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topic 13044

Mercury damage to gold jewelry



A discussion started in 2002 but continuing through 2019

Contact with mercury instantly ruins jewelry, but boiling it in coconut oil can fix it! Read on . . .

2002

Q. I got mercury from a broken thermometer on my gold wedding ring, and it bonded to the gold. Jewelers won't touch it. I asked a chemist in my area what to do. He suggested silver cleaner which didn't work. I'm obviously not a science expert; I'm an elementary school teacher. I've done some reading about nitric acid. Can I put my ring into plain nitric acid and separate the mercury from the gold? Any other piece of jewelry would be replaceable, but my wedding ring means far too much for me to replace it. I'm afraid to wear it with the mercury still on it. I don't know what to do. Can you help me?

Thank you,

Nancy W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Fitchburg, Massachusetts


2002

A. Hi Ms. Wilson,

Your reading is right about nitric acid; you can also heat that ring at your home, but after heating or putting in nitric acid you have to clean (polish) the ring.

Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison
from Abe Books

or

Good luck,

Dipen Pattni
Dipen Pattni
jeweler/goldsmith - Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania


2002

A. The mercury will migrate into the gold similar to a splash of water migrating into dry wood. You will need to autoclave (outside extraction!) the ring at a temperature above the boiling point of mercury and below the softening point of gold (to be safe I would recommend at least 3 days).

John Tuohy
- Ireland


2005

A. Nancy, just like you, I broke a thermometer yesterday and my wedding rings turned silver in color. I have not talked to my jeweler yet (who is a good friend of mine).

I told my husband about the rings and he tried to clean the rings in our jewelry cleaner. Big mistake, because my husband put some other gold jewelry in with it and now every thing in it is silver.

What I did do is this. I started my propane burner and boiled a pot of water. Mercury evaporates into a vapor and into the air. Boiling mercury is toxic because the vapors can go into the air and be breathed into the lungs. Gold miners used mercury to pan for gold. Then they would boil the mercury off the gold and tumble it. I was told there isn't a significant amount of mercury on the rings but wear a face mask the you can buy in the medical department at Walmart.

My husband and I boiled a couple pieces of pieces last night, to experiment with, for about an hour and they look like brass that needs to be shined. Before I do my rings I am going to talk to my friend to see if he will extract the stones before I boil it. My neighbor said I could put my rings in his tumbler (Used to polish brass gun shells for those who reload their own bullets). I can keep you in touch with what happens after wards. I just got married a couple months ago and like you, my rings mean a lot.

Sorry if this seems a little scattered. I read your question and was able to relate. It is a shame to think there isn't any jeweler who can help.

Dawn W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Morehead City, North Carolina


Natural Mercury Detoxification
from Abe Books

or



It's All in Your Head: The Link Between Mercury Amalgams and Illness

2007

! Like you, while we were on a job we found a broken thermometer, so we quickly cleaned it up and the mercury spill from the broken thermometer, and I to had it attract and go onto rings -- my wedding rings, and 15 year anniversary ring -- before having a chance to get the gloves on. On my wedding rings, the mercury ate the gold and my ring just fell off my hand; my anniversary ring turned silver, and started cracking. We pulled out a deactivating kit to clean my rings like we do in most emergency cases we do for work and sealed them in the bags, because if they get too warm they will send off fumes, even with the heat of the sun, which ARE DANGEROUS and can cause serious health affects. After several days my wedding bands started falling apart in the bag. My rings too are very important to me since I have had them for over 20 years. I took my rings in the sealed bags to 6 jewelers hoping someone could help me. EVERYONE said no, when mercury is heated, even when it is boiled, it causes fumes and a health risk. You can get further information on the department of health and human services website:
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=1195&tid=24

GOOD LUCK. jmk

Janet K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
emergency service co. - Holly, Michigan


2007

thumbs up sign Thank you for that sobering link, Janet. Doing some web searches I see some jewelry shops in England who will repair this mercury damage, but I've found none in the USA advertising to do it.

Obviously, people will try to save their priceless heirlooms no matter the personal and environmental risk -- desperate people take desperate chances. But the process really should be done by trained professionals with proper facilities rather than by amateurs-- this refusal by the jewelry industry to be proper stewards, and just wash their hands of the issue, is a serious problem! If anyone knows of such a service, please advise.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


2007

Q. While I was changing the bladder of blood pressure measuring instrument some mercury accidentally fell over an gold ring and slowly its colour changed to silver; then after 24 hours it got back to its original colour but I am afraid whether some amount of gold is lost in the reaction.

MAYUR P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
indore, m.p, india


2007

Q. Surprised to find this page. This too, happened to my wedding rings several years ago. I've kept them but after reading this, I guess I need to keep the diamond and throw away the bands? Is that the only safe thing to do?

Thanks,

Carol L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- RC, California


2007

A. Your problem can be solved easily by heating the affected area with a butane lighter. The ones with the blue flame would be best. The mercury which has dissolved the gold and other metals to form an amalgam will boil off leaving the original metals as they were originally. However, if in the process when the gold was dissolved, it's shape was changed, correcting that would be a separate problem.

