The Royal Canadian Mint is reassuring investors that its bullion is pure after a mint-stamped gold bar sold to a customer at a downtown Ottawa RBC branch was found to be counterfeit.

Alex Reeves, a spokesperson for the crown corporation, said the mint “did not manufacture, ship, or sell” the one-ounce bar, even though it appeared to be stamped with an official mint insignia.

The bar was purchased at the RBC branch at the corner of Bank Street and First Avenue for $1,680 on Oct. 18, by Samuel Tang, a gemologist and jewelry designer at the Joy Creations shop across the street.

Tang’s goldsmith, Dennis Barnard, said he opened the mint-branded packaging to roll the bar into a thin sheet for jewelry manufacturing. He immediately realized something was wrong when he started working with the metal.

“It was way too hard to be gold,” he told

Barnard has worked as a goldsmith for three decades. He said nothing about the blister packaging it came in, or general appearance, suggested the bar was anything besides the genuine article.

“Visually, it was spot on. It was a phenomenal piece. Initially, holding it in my hand, I was fooled. The weight was spot on,” he said.

“RBC has confirmed that the bar it sold to its customer did not come from the Royal Canadian Mint, and it continues to investigate the matter with our support,” Reeves said in a statement on Tuesday.

He later added that, “a number of errors in the design and packaging of the wafer” confirmed the product’s inauthenticity, as well as the fact that it did not originate at the Mint.

An RBC spokesperson declined to say where the fake gold came from. AJ Goodman told that the “vast majority” of bullion sold to clients is sourced from the Mint, but other suppliers are used in “limited instances.”

Barnard said his tests showed the bar was “basically bogus,” but did not reveal its true composition.

The mint complained that news of the fraudulent sale has “raised unfounded speculation as to the origins of the counterfeit and the purity of Royal Canadian Mint bullion products.”

Investors typically look to gold as a safe-haven to hedge against risk and volatility. Barnard said he finds it troubling that neither the Mint nor RBC has offered any explanation as to where the fake gold came from, and why it wasn’t intercepted before it was sold to Tang.

“Think how many people purchase gold bars as investment pieces . . . put it in a safety deposit box for their children someday to inherit it,” Barnard said.

“Counterfeiting of Royal Canadian Mint bullion products is extremely rare and this is an isolated case,” the mint’s statement continued. “We take suspicion of counterfeit seriously and work with law enforcement to support their investigations.”

According to the statement, the mint tests all of its gold products to ensure 99.99 per cent purity.

Goodman said RBC has “reached a resolution” with the buyer, and called the incident an “unfortunate situation.” He declined to comment further as the matter is “with law enforcement for further investigation.”

Barnard said, while the shop has been refunded the $1,680 purchase price, he feels both the Mint and RBC were slow to respond after he and Tang raised concerns about the authenticity of the gold.

“Even if they wanted to handle it quietly, they went about it the wrong way,” he said. “I don’t know if they were hoping that we would just go away, but we are not a massive company that can afford to just drop $1,680 and forget about. Even if we could, what about everybody else out there that could be affected by this.”