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A few months ago, one of my patrons sent me a bunch of old gold jewelry for me to refine. I originally thought that it was going to just be some gold plated stuff, but it turned out to be quite a bit of gold. I was able to purify out all of the gold and then melt them down into some small 24K pure gold bars.
Paint can idea:
CodysLab: (Both the main procedure and the silver recovery. I can’t find the video where he recovered the silver from the chloride though.)
Nile Red Shop:
a few months ago a patron of mine contacted me because he saw one of my old videos where I separated gold from computer parts he was wondering if I could do a video like that again except on jewelry and he wanted to send me some gold covered chains and an old Rolex he had no idea how much gold was actually in any of it but he was pretty sure there was a decent amount I thought it would be fun to pull out whatever was there even if it weren't very much but I did have one concern before this I never tried extracting gold from jewelry and I was a bit worried that I might mess it up this is because with gold even a small loss can start to add up quickly for example this here is five dollars worth and it's such a small amount that you might not be able to see it on I know I really didn't know very much about the whole process but I didn't think that I could screw it up that badly so I had him send it all over to me and it arrived about a week later it was a huge mess so I went to organise it a bit and almost immediately I started doubting that these were just gold covered chains the gold plated stuff is usually made from a cheap metal base like copper silver or steel and the density of these are about half that of gold most of the chains though were really heavy and felt way too dense to be made from any of those metals when it was all organized I saw that I had five chains a watch face and a bunch of scrap stuff the first thing I did was take a look at the watch and they noticed that it was still working the fact that it was still functional and that it probably didn't have much gold or any other precious metal in it anyway I really didn't think it was worth destroying so I put this on the side and I moved on to looking at the chains the first thing I wanted to know was the purity of gold in each of them and to do this I just looked for a stamp I was able to find one on three of them where two of them were marked as 18 karat and the other one was marked as 14 one of the smaller ones wasn't marked too though and the clasp of this one had broken off where it was probably written so now because I didn't have a real idea of what these chains were made of I had to test them there are a lot of different ways that this test can be done but I just used what I had on hand which was concentrated nitric acid so to the big chain I made a deep scratch in it dropped it in the acid and left it there for a few minutes gold jewelry comes in different carats and it refers to the purity of the gold 24 karat is a hundred percent and everything else is based on a fraction of that so for example with 18 karat gold it means that the pure fraction is 18 / 24 or 75% the other 25% is often made of other metals like copper silver or iron which both change its color and make the gold more durable nitric acid is able to react with most metals and dissolve them but some metals like gold are really resistant at lower carats below around 8 or 10 the acid can eat around the gold atoms and dissolve the other metals however when we start getting up to 12 or 14 karat the gold is able to block the acid this is why even after sitting here for a few minutes pretty much nothing happened a deep scratch also didn't do anything either so together this told me that not only was it not plated it was probably at least around 14 karat now using the same test with a piece of the smaller chain it was a different story and the acid immediately started attacking it it also changed colors where it was initially blue and then it slowly shifted to being green because of all the copper nitrate that was forming about 10 minutes later there was almost nothing left and it was mostly just some light black flakes from this I took a small sample and I added it to a test tube then I diluted it with some more water and I added some concentrated hydrochloric acid and almost immediately a whole bunch of white stuff appeared which was probably silver chloride this told me that well there was silver present and that the chain was probably just a mix of copper and silver the last thing to look at was all this scrap but I didn't bother testing it because none of it felt very dense at all I just assumed that it was all less than 14 karat and I decided to process it separately for now though I put it aside and I went back to working on the chains I now had an idea of how much gold was in each chain and I knew that this one probably didn't have any gold at all I decided that I would still process it though but I would do it with all that other scrap stuff to process these chains though which actually had golden them the next step was something called in quotation this just meant that I had to mix it with another metal like copper or silver to knock down the gold concentration typically the target is around six carats so about 25% by doing this the gold stops being able to block the other metals from nitric acid and you'll see why this is important later on the most common and probably best metal to encorte with his silver mostly because it's very easy to recover and to use in another run however I didn't have any silver and this was just a one-time thing so it made no sense for me to go out and to buy some just for this I instead just used copper that I pulled out from a bunch of wire that I had left over after moving to my new office I then weighed each of the chains and based on their purity I calculated how much copper was needed to knock it down to around that six carat point for the larger one that I determined to be at least around 14 