What Do Smelters Do?

When you hear that a company is a “precious metal refiner,” you have a pretty good idea what that company does. It removes impurities and produces more refined, purer precious metals.

The same holds true for a “precious metal recycler.” That’s a company that returns previously used precious metals to a new, useful life.

But What Does a Smelter Do?

That’s not such an easy question. When most people hear that a company is a “smelter,” they have no idea what that means. They assume that smelting has something to do with melting metals. That is partly true, but melting is only part of smelting, which uses chemicals, gases, and pressure (not only heat) to extract pure metals from ores and minerals. When the smelting process is over, the smelter is left with pure metal.

17th Century engraving showing the process of smelting and refining gold. We’ve come a long way since then at Specialty Metals!

17th Century engraving showing the process of smelting and refining gold. We’ve come a long way since then at Specialty Metals!

Smelting Is an Ancient Art

Humans began to smelt metals more than 8,000 years ago. Why? Because gold was, and is, the only metal found in its pure form in nature. And gold is a soft metal. To create harder metals that they could use in tools and weapons, early humans had to figure out a way to extract copper, iron, lead, mercury, silver and tin from minerals.

It worked. Remember the Bronze Age? It wouldn’t have happened unless our ancestors learned to smelt copper and tin from mineral ores, and then mix them together.

But how did those ancient people extract pure metals from minerals? They took an ore that contained the metal they wanted, surrounded it with wood or charcoal, and burned the wood or charcoal away at the highest temperatures they could achieve, often in kilns or pottery vessels. Once that process was over, they had quantities of the metal that they wanted.

But here’s a surprise. Those early people were really smelting minerals, not simply melting the metal out of them. You see, when they surrounded minerals with burning wood or charcoal, they were also exposing those minerals to carbon and other elements, as well as to carbon monoxide.

Today Smelting Is a Very Modern Art

Smelting has now evolved into a modern, sophisticated process that uses very advanced equipment to separate precious metals from a wide variety of compounds and chemicals, not only from rocks. If you call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 to ask how we can help you recycle your precious metals, don’t be surprised if the word “smelting” comes into the conversation.

“Smelting” might be ancient, but it still has a place in the modern world of recycling precious metals.

Related Posts

How to Pick the Best Precious Metals Recycling Company
Some Fascinating – and Potentially Profitable – Facts You Never Knew about Refining Gold
Gold Refining: Why It Takes an Expert to Evaluate Your Gold-Plated Items