Silver Bullets, Golden Guns

Silver Bullets, Golden Guns

Silver bullets have figured in legends, TV shows and movies for years. The Lone Ranger, a hero from the early days of TV, fired silver bullets as symbols of justice and honor. Golden guns have been the stuff of legend too. One example? In the film “The Man with the Golden Gun,” an evil assassin named Scaramanga, who packs a golden gun, is trying to shoot James Bond. Are there really silver bullets and gold guns that you should be on the lookout for? Can you find some in antique stores or for sale online, buy them at low prices, and recycle them profitably with us? Let’s take a closer look.

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How Are Metals Plated onto Plastics, Ceramics, and Composites?

We’ve written about tank plating on this blog before – the process of plating a metal onto metal items that have been placed into plating tanks. For that process to work, the items to be plated must be electrically charged – in other words, they must be made of metal.

So that leads to an interesting question:

How can metals be plated onto surfaces of non-metallic materials like plastics, ceramics, or composites?

You have doubtless seen non-metallic items that have been plated with metal – they are nearly everywhere. There are metal-plated disposable plastic drink cups, plastic radio knobs, toys with bright shiny metallic coatings, and many other items.

Let’s look at some of the ways that precious and other metals can be coated onto non-metallic surfaces.

Sputtering and Other Vacuum Processes

Scrap sputtering targets, like the one shown above, can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

Scrap sputtering targets, like the one shown above, can contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can be refined and recycled by Specialty Metals.

Sputtering is the process of choice today for depositing thin films of silver and other metals onto plastics, ceramics, and other non-metallic materials.  Sputtering is done in the vacuum chamber of a special machine, in which atoms are ejected from a metallic disc called a “target” onto the surface of the material to be coated. Sputtering is now widely used to deposit thin films of silver onto photovoltaic solar panels. (The good news is that used sputtering targets that have outlived their useful lives on production lines contain trace amounts of the silver or other precious metals that they contained. They can be profitably recycled by a qualified precious metals refinery.) Interesting: A variety of other vacuum-coating processes have long been used to coat plastic surfaces with aluminum and other metals; in those processes, atoms of the coating metal are dispersed into a vacuum chamber, where they adhere to the surfaces to be plated.

Electroless Plating

The word “electroless” looks like a misspelling, but it is actually a word that was invented to describe a chemical process that deposits a metal onto plastic. In it, the plastic items to be coated are “etched” by being immersed in a special chemical solution that prepares their surfaces for plating. The items are then immersed in a chemical bath that contains the metal that will be used to plate them. Interesting: Electroless plating looks a lot like tank plating, only no electricity is used.

Electroplating

Yes, ceramics and plastics can be electroplated with gold or silver.  It can be done after those materials undergo the process of electroless plating (see just above). Once they have a thin metallic coating, they can be tank plated, just as metal objects are. Interesting: The items that have been plated using this process are often quite durable. One example? Chrome-plated plastic door handles that are used on automobiles.

Spraying

Two different spraying processes – arc and flame spraying – can be used to apply metallic plating to nonconductive surfaces. In most cases, a powdered form of the metal is heated and then sprayed, using special equipment. Interesting: Spraying technologies can be used to apply a metal coating to just one part of a ceramic or plastic item; just as a painting technician can mask off parts of an item so they receive no paint, parts of the item to be spray-plated can be masked and receive no coating.

Precious Metals Can Be Recovered from Plastic Items

In virtually all cases, metals that have been applied to inexpensive plastic items are not precious metals. (Think of the shiny chrome-like finish that is applied to the bumpers and other bright pieces that you will find in a kit for a model car.) If, however, you own a quantity of ceramics or higher-end materials that have a coating of what seems to be silver or gold – and you do not know exactly what they are – they could be a source of valuable precious metals that can be extracted by a qualified precious metals refinery. Why not call us at 800-426-2344 to learn more?

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Can You Recycle Precious Metals from Musical Instruments?

