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    How do I refine precious metal?

    There are many kinds of materials that, when refined, yield pure gold, platinum or silver. Refining them yourself is pretty easy (though the first time you do anything, it's usually a little intimidating).

    What kinds of materials can you refine yourself?

    • Circuit boards and electronic scrap ("e-scrap")
    • Jewelry, both regular jewelry and gold plated
    • Gold nuggets, black sand and flour
    • Catalytic converters, which contain platinum group metals (platinum, palladium, and rhodium)
    • Jeweler's waste, including: grindings, bench sweeps, polishing sweeps, floor sweeps, etc.
    • X-ray film, which contains silver

    There are many reasons to refine these materials yourself, but the most common reasons are: a desire for independence, and to ensure that you're not cheated out of your gold by refining companies (a common complaint we hear from customers). Commonly, if you refine things such as circuit boards yourself, you get about 8-10 times as much gold as selling the material to a refining company.



    Here's an overview of how to refine:

    1. With gold and platinum, there are two basic methods: working with saltwater and working with acid. Both work equally as well, but for a variety of reasons (safety, cost and the kind of material that you are refining) you may choose to use one method or the other. Each method has its advantages and its pitfalls.
    2. With silver, there are also two methods: chemical and electrolytic. Regardless of the method, you will have to use dilute nitric acid. Sorry, no way around that. However, if you choose to refine using the electrolytic way instead of purely chemically, then the nitric acid will be very dilute and the fumes will be relatively minor.


    Saltwater-based refining



    You can refine both gold and platinum group metals with this process. Silver is recoverable using this process but it will not refine the silver. After working with people who have refined using this method, we've carefully perfected this method through the Simplicity Refining System to make it simple for individuals and companies.



    Refining gold with saltwater

    The process is very simple. Hang your metal on a wire that is connected to a car battery charger and then immerse the metal in saltwater in the Simplicity unit. When you turn on the battery charger, an electric current runs through the metal causing it to dissolve at a rate of about 1 ounce per hour. When all the metal is dissolved, add a selective precipitant, called "Quadratic," to the solution. Only pure gold will turn back into solid metal. For all the other metals, the impurities will remain dissolved. The resulting gold is at least 99.95% pure gold.

    The losses of gold left dissolved in the solution will be less than 4 parts of gold per million parts of saltwater.



    Refining platinum group metals with saltwater

    The platinum group metals (or PGM's) metals include platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium. Platinum, palladium and rhodium are commonly used in industry and jewelry. However, the saltwater process will recover and refine all the platinum metals and will separate each platinum group metal from the other and providing a purity of at least 99.95+% pure (99.99% purity is common). At the present time, this is the only known method of refining mixed PGMs easily, the only known method of consistently achieving this degree of purity, and the only known method of refining PGMs with a minimum of hazard.



    So how are platinum group metals refined in saltwater?

    It's actually pretty simple. Melt your metal with a base metal, such as tin or ASR Alloy and pour into an ingot mold to make a bar. Hang it on a wire in the Simplicity Refining System and connect the other end of the wire to a battery charger. When you turn on the battery charger, the base metal in the ingot starts to dissolve and the platinum group metals are converted into platinum group chlorides. When the ingot finishes disintegrating (which takes about one hour per ounce), use water to rinse the platinum group chloride you made. Dissolve them in ammonia and add a selective precipitant for platinum group metals. Each platinum group metal will precipitant in a different time frame, with about 1/2 hour between the conclusion of each precipitation from the start of the next. By simply recovering the precipitated metal between each precipitation, you can achieve a purity of at least 99.95+ purity for each platinum group metal.

    • Simplicity Gold & Platinum Refining System

      Note: The Simplicity is best suited for solid metal. For computer parts and other e-scrap, we recommend the Subzero Gold Refining System.

      To be blunt, if you don't already have one, you either weren't aware of its existence or you've made a costly mistake by not buying one before. It's that simple. There are over 8,000 units in use today and from just 2003-2008, over 6 metric tons of gold were refined in these refining systems. We estimate that our customers, by refining their gold themselves, have saved over $12,800,000 in just the past 2 years!