karats I went ahead and assumed it was 18 just for the calculations I did this because it was better to overestimate how much copper I needed than to not add enough now to mix the copper with it I had to melt it all together I'd done this before on a very small scale in a porcelain dish but never with this much metal there are many different setups that people used to do this but I wanted to go with the simplest and the cheapest from some videos that I saw I found that it was possible to just do it with a paint can some blow torches and fiberglass insulation so I ordered the fiberglass from Amazon and I went and picked up the torches in the paint can from my local hardware store also Walla was on Amazon I picked up this small metal melting starter kit now to put this whole can thing together it was really easy I just had to cut out a small circle to cover the bottom and then I cut a larger piece to cover the sides of the can for the torches I drilled a hole in each side and shove them in I then put a crucible that I had inside turned on the torches and tried to position them properly to try to keep the heat inside I covered the top with more fiberglass and I waited for it to warm up as a point of safety though some torch ads like the one I have on the right are made of brass for general use this is totally fine but in this case the tips of the torches are surrounded by insulation this causes them to heat up way more than normal and with brass it can start releasing toxic zinc vapor for this reason I did it all in a fume hood but it probably should have just avoided brass altogether my torch head on the left is made of steel and I could have just gotten another one but anyway after 15 minutes or something it didn't even look like it was close to being red-hot I honestly wasn't very surprised by this and I assumed it was because the can and the crucible were way too big for these small flames the simple solution to this was to just build it using a smaller can the one issue with this though was that the only crucible that I had that would fit in this was made of graphite I wasn't sure if it was okay to use with torch flames but I figured I'd give it a try I did a test run and I was able to get it red-hot and it didn't look like it was getting destroyed by the flame so I let it cool back down to room temperature and I started loading it up with the copper and the chains it only had space though to fit one chain and it's copper so I'd have to wait for it to melt a bit before adding more so I put this inside my little can thing turned on the torches and covered the top within just a few minutes it already started glowing red and to get it going faster I blasted the top with another torch then I let it sit there for a little while more and it eventually started to melt there was still a bunch of solid stuff left in it but it was liquefying there was now a lot of extra space so I started adding more copper and gold I started with the small 14-karat chain and all of its copper and it might have looked a bit weird here and this was because to make sure that there was no moisture on any of the metal I preheated it with a torch I really blasted it a lot though and the chain melted a bit into the copper I waited for all this to melt and then I added half of one of the larger chains along with half the amount of copper it very well might have been possible to do the whole thing but it didn't really make much sense to try there was still a third chain to do which definitely wouldn't have fit and it made no sense to risk overflowing it if I had to do a second run anyway but in any case with everything added I covered the top again and I waited for it all to melt when it eventually all liquefied I stirred it around really well to make sure that all the metals were evenly mixed after that I covered the top and I heated it for another few minutes just to make sure that it was nice and hot and then I poured it all into a can full of water when that was done I dropped the crucible back in and I set up the second run just to make things go faster and to make sure that there was no moisture in it I gave all the copper and the gold chains a strong preheating then I slowly added everything to the crucible at first I just did this with the tongs but I found that doing this for all the copper would take forever so I just started pouring it in from a vial it was a lot faster to do it like this but it wasn't nearly as accurate so I ended up missing with a bunch of the copper however this really wasn't much of an issue because not including just a small amount of copper wasn't gonna make much of a difference when it all eventually melted I mixed it around like before and I let it sit for a few more minutes I then went to pour it all into the same can but I was a bit surprised because liquid metal started coming up from the side of it before the front this definitely wasn't a good thing but for the time being it was still a bit too hot for me to investigate so for the time being I put the crucible back in the can and I turned off the torches and I let it cool when I took a look at it a few hours later I noticed that there were some huge holes in the side of it which were made by the torch flame this is why you aren't supposed to use oxidizing torch flames on graphite for long periods of time was lucky it didn't end up being a problem but it could have caused the crucible to break when I tried picking it up this could have not only caused all the gold dispel everywhere it also would have been a huge safety hazard but anyway getting back now to what was thankfully not a catastrophic failure all my gold alloy was now in this can so I just quickly got rid of all the water and this was what it was like by dumping all the liquid metal directly into water it created these pieces that have relatively high surface area ideally though they would have been a bit flatter and looked more like corn flakes but I think I just didn't pour it from high enough in the can just sitting on the fiberglass I also found this chunk of alloy which had