Advice for a beginner on silver refining

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Bjolfur

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Apr 29, 2021
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Hello everybody,
I am considering start melting silver and refining it. I say I am considering because I am quite afraid of the dangers. Silver contacts have cadmium, then reverse electroplating releases fumes, and in the the hand I am in a place that supplies are not easy to get like borax.

My idea is to avoid any harsh chemicals and stick to the most simple and safe way to approach the refining. It is nothing but get to the hobby level and have a safe practise. For now I accomplished melting 925 silver with a butane torch. Thats it.

In my plans are recovery of plated silver and electrical contacts. My desired method so far looks like cupellation (using portland cement), but without borax or flux can I use sodium carbonate? Also for the electrical contacts is there any safe way to get rid of impurities of cadmium silver? Is there a way to do this in open air (no neighbours) and not get poisoned?
I am not planing to get into Platinum, rhodium or iridium as the melting points are quite high for my method, which is a gas torch, so I guess all those metals would be collected in the slag?

Of course these are question that I have already research a bit here and also online in general, I just want to have your opinion based on your experience on basic no no´s and if there are sources I would be happy to research them by myself if you could point that to me. I am reading through Ms Hoke´s manual, such a treat! but I would like to have access to more updated or actually more diy, non hazardous and more accessible methods than aqua regia and so on.
 

nickvc

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Welcome to the forum.
Unfortunately you have decided to work with metals that are some of the least reactive on earth so to refine them you are going to need to use dangerous chemicals to refine them.
With silver you really need to use nitric acid to get fine silver and with gold there are work around processes but they all have hazards and poisonous fumes are produced even using basic chemicals you may well have lying around your house.
If you don’t want to work with these chemicals I suggest finding a different hobby or a different approach where you could buy and or collect scrap and sell and then buy fine metals.
 

justinhcase

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I am sorry to say, But melting down marked items of a know content into nondescript bars will actually lose you money.
I have had a number of clients who have undertaken the same approach.
Likewise, I will just say that what they brought me has been some of the most awkward material to process possible.
Somehow they had included tin and small amounts of gold into a dirty bar that took an age to filter when digested.
Sorting scrap effectively is a skill that takes time and mistakes to get a handle on.
Unless you are processing your material you will never really know when you have let a miss-marked item slip through your screening, so you will have very little opportunity to learn.
 

Bjolfur

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Thank you for the answers.
nickvc, isn´t cuppellation is a feasible option method for refining silver without harsh chemicals? ​I mean, it has been done through centuries, I don´t see why this wont be possible to do in order to avoid acids, and no particular needs than led, a cupel and fire.

justinhcase, nothing to be sorry about ;) thank you for the tip but I am far from what you assume. I melted just a bit of silver for fun and experimenting and I am well aware about the credibility of a standard hallmark in the moment of selling. Besides that I am also aware that whatever I do to the silver I wont make anything to improve the price balance of the material, even refining it to 999 silver the increase of the price would be insignificant compared to the time and materials that would go into it. I pointed out clearly that this would be a hobby anyway.

Maybe I didn´t word myself well: I am looking for advices on cupellation of cadmium silver and reverse electroplated silver flakes.
 

jmdlcar

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Is this what you mean? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwDfUxgNxeA
 

Bjolfur

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Yes exactly. The "only" danger I see is the led and cadmium fumes that can be avoided with proper ventilation, outdoors and respirator.
 

stella polaris

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Bjolfur, you can elektro refining the contacts. Build a little cell. There are a lot of the subject here on the forum. It will give you silver and a slime with the impurities. The slime you must be able to dispose in a responsible way. It contains the cadmium.

Cadmium is bad and its every were. Just yesterday I found out its cadmium in photo resistors. (in the most unexpected way by the way. Reading Mine datas little fun site about mine crafts minerals)

Otherwise I look forward to a volcano driven process. Perhaps for cuppellation? : )
 

stella polaris

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Bjolfur said:
Yes exactly. The "only" danger I see is the led and cadmium fumes that can be avoided with proper ventilation, outdoors and respirator.

No, you do not get rid of danger by ventilating away Cadmium. It goes in to fish and other food and causes birth defects. Japan have been seriously affected by this.
 

justinhcase

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stella polaris said:
Bjolfur said:
Yes exactly. The "only" danger I see is the led and cadmium fumes that can be avoided with proper ventilation, outdoors and respirator.

No, you do not get rid of danger by ventilating away Cadmium. It goes in to fish and other food and causes birth defects. Japan have been seriously affected by this.

Exactly, Every one starts with what they want, the gold or silver.
What they need to be able to do is deal with all the other contaminants safely first.
(Copulation ops.LOL) cupellation will produce moderately finer silver, but it will not separate out any of the noble metals.
In fact, you will lose a good deal of value in the process tied up in your slag and other places in the process or fume control.
It is a useful leftover from of our more ancient alchemist brethren in fire assays and smelting raw ore.
 

Palladium

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Martijn said:
Bjolfur said:
Copulation will produce moderately finer silver, but it will not separate out any of the noble metals.