      There is nothing in your shop that you can't refine yourself (though things like polishing sweeps do require some preprocessing).

      How does it work?

      1. Using a battery charger or rectifier and the Simplicity, your scrap gold and/or platinum is stripped (dissolved) into a special salt-water bath.

      2. Add powder which turns the gold, but not the other metals, back into solid form. While the pure gold drops to the bottom as small particles, the other metals remain dissolved.

      3. Pour off the water, and then rise, dry, and melt the resulting fine gold particles.

      The result is gold of 99.95% purity with losses of metal left dissolved in the waste water of less than .01 dwt. If desired, the other metals can be removed from the water by the addition of aluminum foil. A special ceramic cell prevents the metal from plating out of the water.

      Since 1986, Shor has sold thousands of Simplicity refiners to every part of the globe. Over 6 metric tons of gold refined in these systems in just the past 5 years.

      100% gold recovery.

      This system includes a very simple-to-use test kit that will detect as little as four parts of gold per million parts of solution, ensuring that no dissolved gold is lost.

      99.95+% purity.

      Even if you have no prior experience refining, the metals yielded by the Simplicity is always of 99.95% or greater purity.

      Safe + Odorless.

      No acids, harmful fumes, or toxic chemicals. Owed in part to our new Quadratic Precipitant, the Simplicity refining process is safe to use.

      Learn more about Shor's Quadratic

      Easy to use.

      Requires no experience. Comes with both video and written instructions. We provide world-class phone and digital tech support for all of our products (even if you don't buy them from us!)

      Versatile.

      Refines any karat of gold (even mixed karats), bench sweeps, polishing sweeps, ultrasonic sludge, and more. Refines platinum too.

      Stones are safe.

      The Simplicity automatically dismounts stones from jewelry with no damage to stones (even very soft stones) with no extra labor.

      Efficient.

      This dual capacity unit can run batches of up to 1 kilo, or 5 ounces. Requires only about 30-45 minutes of labor, and only an hour per ounce to run.

      We guarantee it.

      When you buy the Simplicity, you receive a lifetime warranty, and if you don't love it, we back it with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

      $595.00

      SKU: SIMPLICITY

    • GC Salt

      GC Salt is an electrolyte. When added to water, in the Simplicity Gold & Platinum Refining System, it dissolves gold. It is formulated with characteristics uniquely suited for the Simplicity Refining System.

      Safe.

      GC Salt is non-toxic and odorless.

      Neutralizes the alkalinity of the cathode-side solution.

      Alkalines corrode ceramics, such as the GC Cell, so it is very important to neutralize them. GC Salt incorporates buffering compounds to neutralize the alkalinity of the cathode side solution.

      Dissolves the 5-6% silver content.

      Alternative chloride-based formulas and compounds dissolve 0% silver content, thereby severely slowing the dissolving of gold. GC Salt however dissolves the 5-6% silver content that is typical of 14 karat gold.

      Avoids making a mess.

      GC Salt incorporates flow agents, allowing it to pour easily without clumping. It also dissolves readily in warm water.

      $19.95 to $159.95


    • Catalyst

      The Catalyst is used to start the dissolving process in the Simplicity Refining System. It’s kind of like a starter motor for a car: once the process starts, as long as the electrical current continues, and as long as there is still gold to dissolve, the metal will continue to dissolve. Each small packet is sufficient for 4 refining batches, regardless of the size of the batch.

      Each bag contains 1 teaspoon of catalyst. Available individually or in packs of ten. 1/4 teaspoon is required for one batch.

      $15.99 to $139.99


    • Quadratic Gold Precipitant

      This exciting new product makes gold refining much easier and more comfortable. After over a decade in development by Shor’s R&D department, this powdered precipitant has been perfected to meet all of the characteristics you've been asking for, including:
      • Odorless
      • Non-hazardous
      • Unlimited shelf life
      • Gold precipitates as heavy mud, commonly referred to as “sponge,” making filtering unnecessary.
      • Precipitates pure gold from all chloride-based solutions, including: saltwater, nitric acid-based aqua regia, SubZero based aqua regia and all other chloride-based solutions.
      • Very selective; precipitates only gold, of at least 99.95+% purity.
      • Over a decade in development by Shor R&D. Field tested by hundreds of users.
      • Reasonably priced.

