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How to Separate Copper from Silver

October 1, 2008

I have been plating out metallic silver from waste silver nitrate solution for some time just using copper rods and washing and drying, but have left the copper for too long this time and have allowed my precipitate to become badly contaminated with metallic copper.
Have you guys got any advice on a simple way to separate the two metals?
Also as I am always running the risk of this happening, is there a simpler, more efficient way of doing this process?
Best regards
Martin Rich
Metallurgist, but no chemist.

Martin Rich
Metallurgist - Plymouth, UK

October 5, 2008

It would be a good idea to stop electrolising silver nitrate. If you allow the process to continue when the silver is depleted, the nitrate can break down to ammonia, react with the silver and produce very sensitive and highly explosive compounds.
This happened not so long ago in UK. It resulted in a visit from the Bomb Squad and a HSE prosecution.
The simpler, safer and cheaper way is to simply throw in some ferrous scrap (wire wool)
Since you presumably are going to sell the silver scrap anyway, the best solution is to contact one of the precious metal refiners and let them collect the scrap solution.
Don't expect to get rich from this exercise, the price of scrap silver makes it barely worth the effort.

Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

October 6, 2008

Oh Gawd, Really? - I'll stop doing that then.
Do you think the wire wool will work as well?
As for sending off the solution to recyclers, I've being melting into ingots for (probable, when I find the time) jewellery purposes, so I'm not too worried about that.
Thanks anyway for the quick response.

Martin Rich
Ship Repair - Plymouth, UK

October 31, 2010

You can basically start over, by dissolving your precipitate in Nitric Acid. Once dissolved just hang a piece of copper in the solution and precipitate out your silver. Hope this helps. -Marine.

Beu Randall
- Des Moines, Iowa, USA
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