Question: What material were the plates made from?

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Question: What material were the plates made from?

The plates were most likely an alloy of a lighter metal, such as copper, which was covered with a thin layer of gold

The plates are sometimes described as "gold plates," and at other times they are claimed to have had the "appearance of gold." Pure gold would not be capable of retaining engraving, nor would it have the strength to maintain the integrity of the plates themselves. The plates were most likely an alloy of a lighter metal, such as copper, which was covered with a thin layer of gold. Such an alloy actually exists in Mesoamerica. See Wikipedia entry "Tumbaga" off-site. According to Wikipedia: "Tumbaga can be treated with a simple acid, like citric acid, to dissolve copper off the surface. What remains is a shiny layer of nearly pure gold on top of a harder, more durable copper-gold alloy sheet. This process is referred to as depletion gilding."

  • "the appearance of gold"[1] — Joseph Smith Jr., Eight Witnesses
  • "golden plates"[2] — David Whitmer
  • "a mixture of gold and copper"[3] - William Smith
  • "in a good state of preservation, had the appearance of gold" - William Smith in James Murdock to Congregational Observer, 19 June 1841, "The Mormons and Their Prophet," Congregational Observer (Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut) 2 (3 July 1841): 1. Reprinted in Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer (Peoria, Illinois), 3 September 1841; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:477–480.
  • "pure gold" - “The Orators of Mormon,” Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati, Ohio) 1 (14 April 1832): 204–5. Reprinted from Mercer Press (Pennsylvania), circa April 1832. off-site
  • "whitish yellow" - Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 15; attributed to David Whitmer off-site
  • "engraven on plates of gold" - Parley P. Pratt, "Discovery of an Ancient Record in America," Millennial Star 1 no. 2 (June 1840), 30–37. off-site
  • "this pretended Revelation was written on golden plates, or something resembling golden plates" - A.S., “The Golden Bible, or, Campbellism Improved,” Observer and Telegraph. Religious, Political, and Literary, Hudson, Ohio (18 November 1830): 3, quoting Cowdery. off-site


  1. Joseph Smith Jr., "Church History [also known as the Wentworth Letter]," Times and Seasons (1 March 1842), 707. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) ; "The Testimony of Eight Witnesses," Book of Mormon; and Orson Pratt, in a pamphlet titled "An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records" (Edinburgh, Scotland: Ballantyne and Hughes, May 1840), 12–13.
  2. David Whitmer interview, Kansas City Journal, 5 June 1881, in David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness, ed. Lyndon W. Cook (Orem, Utah: Grandin, 1993), 60.
  3. William Smith (Joseph's younger brother) interview, The Saints' Herald, 4 October 1884, 644.