It has been noted that the fumes from the mercury vapor are dangerous. While this is true, if proper care is taken, the risks are minute. The amount of mercury on the ring is very small. You should be able to avoid breathing the mercury vapor if you heat the ring outside and do it upwind. Use a piece of wire or coat hanger to hold the ring while you heat it. Also, you may try to hold you breath for 20 seconds or so while heating. Reheat until complete.

Some people will try to scare you to think that you will drop dead from this exercise. Well consider that alluvial gold miners heat mercury gold amalgam every day with little protection. During a recent study of miners in Indonesia, the study results were surprised by the low levels are mercury found in the miners blood. I think if you do it one time, you should be able to avoid exposure. Just to be safe, don't do it if your pregnant. Give the job to your hubby.

Oh gosh, what about polluting the environment with the fumes? Well again, that is of no significance to the environment. According to the EPA, the USA coal industry releases about 157 TONS of mercury into the air every year (1998 data). Even still, nearly half of mercury in the atmosphere is released by natural processes such as volcanoes. Therefore, your milligrams worth of mercury is nothing to worry about.

Let us know how you make out.

William Heap
- Cary, North Carolina


2007

Q. Hi I've read this very interesting blog. I also have mercury on my 5 rings after the thermometer broke, but decided they can stay silver after I have tried everything possible to get the gold back.
Will it be dangerous to wear the rings?
Thank you

marianne wiltshire
- Johannesburg South Africa


August 22, 2008

Q. GOT MERCURY ON MY RING. IS IT OK TO WEAR?

Don Wilson
- NASHVILLE, Tennessee


Coconut Oil

A. Hi, Marianne, Don. I wouldn't! If you can find no jeweller to help you, I'd boil them in coconut oil [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] outside, using a disposable pot liner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon].

Many thanks to Anusha Raj for the coconut oil solution! =>

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


March 1, 2008

Basic Chemistry folks: Mercury coating Gold => mercury & O2 + heat => Mercury oxide, a stable stable compound and you just polish it off the inert Gold with whatever you favor.

Like most of you I was playing with a thermometer and got mercury on my wedding ring I've been wearing for 20 years... so it was kind of important to get it off, but the more I polished the more I heated and moved the mercury around and it never came off.

To get it off I finally just bent a cloths hanger leaving the bent part in place to put my ring on. I then turned on the good old LP kitchen stove and heated the ring to a dull red, took it out of the flame and let it smoke a bit. When it stopped smoking I put it back in. I did this over and over seven or eight times until the entire ring was a dull black (mercury oxide).

Then it was just a matter of polishing the stable form of mercury off of the inert gold. I haven't used my polishing rouge yet but Crest and a sponge does a pretty good job until I have time to use the rouge and make it mirror bright

Alan Renner
- Sacramento, California


April 6, 2008

I read where you cut a spud in half, hollow it out to the size of the amalgam (rings?), then tie the halves together with a piece of wire. Chuck it into a fire and let it bake. After awhile, fish it out and remove the gold/rings. To recover the mercury, bake it some more (to charcoal I presume), then crush and mix with water in your panning dish. I guess the flesh of the spud must trap the mercury. Sounds good to me.

Graham Blowes
- Melbourne, Australia


December 27, 2008

I had a similar accident in a lab. a little drop of mercury landed on my gold ring and within a few minutes the entire surface of the ring got coated with mercury. I obviously panicked and approached the chemistry professor of my school for advice. he calmly took the ring from me and dipped it in an acid (not sure which kind). all of the mercury disappeared within no time and I was unable to notice any discoloration or other blemishes on the ring thereafter. this technique in my opinion is safer to the metal as well as health.

moulin patel
- new jersey


March 6, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi

My wife's Gold ring was getting discolored and getting patches of white color on it. We were wondering what must be the reason. When we checked her bag, traces of mercury was observed in her bag. The gold jeweler told us its because of the mercury.

Does mercury changes the color of Gold from yellow to white?

What is the remedial action when it has become white?

How to completely remove the mercury from the bag?

Thanks,
Deepak

Deepak Kumar
buyer - Bangalore, Karnataka, India


April 26, 2009

A. I dropped mercury on my gold ring for the second time :( , here in India they use 100 % coconut oil [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] to revive the Gold; didn't believe my grandma! However, tried it and it works trust me it does, all you have to do is drop it in coconut oil and boil for a 2 mins or more ... but do take some precautions when you try it and MERCURY IS EXTREMELY DEADLY !

