, the coins were found to consistently have over 90% gold content.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis is a non-destructive method of determining the elemental composition of materials. The technique involves exposing the material to high energy X-rays which causes atoms within the material to emit their own characteristic X-rays. These are detected and this identifies the elements present and their relative proportions.

A new exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts entitled ‘Buried Treasures – Uncovering Hoards’ is now open and will run until 26 February 2017.

‘Buried treasure - and the excitement of discovering it – lies at the heart of this fascinating exhibition exploring coin hoards.’

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is an art gallery and concert hall based on the University of Birmingham campus.