The wife will want to test that extensively :lol: :lol:

I always wondered why i kept having boys and no girls! 6 boys!
Now i know it was because of my separator during Copulation!
 

jmdlcar

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How many grams or ounce can be done at a time? In all video i have watch so far it was under 10 grams.
 

stella polaris

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Palladium said:
I always wondered why i kept having boys and no girls! 6 boys!
Now i know it was because of my separator during Copulation!

If you turn the red button on top of the separator, from XY to XX position, you get girls.
 

Bjolfur

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Ok, so no smelting for the contacts then, I think I left a hobby before I started it then!
 

nickvc

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Bjolfur said:
Ok, so no smelting for the contacts then, I think I left a hobby before I started it then!

Understand you are trying to work with some of the earths least reactive metals if it was simple everyone would be doing it, but on here you can learn to refine and care for the environment at the same time but it takes time and lots of study, our comments are very negative because you seem to want to find an easy or quick way without learning and studying, if you show a willingness to do those we respond much better.
You can do this but start at the beginning, read and research, learn the basics and if you get stuck ask questions to clarify a point but we don’t have the time or will to hold your hand to learn this.
 

Bjolfur

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Hi nickvc, I do undertand, I am part of other forum communities and I have to admit that it can be certainly annoying to try to educate newbies over and over, and most of the time they just don´t get it, they don´t follow up, or they are just messing around. I had that experience and I understand if I come across like that.

I am not a trained chemist whatsoever, and that I why I want to make it as simple as possible, as safe as possible. Nowadays we have the knowledge (on the net), the material and the safety equipment to do whatever compared to a couple of hundred of years ago, when this was seen as magic or alchemy. This is why I think there could be a cleaner and safer way to refine, without involving nitric acid for diluting for example. This is not a historical reenactment thing either, I am just curious on the possibilities of low tech, which yes, it will involve high knowledge. I see from the reactions that the attitude "is not good enough, not pure enough, not quick enough" but I couldn´t care less about those concepts. I would be happy if I manage to refine one gram of silver over many moths with lemon juice, if I undertand it and I can replicate it and I don´t harm myself! I know this might sound the most stupid thing ever, but yeah, I will see where I end up!
 

butcher

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Egyptians who built the pyramids knew more about gold and how to recover and refine it, than most people nowadays, the Net is a good source of information if you know the basic principles the same principles developed over many centuries, the metals react the same today as they did hundreds of years ago, there have been some advances in some areas like better safety and tools but not much has changed, we may have a few workarounds, but basically, the principles are the same.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iTLCtlHpIU


Youtube and the internet are terrible sources of information if you do not know anything about the skill or art you are searching for information about, it becomes the blind leading the blind.

Today we use what we learn from those who worked before us, those who developed and improved the art and taught the skills, gave us the understanding, we are taking the tried and true methods before us along with using the safest methods possible, most of the more modern workarounds are more geared to the recovery of metals, as far as refining we use the methods that have proven to work over the centuries of time, safety is one area where more modern resources will be more helpful and have probably advanced the most.

Some blind You tube channelers may show someone using lemon juice claiming it is safe as they videotape poisoning their land and their neighbor's water supply, without an understanding of the basic principles the blind man looking to learn how to refine will poison his own land and family...
 

Bjolfur

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Apr 29, 2021
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Butcher I do agree with what you say, but I don´t agree with the general attitude, maybe is just a burnt out forum syndrome, but I have been reading through quite a lot of posts and I can understand why. Of course in the precious metal refining community there are lot of people making dangerous or just plain stupid things, people with very limited knowledge playing to get rich... adding to that, this "information" is public and I find this very irresponsible.

In the other hand I want to say that if everybody in the past said "lets stick to the true methods and don´t try anything new, because this is what it has proven to work", we won´t be at this technological point. Development requires knowledge but also curiosity, imagination, experimentation, tests, fails, mistakes and rewards. As you said we have improved a lot in safety equipment and toxic disposal systems I would add. If you read my first sentence I am worried about the dangers, so well, with that I think I said it all.
 

butcher

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Ok, you got me, the only reason I can come up with a new way to recover gold and make nitric acid in one chemical reaction or step is that I have studied what those before me taught, and then I have seen something simple they did not see.

The cupric chloride method is a chemical reaction used in the electronic manufacture of circuit boards and etching copper long before they were adapted to the recovery of gold, ferric chloride was sometimes used in mining, it only when you understand the old way and why it works can you come up with maybe a slightly different way that may work, otherwise your just shooting in the dark at targets you cannot see, Laser Steve learned the principles of the old way and seen a more modern way already in use in the electronic industry to dissolve copper, putting the knowledge of the two together forming a leach he called acid peroxide method. (ingenious) comes with the knowledge of what works and why it works, with all our effort we still have round wheels.
I am just saying if you could learn to make a wagon wheel from a wheelwright, and could make wheels as well as he can then maybe you could improve it, otherwise, I doubt your wheel would hold up as well as his wheels will over time because he learned from those before him and used the improvement they made to improve his skill and then gained the skill to improve the wheel to his liking.
 
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