      $19.95 to $159.95


    • Sodium metabisulfite

      Sodium metabisulfite (also known as sodium bisulfite) is an affordable and effective selective precipitant for gold. This chemical can recover up to 99.95% of pure gold when the precipitated gold is thoroughly rinsed. It works well even at room temperature. This product has a chemical grade purity of 99.98%.

      Proper ventilation is required. This precipitant has a very strong, pungent, acid odor and is corrosive.

      Precipitated gold particles vary in size, but tend to be small and float easily in the rinse water. For this reason, special care must be taken to avoid accidentally pouring off gold with the rinse water.

      $7.99 to $34.50


    • Storm Precipitant/ScrubPowder

      Storm Precipitant is used in the Simplicity Refining System. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of Storm Precipitant for every ounce of dissolved metal, then cover immediately with plastic wrap.

      Advisory: Storm Precipitant is extremely pungent and should only be used with proper ventilation. For a less-pungent alternative, see Quadratic Precipitant.

      $11.99 to $449.95


    • Anode Pouch

      $19.99

      SKU: AnodePouch

    • Nickelodeon

      Don’t want to hang rings on a silver wire or solder a wire to your ingot?
      Got little pieces of metal you don’t want to melt into a bar?
      The Nickelodeon is what you need.

      This hockey-puck-shaped device contains a short graphite rod at the center to make electrical contact with your material. The rod connects to a heavy wire that you connect to your DC power source.To use, just position the Nickelodeon at the bottom of your Pouch. Then place your metal on top of the Nickelodeon. It’s that simple.

      For use in the Simplicity Refining System.

      $39.95

      SKU: NICKELODEON

    • ASR Alloy

      Add to high silver content gold to reduce the percentage of silver. 5 ounces content.

      $7.95

      SKU: ASR



    Acid-based refining



    Refining gold with acid

    The traditional method called "aqua regia" (Latin for "Royal Water"), dates back thousands of years. This method requires the use of both nitric and hydrochloric acids. Because of the nitric acid, the fumes produced by this process (nitric oxides) are very, very corrosive; they will rust high grade stainless steel with less than 1 second of exposure.

    To correct this issue, we've developed a non-corrosive, pelletized substitute for nitric acid called SubZero. While there are still fumes when using SubZero, they are limited to ordinary muriatic acid fumes (muriatic acid can be obtained in most paint and hardware stores). Additionally, if you use the Shor SubZero Refining System, it is a sealed unit with an integrated scrubbing system to even eliminate the muriatic acid fumes. It also scrubs the fumes if you want to work with nitric acid based aqua regia.



    Why work with acid when you can use saltwater instead?

    For two reasons. First, some materials, like circuit boards and jeweler's polishing sweeps, are much more easily refined using the process. Secondly, you may want to refine out of doors, where there is plenty of ventilation. You can set up your own system, using the SubZero Starter Package and a few other things, such as plastic buckets, for less than $100.

     



    How do I refine using aqua regia?

    Whether using nitric acid based aqua regia or SubZero-based aqua regia, the process is very simple. The metal is first dissolved in the aqua regia. When all the metal is dissolved, urea (a harmless chemical: CO(NH2)2) is added to remove any free nitrogen in solution. With nitric-acid-based aqua regia, a large amount of urea is generally required. With SubZero based aqua regia, usually only a pinch is required. The purpose of the urea is to prevent gold from re-dissolving after it has been precipitated. If urea is not added and some free nitrogen remains dissolved in solution, some gold may be re-dissolved. At this point, the gold is selectively precipitated out of solution. There are a variety of precipitants that can be used: Quadratic, Storm Precipitant, sulfur dioxide gas, sodium bisulfite and ferrous sulfate are among the most common. Most of these precipitants produce very unpleasant fumes or odors and have other negative side effects. Some people prefer Quadratic Precipitant, since it's odorless, fumeless, produces large particles that are easily rinsed, and has an unlimited shelf life. Regardless of the precipitant used, the resultant gold is typically at least 99.95% pure. At this point, the solution is checked with gold detection liquid to ensure that there are no losses. The gold detection test is sensitive to around 4 parts of gold per million parts of solution--the maximum loss of metal left dissolved in solution.