At first glance, musical instruments – especially older ones – seem to shine with quantities of gold and silver. You lift the lid of an old grand piano and your eyes are greeted by broad surfaces that are painted with paint that seems to be made of gold. Or you pull an old saxophone out of its case and its beautiful golden finish make you wonder whether you have just discovered something that is worth a fortune in recyclable gold.

Despite all the glitter, those two instruments very rarely contain quantities of precious metals that can be extracted by a qualified gold refinery. The old paint that is used in pianos, for example, is usually made of mica and yellow-toned lacquer, not gold. And the brilliant finish of saxophones is created by applying clear or colored lacquer over brass or (in some cases) silver-plated brass. Yet in some cases, musical instruments really do contain quantities of precious metals that can be recycled. Let’s take a closer look.

Shown: Silver flute containing quantities of silver that can be extracted by Specialty Metals, a qualified silver refinery.

Silver Components on Woodwind Instruments

This is probably the largest source of precious metals in musical instruments. If you come into possession of a large quantity of flutes, clarinets, saxophones, oboes, and other woodwind instruments, the silver that is contained in their keys and hardware could contain quantities of silver that can be extracted by a qualified silver refinery like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners.

Trim Pieces on Antique Instruments

We are talking about small quantities of precious metals here, but small gold and silver pieces are sometimes used to beautify violin bows, mutes and other accessories.

Gold Plating

Gold plating is sometimes applied to beautify flute mouthpieces, the keys of woodwind instruments, and on other visible surfaces. If you have a large quantity of older instruments that have gold-tone surfaces like those, they could contain gold that can be recycled by a gold refinery.

Electronic Keyboards and other Musical Instruments

Electronic instruments contain circuit boards that can have quantities of recyclable gold. Just bear in mind that the quantities of gold in them can be quite small. But if you come into possession of a number of them – perhaps your city’s schools are disposing of hundreds of keyboards, for example – you could be sitting on a quantity of gold that is definitely worth refining.

Solid Gold Flutes and other Rare Specialty Instruments

Such instruments are rare and valuable. One company, Murumatsu, for example, still makes solid gold flutes that sell for more than $30,000. If you discover an old flute, you will be fortunate indeed if it is anything like one of those. But you never know.

Why not call us at 800-426-2344 and describe what you have. It would be our privilege to help you discover whether you are sitting on a pot of musical gold, silver, or other precious metals.

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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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Looking for Gold? Leave No Stone (or Nugget) Unturned

On an episode of the poplar A&E show “Storage Wars: Texas” this season, Victor pulled an old Art Deco-style lighter out of a drawer. He decided to see what it was worth, took it to an appraiser, and learned that it was worth $4,200. Good thinking, Victor. You can read the story here.

Photo of 22-Karat gold toilet paper, courtesy of the Odd and Strange blog, which reminds us that gold can be found in the strangest places, but that Specialty Metals can turn it into profit for you.

Photo of 22-Karat gold toilet paper, courtesy of the Odd and Strange blog, which reminds us that gold can be found in the strangest places, but that Specialty Metals can turn it into profit for you.

That story reminds us that over the years, lots of everyday items have turned out to contain more gold than anybody expected. It also reminds us that companies around the world continue to use gold in the manufacture of a lot more products than you might expect. Here’s a list of some of them that you can read about in “Weird Stuff: 10 Ridiculous Things Made of Gold” on the Odd and Strange blog. We’re telling you about them today because they could open your eyes to the presence of gold-containing items that are hiding in plain sight in your place of business or home.

A $24,000 Shirt Woven with Gold

It took 15 goldsmiths to make this dazzling garment for an Indian gold dealer. It reminds us that in years past, it was not uncommon to weave bright metal fibers into women’s ball gowns and other clothing, including silver and even gold. Do you have any of them on hand?

Gold-Plated Pencils

Made in Korea, these flashy pencils are a relative bargain at only $20 apiece. They remind us that in years past, fountain and ballpoint pens often had gold-plated barrels, nibs, clips, and other metal parts. Do you have any of those on hand?