leaked out the side of the crucible so I took this along with all the flakes and I put them in a beaker then on top of all of this I pour it in some dilute nitric acid a reaction immediately started and some nasty nitrogen dioxide vapors started coming off the nitric acid was attacking all the copper that I Justin corded it with as well as any other metals that might have been mixed in with the gold in this case the other major metal that was used was probably just silver there might have been small amounts of other metals though like nickel zinc or iron the nitric acid converted the copper metal to copper nitrate which like I mentioned before has this really nice blue color as the concentration of the copper nitrate increased though it slowly shifted to being a dark green the silver and other trace metals are also being converted to nitrate salts and getting dissolved into solution the silver nitrate is colorless though and there isn't enough of the other metals to really affect the color when the reaction died down I added another load of dilute nitric acid and it started bubbling like crazy again I waited for this to also settle down and when it was done I dumped everything into a larger beaker I then kept adding more of the dilute acid and I continued the same cycle as I mentioned before I'm using dilute acid here instead of the concentrated stuff and there were two major reasons for this the first one is that it stops the reaction from getting out of control and the second one is that I needed the extra water to dissolve all of the metal salts that I was making here a major effect of this though is that compared to the concentrated stuff the reaction is slowed down quite a bit which makes it take a lot longer so to speed things up this reaction needs to be heated usually close to the boiling point I didn't use a thermometer though and I thought I was close enough but I don't think I was and because of this it would initially react quite a bit when I added more acid but then it would kind of just stop however just by looking at the stuff at the bottom I could tell there was still a lot of copper left at the time I thought that maybe the acid was just depleted so I dumped off the liquid and I added new fresh stuff the same thing happened again though so I started getting suspicious but still I decided to dump everything off and to add more fresh acid again this also eventually stagnated so I dumped in even more but it didn't seem to do too much it was only at this moment that I realized I probably wasn't heating it enough so I cranked my hot plate to maximum and the difference was pretty obvious I let this react for another hour and it got rid of pretty much all of the copper just to really make sure that it was all gone though I boiled it one last time with more nitric acid except this time it was a bit more concentrated when it was done about 40 minutes later I dumped it all off what I had now was this really soft gold sponge but it was still contaminated with a lot of the dissolved metals to get rid of them though it was quite easy and I just had to wash it with boiling distilled water I did it three times in total and after the third one it was still a bit blue but that was okay now that pretty much all the other metals were gone I added concentrated hydrochloric acid I brought this to a boil and then I started adding small amounts of concentrated nitric acid on their own neither of these acids are able to dissolve gold but together they make something called aqua regia which is actually able to they work together where the nitric acid starts by oxidizing an extremely small amount of the gold to make gold three plus ions this reaction is really unfavorable though and almost immediately after they're made they revert back to being metallic gold with the hydrochloric acid present though it can attack the gold three plus ions and convert them to chloroauric acid this breaks the equilibrium between the gold in the nitric acid and the gold ions are continually fed forward to make the chloroauric acid I kept adding nitric acid until it pretty much looked like all the gold was gone and then I left it overnight the next day I still had some solid stuff at the bottom but it wasn't gold it was all just silver chloride because apparently there was still some silver left in the gold so moving on I diluted it with an equal amount of water this is done just to knock out any silver chloride that might still be dissolved then on top of this I added some concentrated sulfuric acid to knock out any lead that might be present when we're finding jewelry there usually isn't any lead to begin with but this was just a precautionary measure as far as I could tell though nothing happened because there was no lead I let this stir for about an hour and then I filtered it off this was done by just using a couple coffee filters and the solution that passed through was really nice and clear when it was done I watched the filter paper with a lot of distilled water because as long as it was yellow it meant that there was gold in it when I eventually had a completely colorless filter paper I took away the funnel and I dumped all of this gold solution into a larger container I also watched the beaker a few times with distilled water to make sure that I transferred everything okay so now the next step was to get the gold out of this solution and to do this I used potassium metabisulfite I made a solution of it by adding about a hundred and twenty grams to two hundred mils of distill water I thought this was enough to dissolve everything but it wasn't so I just kept adding more water until it all disappeared normally I would have just dumped in all of the metabisulfite but I thought that maybe it could be interesting to add it drop wise the moment I did some brown gold powder started precipitating out but it wasn't particularly interesting so I ended up just scrapping that whole idea and dumping in the rest of it the potassium metabisulfite is a reducing agent and it reduces the gold in the chloroauric acid back to its