What is Gold Recycling?

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Due to the highly precious nature of gold, unused items made of gold are oftentimes recycled for further use. While the most common forms of gold recycling involve sorting, smelting, refining, and re-casting useless jewelry, since the advent of the technological age gold has been used or incorporated in a large gamut of materials ranging from motherboards, electrical wire, batteries, timepiece parts, and of course, currency. Because of this, trashed items such as computer parts can yield trace to significant amounts of gold that can be reused for either artistic or industrial purposes.

The earliest practice of gold recycling was done during the Age of Discovery (latter Middle Ages) all throughout the Renaissance. Then, gold recycling was simply a method employed by metallurgists to refine plundered gold or spoils of war into ingots that would be kept in treasuries to add for profit. In the Renaissance, metallurgy took on an artistic turn and gold recycling become common as a means to reuse pawned and unclaimed jewelries, plate, or items which were melted and remade into other objects d’art. This method of gold recycling however, yielded very little pure gold, and due to the lack of a standardized refining process, usually yielded gold with varying purities, resulting, strictly, in a recycled gold alloy, which does not equate to pure gold itself.

The need to obtain pure gold as it is recycled ran hand in hand with the development of methods that separated gold from other base metals that are usually alloyed to harden it or contribute to its aesthetic appeal. During the time of the ancient Lydians gold was usually purified using salt as an agent that separated it from whatever other metals were alloyed to it.[1] This was later put to good use during the Middle Ages, when gold became a major standard of currency, and many gold pieces that were gleaned from useless old jewelry, discovered ores, or plundered wealth were smelted down and purified to later be used as the material for currency. When gold became the mainstay of currency, gold recycling was likewise employed to melt worn, damaged, and old coins to be re-minted as new ones – a practice that lasted until well into the Enlightenment, with some rare exceptions still performed to this day.

With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution came newer, faster, and more reliable methods of gold refining, and with it, the introduction of the precious metal into much of the items used for industry. What was once a metal strictly used for the creation of items of art and personal adornment as well as currency also became a staple in the creation of essential material necessary for the development of modern technology, giving rise to the necessity of gold recycling as a part of the ‘life cycle’ of the metal itself. Today, gold recycling is employed not only as a means to reuse what would otherwise be useless bits and pieces of gold jewelry, it is also a means to retrieve trace amounts of gold that is usually incorporated into everyday items such as transistors, industrial wires, as well as microchips and other computer parts.[2] Nowadays, gold recycling undergoes a regimented process of sorting, weighing, grading, and eventually smelting and parting. The resulting recycled gold is then reformed into standardized ingots or bars which are then graded for purity and reused, whether for artisanal or industrial purposes.[3]

What is Gold Recycling? - References:

[1] http://books.google.it/books?id=ruBbKRKGeOwC&pg=PA202
[2] http://academic.emporia.edu/abersusa/go336/morris
[3] http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5220879_gold-recycled.html

Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for coinandbullionpages.com © coinandbullionpages.com

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