Anusha Raj
- India


May 19, 2009

thumbs up signThe coconut oil remedy works perfect. Placed my wedding ring in the spoonful of coconut oil [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and heated the oil. Did not work in the first attempt with 100% results. Achieved it in the second one. Kudos to your Grandma :)

Pushkaraj Wagh
- Bangalore, India


August 13, 2009 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi, I have an 18 carat yellow gold and platinum ring. I broke a thermometer the other day and removed the mercury, touching it with a paper towel. One 18 karat yellow gold ring turned slightly silver on the back side and my other ring, also 18 karat gold turned entirely a dull matte silver color. I have tried polishing it with a polish cloth and even with a Dremel [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and jewelers polish, it is still silver color but now polished. Any ideas to get the yellow gold color back in my 18 Karat yellow gold ring? baffled and bummed. thanks

Kendra Schofield
- Belize



A. I did this experiment, I had a thermometer to throw, so I took out mercury and touched my ring to it :), by then I didn't read this page, as how difficult it is to take it off :)

Guys if the amount of mercury is less, than don't worry.
Get some coconut oil simple to find for Indians - Parachute coconut oil [linked by editor to product info at Amazon].
then heat the oil, and dip your ring in it.
leave it for some time.
keep watching it, its really quick!
and if needed repeat the process.

the polish of the gold will be lil off, but that's not a big deal!

cheers!

Anurag Chitlangia
- Limassol, Cyprus



Q. My wedding ring is 14K yellow gold however, the other day it turned a silver color.I was researching your site for a reason when I noticed a reply on March 31, 2008 you wrote to a gentleman who said he had broken a thermometer. YOU EXPLAINED TO HIM HE WAS LUCKY BECAUSE MERCURY WILL RUIN YOUR RING!

I too broke a thermometer the other day,I cleaned up the mercury and disposed of it properly but now my ring is completely silver! Does this mean my ring is ruined? What exactly does that mean, "ruined"? Will the gold color ever return?
I am confused. Please help.
Sincerely,

Rose Hazelwood
hobbyist - Grafton, Illinois


October 23, 2009

A. Hi, Rose. Mercury forms a stable amalgam with gold. I have heard of cases where the exposure to mercury was so low that the ring turned back to gold, as the mercury diffused in, but don't count on it, and you don't want to wear a toxic material like mercury. Take it to a jeweler to see if he will drive the mercury out. If not, you will have to decide whether you want to follow the instructions that others have offered. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


January 26, 2010

A. Okay, I had the same thing happen with my silver ring. I found one jeweler who will work with it. They dip the ring into cyanide salts and it extracts the mercury. I have checked with two chemists who have agreed it should work. Not sure if they have to remove the stone first though. I'll let you know how it comes out. Its worth a shot.

allie klan
- New York, New York


April 17, 2010

Q. It seems that there are 3 occurrences with mercury getting on the gold. One is for the mercury to adhere to the gold, the second is for the mercury to turn the gold silver, and the third is for the mercury to eat the gold, which is what happened to me. Can anyone tell me what the difference is that caused these different reactions. My ring was 18k, does this make a difference.

Also I am not being funny, but where did the gold go to? I too broke a thermometer in my hand and saw the gold disappear before my eyes. I now just have a shell of the original band.

Thanks
Robin

Robin Merah
curious - Rehoboth Beach, Delaware


April 17, 2010

A. Hi, Robin. I'm not an expert on this matter, but I don't think the reaction truly differs, but is simply a matter of degree.

Mercury and gold form the amalgam you are seeing, and it will happen every time you spill mercury on a gold ring. It is a reaction like making a metal alloy, but it happens quickly and at room temperature. Mercury also forms amalgams with the silver and copper content of the ring, so I suppose the results could look a bit different based on the karat content of the ring.

Mercury vaporizes as a gas into the air, and we have theorized that if mercury was in a sort of enclosed space like a drawer, the air could have enough mercury in it to turn a gold ring to a silver tone on the very surface, but that as this very tiny amount of mercury began to diffuse through the whole ring, the amount would be so low that the ring would turn back gold again. There seems to be some anecdotal evidence that this has happened to people, but I don't know about any actual research on the subject.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


May 11, 2010

Q. I too had broken a thermometer on my wedding ring a couple days ago. Can anyone tell me if the ring is put in coconut oil or water and heated if the diamonds/stones have to be removed first? I really want to remove the mercury. I would be heartbroken if my wedding ring is ruined forever!

Julie VK
- Enon Valley, Pennsylvania


May 11, 2010

A. Hi, Julie. I'd hunt hard for a jeweler who will fix it since dealing with jewelry problems is their specialty. But if you can't find one, avoid the thermal shock of dropping a diamond into boiling liquid; hang it in the pot while the liquid is still cold.

Plain water won't work well if at all; I have no personal experience with coconut oil, but three previous readers have reported that it works.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


Coconut Oil

May 27, 2010

A. Hey, Ted, coconut oil [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] really works. Folks try it out. Your broken hearts will be repaired.

rekha manu
- India


July 9, 2010

A. Hey Ted, the coconut trick works so does the potato. I'm a prospector and have used mercury for amalgamating my gold. Also with small amounts heating works just need a mask with chemical filters. So good luck to everyone with ruined rings just roast them or boil them in coconut.

Lyle Saddler
- hayden idaho


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