uncharged metallic form it also reacts with leftover nitric acid though which is why it was important to use a minimal amount of it when I was dissolving the gold other metal salts like those with copper or iron won't be reduced by this and this whole step was to help further purify the gold as one point of safety though this reaction releases quite a bit of sulphur dioxide gas which is dangerous to breathe I'm personally really sensitive to it and even very small amounts can trigger some asthma symptoms so for this reason it's extremely important to do it in a well ventilated area and I did it in my fume hood I then let it sit for a couple hours to fully react and for all the gold to settle down to the bottom this was what I had a few hours later and I dumped off all the water all of the gold was then transferred to another beaker with the help of a bunch of distilled water this was all brought to a boil and after heating it for a couple minutes I dumped off the water this washing step was then repeated four more times using boiling distilled water at this point the gold is usually pure enough but I want to get it as pure as I possibly could so I decided to do another washing step except this time with boiling hydrochloric acid when the concentrated acid was added it became yellow because an extremely small amount of gold was able to dissolve the amount like I said though was extremely small and it was nothing worth worrying about this was brought to a boil and I repeated the same thing four times and each time the solution became more and more colorless after the last one with the acid I did it two more times with boiling distilled water now just as a quick comparison if we look at the gold before the acid and afterwards it's quite different the color of it is a lot lighter and apparently this indicates a higher purity I poured off as much of the water as I could and then I put it back on the hot plate to dry it when most of the water was gone and mixed it around a bit and I let it sit on the hot plate for another several minutes I also occasionally stirred it and eventually I was left with a really dry powder this was more gold than I had ever held in my life and when I weighed it it came out to be about 75 grams based on the carats of the chains I expected to get about seventy seven point nine grams out so this was extremely close this estimation was based on the assumption that that unknown chain was 18 carats though but it probably wasn't also the amount of gold in the other chains was probably slightly less than the carats they were marked with now the next thing to process was all that other scrap I didn't include this with the main batch because I wasn't sure what was in it so I wanted to process it separately it all seemed to be plated or low karat gold though so there was no point in in courting I just jumped right to adding the nitric acid and like before there was a big initial reaction but it quickly died down I then added the liquid from the test that I did earlier on the piece of that small chain I also added the full chain itself that was most likely just copper and silver this was all boiled for a couple hours and when it stopped reacting I figured it was done I poured everything off and I washed the stuff at the bottom a few times with distilled water it looked like almost everything had dissolved except for some of the stuff that was completely pleated with gold then just like before I poured in hydrochloric acid waited for it to boil and added small amounts of nitric acid eventually almost everything had disappeared but the solution was green here and not yellow because there was still a bunch of copper I let this cool overnight and in the morning I poured in a bunch of water then I mix it around and I also added some sulfuric acid after this I let it sit for about an hour and then I filtered it it was the exact same setup as before just with a funnel and a few coffee filters it was eventually all done and now the next step was to see how much gold was actually in there so now to this I added a solution of potassium metabisulfite until all of the gold had precipitated then I mixed it around and I let it sit for a few hours when I came back I poured off all the water and it was way more gold than I expected I really didn't think I was gonna get much of anything out of it but this was a pretty decent amount I now had to clean it up a bit and I did the exact same thing as before where I started with water washings then I did some acid ones and finished with some more water ones I dried it on my hot plate until it was a nice and crispy gold powder and then I weighed it like I said before I really didn't expect to get much out of this and I was really surprised that it was almost 6 and a half grams all of this was then combined with my other gold powder and my total now was eighty one point six grams at about 42 dollars a gram USD this is close to thirty four hundred dollars or about 4500 Canadian this was way more than I ever imagined I'd be extracting for my patron considering when he first pitched it he just said it with some gold-plated stuff however I was really happy it turned out this way because it made the project a lot more fun but in any case the last thing that I had to do now was to melt all of this powder down into a solid chunk to do this it was pretty simple and the first thing that I needed was that small porcelain dish that had gotten that kit from Amazon then I picked up some borax from my local hardware store and I also got up my torch this dish had never been used before so I had to give it a glaze this was done by first getting it really hot and then sprinkling small amounts of borax onto it the major purpose of this was just to prevent the gold from sticking to the dash when I felt that I had done a decent job I started adding the gold I was a big concern that the torch might blow the powder away so I swapped it for the less intense one the gold was dense enough though that this didn't really seem to be much of an issue so I ended up going back to the other