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Metal detectors are some of the devices used in airports to guarantee the safety of their travellers.  They are also used to prevent the movement of contraband and illegal metallic objects from moving from one country to another. Like other screening devices they’d have to be used on you, or you’ll have to go through them to check for contraband and items that may pose imminent danger on the life and properties of others using the service of the airport. 

Asides the metal detectors a crop of screening equipment are also used in the airport, they include: millimeters wave scanners, cabinet x-ray machines, backscatter x-ray machines etc.

Metal detectors are particularly placed on all public access to an airport.  These metals detectors function based on pulse induction. They use non-ionizing radiation to send low energy across the body or object that has been scanned for metal detection. Metal detectors function on the principle of electro-magnetism. They use magnetic fields to identify metallic objects.  If any metal passes through these metal detectors an opposite metallic field would be created in the metal. They do this by creating a magnetic field by means of a brief pulse of electric current. When this electric current is passed, the machine would be signalled through the magnetic field that there is a metallic object. The signal is often in the form of a beeping noise, to signify the security agents that there are defaulters. 

All metals including GOLD can be detected by a metal detector. Even if these metals are hidden within objects, they are often identified by a metal detector. While they can detect gold, many old designs cannot tell its exact composition or density. This is to say if one is travelling with a high density metal other than gold, say tungsten or platinum,  they will all be classified the same. This is because they stop the non-ionizing radiation passed through the luggage by the metal detector. There are newer and more sophisticated metal detectors that defy this norm.

Small items of gold identified by airport metal detectors are usually ignored. They are calibrated in such a way that small gold items such as gold teeth fillings, buttons or small earrings are ignored even when detected by the machine. You do not need to take off most of your gold jewelry when going through customs at the airport. Although some that are tagged ‘oversized’ need to be removed, this rarely happens.

Gold is identified by metal detectors but in most cases not as a contraband. So, if you are travelling with gold pieces and you have nothing to hide then you shouldn’t be scared. Although there are certain things to take note of when travelling with gold, they include:

  • 1. Price/ quantity of gold 

Travelling with gold of many carats amounting to tens or hundreds of thousands of gold would seem like you are trying to cart away huge wealth from a country or into a country. In countries like India, where gold smuggling is rampant, carrying such a huge amount of gold may raise suspicions. 

In some countries, there exist legislations that tell the amount of gold one can travel with. These legislations are sometimes tied to the cash equivalence of such metals. Because of this, it is necessary to always prepare to answer some questions whenever you are travelling with a huge amount of gold. For questioning you should be able to tell the market value of the gold you are carrying. Generally,  if you are not smuggling the gold, and are abiding by the rules, you really don’t have anything to be scared of.

  • 2. Shape of gold 

One reason why metals are checked for in your luggage is to determine whether or not they can possibly cause any harm. All metals, including gold are checked for pointed edges. A gold piece with a pointed edge may not be allowed by custom, to be boarded. 


Golds can definitely be hidden inside your luggage i.e. if they are not too much. Experts suggest that if your gold is sunk in your luggage at a depth of 4 feet, then it may not be detected by a metal detector. But who travels with a bag as high as 4 feet? Also some others suggest burying a soda can above it. This is in order to ward off thieves from stealing your gold. 



  • 1. It conducts electricity

Metal detectors work on the principle of electromagnetism. So, since like other metals, gold conducts electricity,  it can easily be detected by a metal detector, since electric current is passed through the luggage / person screened. Note that the electric current produced by a metal detector in an airport is not sufficient to cause electrocution.  

  • 2. It can be repelled by a magnet

Gold is diamagnetic in that, while it cannot form a magnet, it can be repelled by a magnetic material. The metal detectors make use of magnetic fields to identify metallic objects, so since gold can be repelled by a magnet, it can be detected by a magnetic field. 


In some countries where gold is produced in high quantities, it is often smuggled out. Before gold used to be smuggled in bars but it is now done in emulsified or molten forms. Emulsified golds are carried in the anus by trained people. The emulsified gold is filled in tubes, wrapped in tapes and then covered in condoms before it is inserted in the anus. This is done in order for the gold not to be detected by metal detectors. The whole process of doing this needs enough skill and thus requires sufficient training. This act is a criminal act, and should not be perpetrated by law-abiding citizens, irrespective of the reasons they choose to travel with the gold. 

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