Can Gold Leaf Be Recycled?

Let’s start today’s post with a question . . .

Where have you seen the most gold during the course of your life?

If you can answer that question, I am willing to bet that you will come up with an unexpected response. Because you see, most of us have seen gold most often in objects that have been covered with gold leaf. I am talking about objects like these . . .

  • Older gold-leafed wooden frames that we see on paintings in museums, in antique stores, and in our own homes.
  • Interiors of churches and other elegant buildings where gold leaf has been used on altars, walls and columns, and other architectural elements.
  • Mosaics, where gold leaf has been applied to tiles or put between layers of glass to create an impression of richness or light.
  • Old statuary, which was sometimes gold-plated to create the impression that it was made of solid gold.

What Is Gold Leaf, and What Is It Worth?

Shown: Gold coins and a pack of 100 gold leaves from Bangkok, Thailand. Each gold leaf is less than a micrometer thick (typically about 100 nm) and is so light and delicate that the smallest puff of air can blow it away. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Shown: Gold coins and a pack of 100 gold leaves from Bangkok, Thailand. Each gold leaf is less than a micrometer thick (typically about 100 nm) and is so light and delicate that the smallest puff of air can blow it away. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Since ancient times, people have been hammering gold into very thin sheets that can be applied to other surfaces. It’s been possible to do that because of gold’s extreme softness and malleability. In the ancient world, pure 24-karat gold was sometimes beaten into leaf. Over time as more sophisticated manufacturing processes have been developed to produce gold leaf, it has become possible to use lower-karat gold, and even alloys of gold combined with other metals that have included silver. And then we come to modern times, when colorings have been introduced to create gold leaf sheets that contain very little real gold at all.

If you come into possession of a quantity of unused sheets of gold leaf, what are they worth? It depends on two factors . . .

  • The nature of the metal itself – its karat classification. To determine how much karat gold it really contains, send it to a qualified gold refinery like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners.
  • The weight of the gold leaf. Because only a few ounces of gold can be beaten into enough gold leaf to cover many square feet of other surfaces, even a packet of several hundred small sheets of gold leaf can weight very little.

If you have gold leaf and send it to us, we can evaluate those variables and get back to you with an appraisal of what your gold leaf is worth.

What about Refining the Gold from Gold-Plated Objects?

If you have a large number of gold-plated picture frames, for example, can they be recycled? In most cases, the answer to that question is no – even a large gold-leaf-covered frame can contain only a very small amount of gold. Plus, the process of removing the gold from wooden or other surfaces is complex and costly.

But you could also have some object on hand that could contain more gold than you expect, such as older gilt jewelry or statuary. If you have gold-leaf-covered objects and don’t know what they might be worth, call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344. We’ll be happy to talk with you and help you understand their value.

 

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