one the gold started melting relatively quickly and I just kept topping it up with more powder and occasionally with some more borax when I was eventually done I was left with this giant blob of gold I let it cool for a few minutes so that it would solidify and then I knocked it out of the dash I dunked it in some water to cool it down quickly and I also washed it a bit to get rid of any borax residue the final result was this giant chunk of gold with a mass of 80 1.31 grams this was a bit less than the powder that I started with for those probably because the powder still had a bit of water or moisture left in it as I mentioned before this was more gold than I'd ever held before and because it was so dense it also felt abnormally heavy now that I had this huge piece of gold I wanted to do some tests on it I had always heard that gold was really malleable and soft compared to other metals and I wanted to see for myself I did try bending it with just my fingers but it was absolutely impossible so I moved on to using tools the first thing that I tried was to push on it with a steel spike and I was kind of able to stab it in with a hammer though I was able to smash it all the way through and when I took it out I had this nice little hole in it the next test was to smash it with a hammer and see if it would flatten gold is definitely malleable enough to do it with the right tools but doing it like this just isn't gonna work very well the only result that I really got was a bunch of hammer marks in it and it didn't get much flatter now the last test was to see if I could cut it with a pair of pliers with some soft metals this is easy to do but the gold was relatively tough I was able to pull some very small pieces off but that was about it I did find it funny though because even though these pieces were really small it was still something like 10 to 20 dollars worth of gold from these few tests I saw that the gold was definitely malleable but it wasn't nearly as much as I thought it's still enough though that making something out of pure gold might not be the best idea with jewelery things like rings and chains would definitely deform over time and potentially break this problem is fixed though by mixing it with other metals like copper silver or iron which greatly increase its durability but anyway the piece now was all mangled and I just couldn't leave it like that I wanted to fix it up and I thought that it would be cool to make some small gold bars so I put everything back into my dish and I started melting it and at the same time I heated the graphite mold that I got with that kid on Amazon when it was all liquid again I picked up the dish and I carefully poured in some of the gold you then I took out the bar by just flipping the mold upside down and I moved on to making another one and after that the last bit of gold was just enough to fill one of the smaller ones I quickly knocked out this one as well and I cooled them all underwater and this was my final result they were of course really far from being perfect but I still liked how they turned out from all the nitric acid waste I was also able to recover some silver and I made another little bar with it I didn't feel like it fit in this video but if you're interested in seeing how I got the silver out and dealt with all the waste in general I've put together another video this one though isn't posted on my main channel here and can be found on my other one called Nile blue and there's a link in the description as one final thing after all this I went to a company called kit Co and I had them test the purity of both the gold and the silver they initially told me that they were both a hundred percent but they didn't know that I wanted a printout of the results so I had them run it again but this time the results were slightly different the silver was still a hundred percent but it said that the gold was 99 percent and the rest was tungsten however I think this was just an error because if I got out a hundred percent of the copper and silver there's no way there would still randomly be one percent of tungsten in there when I posted this a patreon a few days ago one of my patrons Victor gave a good explanation as to why it might have told me there was tungsten the gold was tested by something called x-ray fluorescence or just XRF and he said that sometimes it can get confused between gold and tungsten this is because with XRF the tungsten and gold Peaks are very similar another patron found these two XRF results for tungsten and gold and you can see how some of the peaks slightly overlap Victor also told me that I didn't even need to in court for this video and there's another method that can be done where the jewellery is directly treated with the aqua regia this method would not only save a lot of precious nitric acid it also might be a lot faster and it has way less copper waste but anyway in conclusion I was able to extract the gold and I didn't totally screw it up the only sad part now is that I don't get to keep the gold and I have to send it all back to my patron but either way sending it to me in general was still really nice and well trusting so a big thanks goes out to him for that if any of you guys are interested in just donating your gold to me though I'm definitely open to it now before I go I just wanted to quickly mention that I also have an Instagram account I post a lot of stuff there some of which never makes it to this channel and I also post stories which cover some of the projects that I'm currently working on and if you were following me you would have known that I was working on this whole gold project I also sometimes post some really high quality content like this as well so you should definitely consider checking it out as usual a big things goes out to all my supporters on patreon everyone who supports me can see my videos at least 24 hours before I post them to YouTube also everyone on patreon can directly message me and if you support me with five dollars or more you'll get your name at the end like you see here