    Refining platinum in acid

    When platinum group metals are mixed, it is very complicated and difficult to refine them using aqua regia. However, when they are not mixed, the aqua regia method is not hard. The procedure is very similar to refining gold in aqua regia, but the precipitant used will be different. There are several standard precipitants, different precipitants for different platinum group metals. Refining by this method is tricky and the purity of the resultant platinum group metal is often below normal standards. Refining of platinum metals is best done by the saltwater method.

     

    • Simplicity Gold & Platinum Refining System

      Note: The Simplicity is best suited for solid metal. For computer parts and other e-scrap, we recommend the Subzero Gold Refining System.

      To be blunt, if you don't already have one, you either weren't aware of its existence or you've made a costly mistake by not buying one before. It's that simple. There are over 8,000 units in use today and from just 2003-2008, over 6 metric tons of gold were refined in these refining systems. We estimate that our customers, by refining their gold themselves, have saved over $12,800,000 in just the past 2 years!

      There is nothing in your shop that you can't refine yourself (though things like polishing sweeps do require some preprocessing).

      How does it work?

      1. Using a battery charger or rectifier and the Simplicity, your scrap gold and/or platinum is stripped (dissolved) into a special salt-water bath.

      2. Add powder which turns the gold, but not the other metals, back into solid form. While the pure gold drops to the bottom as small particles, the other metals remain dissolved.

      3. Pour off the water, and then rise, dry, and melt the resulting fine gold particles.

      The result is gold of 99.95% purity with losses of metal left dissolved in the waste water of less than .01 dwt. If desired, the other metals can be removed from the water by the addition of aluminum foil. A special ceramic cell prevents the metal from plating out of the water.

      Since 1986, Shor has sold thousands of Simplicity refiners to every part of the globe. Over 6 metric tons of gold refined in these systems in just the past 5 years.

      100% gold recovery.

      This system includes a very simple-to-use test kit that will detect as little as four parts of gold per million parts of solution, ensuring that no dissolved gold is lost.

      99.95+% purity.

      Even if you have no prior experience refining, the metals yielded by the Simplicity is always of 99.95% or greater purity.

      Safe + Odorless.

      No acids, harmful fumes, or toxic chemicals. Owed in part to our new Quadratic Precipitant, the Simplicity refining process is safe to use.

      Learn more about Shor's Quadratic

      Easy to use.

      Requires no experience. Comes with both video and written instructions. We provide world-class phone and digital tech support for all of our products (even if you don't buy them from us!)

      Versatile.

      Refines any karat of gold (even mixed karats), bench sweeps, polishing sweeps, ultrasonic sludge, and more. Refines platinum too.

      Stones are safe.

      The Simplicity automatically dismounts stones from jewelry with no damage to stones (even very soft stones) with no extra labor.

      Efficient.

      This dual capacity unit can run batches of up to 1 kilo, or 5 ounces. Requires only about 30-45 minutes of labor, and only an hour per ounce to run.

      We guarantee it.

      When you buy the Simplicity, you receive a lifetime warranty, and if you don't love it, we back it with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

      $595.00

      SKU: SIMPLICITY

    • GC Salt

      GC Salt is an electrolyte. When added to water, in the Simplicity Gold & Platinum Refining System, it dissolves gold. It is formulated with characteristics uniquely suited for the Simplicity Refining System.

      Safe.

      GC Salt is non-toxic and odorless.

      Neutralizes the alkalinity of the cathode-side solution.

      Alkalines corrode ceramics, such as the GC Cell, so it is very important to neutralize them. GC Salt incorporates buffering compounds to neutralize the alkalinity of the cathode side solution.

