How to Recycle Gold from Old Plating Tanks

Let’s start today’s post by asking a very basic question…

How does the process of electroplating gold in tanks work?

Two metallic parts are immersed in a fluid called an electrolyte, which contains dissolved metal salts and other chemicals that allow charged atoms to pass through it. One of the immersed metal parts is the anode, which is made of gold that will be applied to the surface to be plated. The other immersed metal part, the part that you want to plate, is the cathode.

Shown: Gold electroplating tank scrap that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for recycling of at the best prices.

Shown: Gold electroplating tank scrap that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for recycling of at the best prices.

After everything is set up, electrical current is run through the tank. That causes atoms in the anode to dissolve in the electrolyte solution and find their way to the cathode, where they adhere.

Presto! Gold plating has happened. It’s a simple process that has been used for years to apply gold plating to jewelry and other metal items.

But today’s post is not about recycling those items. It’s about reclaiming gold from the tanks where the process took place. Let’s take a closer look.

Why Do Gold Plating Tanks Get Contaminated?

In an ideal world, the gold would jump right off your anode, swim straight to what you are plating (your cathode), and stick only there. But in the real world, it doesn’t happen that cleanly. The gold doesn’t only adhere to the piece you are trying to plate. It’s kind of ornery, and tends to adhere to drain pipes, filtering screens, sensors that are immersed in the tank, and to the walls of the tank itself.

The result is that the tank, and those components, can become plated with residue that contains valuable quantities of gold. That residue might not look like the bright shiny gold that you are applying, but it contains significant amounts of the rare metal anyway. The same can be true of the electrolytic fluid that you use in your plating; when you dispose of it, you could be tossing valuable gold at the same time.

When tanks, drain pipes, and other components become sufficiently contaminated after use, the quality of your platings can become compromised. Instead of only plating your parts with gold, other elements that have contaminated your electrolytic fluid can stick to them too. At that point, you are faced with some choices. You could scrub and clean the tanks, which needlessly discards quantities of gold. Or you could call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344. We’re here to help you recoup the value in the precious metals and chemicals you have been using in your plating processes.

Where You Could Find Hidden Dollars

You could have traces of precious metals on your tank surfaces, on filter screens, in drain pipes, in accumulations of sludge, or on immersed sensors. And if you use a brush plating process in which an electrically charged metal brush is used to apply gold to the pieces you plate, those used plating brushes contain gold too. Unless you call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344, you could be throwing dollars away.

Related Posts:

Why Gold Plating Tank Scrap Could Be Worth More than You Think 
Why Money Can Be Found in Your Used Electroplating Supplies  
How Are Metals Plated onto Plastics, Ceramics, and Composites? 
A Commercial Real Estate Agent’s Guide to Finding Precious Metals in Buildings