I feel there must be a word I can use to mean the opposite of "golden", but I can't think of one. For example:

golden handshake: being sacked but with excellent remuneration.
****** handshake: being sacked unpleasantly

golden ticket: winning the prised invitation
****** ticket: letter inviting you back after routine cancer screening

golden sample: an example of a product that passes the quality tests
****** sample: an example of a product that fails the quality tests

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    Golden ticket, silver ticket, bronze ticket, ... What is the worst metal that we can use to label the last one in the list? Say we use only metals known in antiquity. The tin ticket? The lead (leaden?) ticket? Are the seven metals traditionally listed in a certain order? Iron is the most common of the 7 metals, gold the rarest. – GEdgar Jul 5 '19 at 16:15
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    @GEdgar: going by Shakespeare, when Portia's suitors in The Merchant of Venice were faced with the choice of three caskets, gold, silver, and lead, the opposite of golden ticket would be lead(en) ticket. – Peter Shor Jul 5 '19 at 16:36

All these are relatively modern figurative uses of golden in specific circumstances. So each circumstance has a metaphor meaning the opposite, but without a common colour or metal theme.

I don’t think you’ll find a colour that conveys an opposite meaning. Black is probably the nearest and most common , but is used in different circumstances and is a better opposite to white.

As for a metal, lead is probably best, as it’s what you (or the alchemists) would wish to turn into gold. But, more than minimal worth, it is associated with weight (a leaden silence).

So as opposite to “golden handshake”, one might say “given the boot”.

A more literary opposite to a “golden ticket” would be to “draw the queen of spades”.

I don’t know about golden samples. Somebody should have stirred the pudding more.

(Ironically, in contrast to a golden handshake, a gold watch would nowadays appear as a very meagre “severance package”. )


If we are sticking with metallic metaphors the best one I can think of would be: tarnished

to detract from the good quality of : vitiate
"his fine dreams now slightly tarnished"

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tarnished

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