      Dissolves the 5-6% silver content.

      Alternative chloride-based formulas and compounds dissolve 0% silver content, thereby severely slowing the dissolving of gold. GC Salt however dissolves the 5-6% silver content that is typical of 14 karat gold.

      Avoids making a mess.

      GC Salt incorporates flow agents, allowing it to pour easily without clumping. It also dissolves readily in warm water.

      $19.95 to $159.95


    • Catalyst

      The Catalyst is used to start the dissolving process in the Simplicity Refining System. It’s kind of like a starter motor for a car: once the process starts, as long as the electrical current continues, and as long as there is still gold to dissolve, the metal will continue to dissolve. Each small packet is sufficient for 4 refining batches, regardless of the size of the batch.

      Each bag contains 1 teaspoon of catalyst. Available individually or in packs of ten. 1/4 teaspoon is required for one batch.

      $15.99 to $139.99


    • Quadratic Gold Precipitant

      This exciting new product makes gold refining much easier and more comfortable. After over a decade in development by Shor’s R&D department, this powdered precipitant has been perfected to meet all of the characteristics you've been asking for, including:
      • Odorless
      • Non-hazardous
      • Unlimited shelf life
      • Gold precipitates as heavy mud, commonly referred to as “sponge,” making filtering unnecessary.
      • Precipitates pure gold from all chloride-based solutions, including: saltwater, nitric acid-based aqua regia, SubZero based aqua regia and all other chloride-based solutions.
      • Very selective; precipitates only gold, of at least 99.95+% purity.
      • Over a decade in development by Shor R&D. Field tested by hundreds of users.
      • Reasonably priced.

      $19.95 to $159.95


    • Sodium metabisulfite

      Sodium metabisulfite (also known as sodium bisulfite) is an affordable and effective selective precipitant for gold. This chemical can recover up to 99.95% of pure gold when the precipitated gold is thoroughly rinsed. It works well even at room temperature. This product has a chemical grade purity of 99.98%.

      Proper ventilation is required. This precipitant has a very strong, pungent, acid odor and is corrosive.

      Precipitated gold particles vary in size, but tend to be small and float easily in the rinse water. For this reason, special care must be taken to avoid accidentally pouring off gold with the rinse water.

      $7.99 to $34.50


    • Storm Precipitant/ScrubPowder

      Storm Precipitant is used in the Simplicity Refining System. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of Storm Precipitant for every ounce of dissolved metal, then cover immediately with plastic wrap.

      Advisory: Storm Precipitant is extremely pungent and should only be used with proper ventilation. For a less-pungent alternative, see Quadratic Precipitant.

      $11.99 to $449.95


    • Anode Pouch

      $19.99

      SKU: AnodePouch

    • Nickelodeon

      Don’t want to hang rings on a silver wire or solder a wire to your ingot?
      Got little pieces of metal you don’t want to melt into a bar?
      The Nickelodeon is what you need.

      This hockey-puck-shaped device contains a short graphite rod at the center to make electrical contact with your material. The rod connects to a heavy wire that you connect to your DC power source.To use, just position the Nickelodeon at the bottom of your Pouch. Then place your metal on top of the Nickelodeon. It’s that simple.

      For use in the Simplicity Refining System.

      $39.95

      SKU: NICKELODEON

    • ASR Alloy

      Add to high silver content gold to reduce the percentage of silver. 5 ounces content.

      $7.95

      SKU: ASR



    Refining silver

    The chemical process requires no equipment, just a few buckets. It's a very simple process but the fumes are quite corrosive. To refine silver by the acid method, first dissolve the silver in nitric acid. After the silver is dissolved, it can be precipitated out of solution by adding ordinary table salt. The salt precipitates silver chloride. The white silver chloride is then oxidized by adding sodium hydroxide (also called caustic soda or lye). This blackens it and turns it into silver oxide. The addition of sugar water turns the silver oxide into pure silver. A simpler process of refining silver is electrolytic. In this process, silver is hung in an electrolytic bag and immersed in a very dilute nitric acid solution. The silver is connected to a "rectifier," which supplies a highly-filtered DC current. The silver dissolves and the impurities fall into the electrolytic bag. Meanwhile, the pure silver plates out onto a cathode in other electrolytic bag in solution. This simple process can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with minimal fumes. Electrolytic silver refining requires a starting purity of at least 92% for sterling silver.

