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topic 25851

Reclaiming Gold Finishings


Q. I am retired and frequent estate sales as a hobby. I find many items with 22k and a6k gold finishes or plated. Is there any practical way to reclaim this gold without spending thousands on equipment?

James A. Clore
hobbyist - Crawfordsville, Indiana, USA


A. That depends on what you intend to do with it after recovery. Talk to the jewelry teacher. Most colleges have one in the art Dept.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


Recovery And Refining Of Precious Metals

A. An aqua-regia solution will take care of your needs. Safety is a concern, but only a minor one if you have experience with acids, that requires rubber protective gloves [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], face mask, and a fume hood. Aqua-regia is a mix of nitric and hydrochloric acids. A gallon or two of solution in a five gallon bucket is about ideal for what you want. Immerse the object for a short time {until the gold is dissolved}and then rinse it into a second bucket using a rinse bottle. This has the added advantage that it will reclaim platinum group metals as well. This will work great on ceramic items with the trim, but as a ceramicist I will tell you that the value involved per piece is very small. Any karat gold items could be thrown in, with the added advantage that precious stones are not harmed. Some semiprecious stones like turquoise and opal will be damaged or destroyed. Gold plate or fill can be digested in a Muriatic Acid [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] {20% hydrochloric} bath after being cut into small pieces. The leftover sludge and flake taken out by filtering would then be added to the aqua-regia. Economically it would be best to use the solution to depletion before recovering your values.

For full details refer to the C.W.Ammen book, "RECOVERY AND REFINING OF PRECIOUS METALS" =>

The chemicals for recovery are available in small amounts from E-bay. This way you could try a batch to get familiar with the process before you purchase in quantity.

Marc Bilyeu
- Bellevue, Nebraska, USA


A. Don't EVER use aqua on gold-plated material. It's very dangerous and totally non-profitable. No man has ever made a profit by dissolving gold-plated objects in aqua regia. No self-respecting gold refiner would ever use aqua regia on gold-plated objects. It's foolishness. It costs more in chemicals and equipment and waste disposal than the stuff is worth. Even with very heavy plating, it isn't used. About the only thing that aqua regia should be used for is refining solid karat gold items. In that case, you can't do without it.

Chris Owen
Consultant - Houston,Texas

August 24, 2012

Q. So how can you recover gold plating from items like aluminum or plastic?

Gene Myrkle
- Rincon Georgia USA

August 25, 2012

A. Hi Gene.

That is an industrial science that can't be dispatched in an answer of a paragraph or two. As previously mentioned, there are specialty books which are a good intro to it though. But you can find a dozen extensive threads on the subject on this website alone. Maybe start with letters 771b and 18889. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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