As long as humans have lusted after shiny objects made of solid gold and silver, there have been scammers passing off plate as the real thing. They just used to be better at it.
Metal workers 2,000 years ago perfected precious metal plating techniques that modern methods can't touch, new research shows. The artisans covered knobby sculptures and flat coins with exquisitely thin layers of gold and silver. But the shiny finish wasn't just for show. Forgers and crooks likely coated cheap metal or wood in a gilded skin and sold the objects for a profit. Rather than flaking off or turning green, these master fakes withstood the ages.
Via David Connolly