    • Shor Electrolytic Thumb Cell Silver Refining System

      This is a purely electrolytic system, requiring a separate rectifier (available from Shor) and works only with silver that is at least 90% pure before refining (Sterling silver is 92+% pure). Produces standard electrolytic grade silver of 99.95-99.99% purity. Uses a dilute nitric acid for electrolyte, so some ventilation is required. Requires a rectifier of at least 25 amps (not included).

      Features include:

      • Produces electrolytic grade silver (99.95-99.99% pure).
      • Easy to use: requires no experience.
      • Low labor: requires almost no monitoring.
      • Continuously produces pure silver, not a batch operation. Simply put in a new bar of scrap silver as the old one is dissolved into solution. Take out the pure silver any time, without interrupting the refining process.
      • Compact: takes up just 1 cubic foot.
      • Snap on lid: all-plastic construction.
      • Can also be used for refining gold scrap, but only when the gold to be refined is already at least 90% pure before refining.
      • Very inexpensive to purchase and to run.

      Please note: when purchasing this product, you are buying, primarily, knowledge. Because this knowledge cannot be unlearned, this product is not returnable.

      $495.00

      SKU: SILVEREFINER



    How do these methods compare?

    MethodSpeedMaterials typically refinedFumesEase of useCostsComments
    Gold Refining with Nitric-acid-based Aqua Regia1-2 hours per batche-scrap, jewelry, black sands, jewelers sweepsvery highly corrosivesimplesetup costs can be as low as $100, depending upon capacity and sophisitication about $1-$2 per ounce to operatesilver content can slow the process significantly
    Gold Refining with SubZero-based Aqua Regia1-2 hours per batche-scrap, jewelry, black sands, jewelers sweepscorrosivesimplesetup costs can be as low as $100, depending upon capacity and sophisiticationsilver content can slow the process significantly
    Gold Refining with Saltwater1 hour per ounce of scrapjewelry, gold bars or ingotsvery mildly corrosive (saltwater)simpleabout $600 to set up. About $1-$2 per ounce to operatesilver content above 6% can slow the process
    Platinum Refining with Nitric-acid-based Aqua Regiavariescatalytic converters, e-scrap, jewelryvery, very highly corrosivevery complicatedvaries widely depending upon the metal contentthe acid has to be boiled to dissolve the platinum
    Platinum Refining with SubZero-based Aqua Regiavariescatalytic converters, e-scrap, jewelryvery corrosivevery complicatedvaries widely depending upon the metal contentthe acid has to be boiled to dissolve the platinum
    Platinum Refining with Saltwaterabout 1-2 hours per ouncejewelry, bars or ingotsvery mildly corrosivesimpleAbout $600 to set up. About $5 per ounce to operatewhen working with catalytic converters, the PGM's are usually recovered first by heating the converters first in a solution of lye and water (dissolving the ceramic)
    Silver Refining in Nitric Acidabout 3-4 hours per batchjewelry, silverware, x-ray film, etc.very highly corrosivesimpleconsumable costs about $1 per ouncealmost no setup costs if done outdoors
    Silver Refining by Electrolytic Methodabout 1 hour per ouncejewelry, silverware, ingots (bars)somewhat corrosivevery simpleabout $500; consumable cost of a few dollars per dayrequires a starting purity of at least 93% (sterling silver)

     

    When in doubt, let us help

    If you follow our instructions, typically you will get a purity of at least 99.95% with no loss.

    Shor can help you refine all these materials, providing you with full, no charge, online instructions as well as free, unlimited tech support. We ask that you purchase the supplies and equipment from us, but we don't require that. Even if you purchase your supplies and equipment elsewhere, we will still provide full tech support at no charge. It's the way we help people and the way we've helped amateur and professional refiners for nearly 100 years.