A Gold Coffin, Made in Italy

This $400,000 gold-plated casket is for those who want to go out in high style. If you have one of these lying around you will certainly know it. Yet it reminds us that a number of older funerary items, including urns for ashes and frames for commemorative items, could be partially gold-plated. So take a look around.

Gold Staples

You can buy 24 gold staples (14K gold to be more precise), made in England, for $210. They remind us that older commemorative desktop items – the kind of rewards that used to be given to employees to thank them for decades of service – were often gold-plated too. So open your desk drawers and take a look.

A Gold Christmas Tree

It’s made in Japan and sells for $2 million. Again, you will know it if you have one of these lying around. But it reminds us that older Christmas decorations from the Victorian era and earlier ages can contain quantities of gold. Why not dust off your ornaments and take closer look?

And Still More Gold Items . . .

The Odd and Strange Stuff blog also mentions cheese, ice cream, and lemonade that are currently being manufactured with gold. Also, there is solid-gold toilet paper, made in Australia, that sells for $1,376,900 per roll. It’s supposed to be very gentle on the skin. It makes us think that people are really crazy. But it also reminds us that items that contain gold can be found anywhere – buried underground, rolling around in drawers, hidden under floorboards, sitting on our mantles, hanging from our Christmas trees.

It pays to look around. If you find anything promising, give us a call at 800-426-2344. We’ll be happy to share your discoveries and find ways to help them put dollars into your pocket.

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The Next Time You Recycle Gold-Plated Items, Thank Luigi Brugnatelli

The art of modern electroplating was discovered in 1805 by an Italian chemist named Luigi Brugnatelli. In essence, he was tinkering with early battery technologies that had been discovered by his friend and compatriot Alessandro Volta. (Volta’s name, as you probably guessed, is the basis of the English word “volt.”) Brugnatelli noticed that quantities of gold could be deposited on silver items when they were immersed in a battery-like bath of electrolytic fluid. And he was off and running.

A portrait of Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli (1761-1818), the father of gold electroplating, from "Cenni su la vita di L. V. Brugnatelli" Biblioteca di farmacia (1836 gen, Serie 2, Volume 5)

A portrait of Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli (1761-1818), the father of gold electroplating, from "Cenni su la vita di L. V. Brugnatelli" Biblioteca di farmacia (1836 gen, Serie 2, Volume 5)

If you do a search for Brugnatelli’s name online, you will find a lot of biographical information, including an excellent history of his life on the website of Artisan Plating, a company that specializes in high-quality plating. (Artisan Plating is like a mirror image of Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners. It specializes in applying lavish layers of gold and other precious metals to other metal surfaces, while we are a precious metals refinery that extracts them.)

Here are some highlights from the life of Brugnatelli, which we have adapted from the information on the Artisan Plating website and other online sources. We’re telling you his story because it could help you understand more about the value that could be found in the gold scrap and gold-plated items that you might own.

In 1805 . . .

Brugnatelli was the first person to use the process of electroplating. He applied a layer of gold to silver plates. For some reason, Napoleon’s French Academy of Sciences didn’t like the discovery or report on it in its publications. The Academy, which was the leading scientific organization in Europe, also stopped other scientific journals from reporting that Brugnatelli had discovered electroplating.

Until about 1845 . . .

Because Brugnatelli’s big news had been hidden, two cruder ways to plate gold onto other metals remained in widespread use. One – the more common and the more poisonous – was a process that used gold leaf and mercury to deposit layers of gold onto heated surfaces. Another was called water gilding, in which the object to be gold plated was immersed in a solution of gold chloride and water, with no electricity used. That technology could deposit only a thin layer of decorative gold.

In about 1839 . . .

Henry and George Elkington, two English scientists, independently discovered gold electroplating and started to use it commercially. At about the same time, Russians starting using it too. According to the Artisan Plating website, the process was first used in Russia to apply gold plating to metals that would be used in cathedral domes. The size of those electroplating tanks must have been pretty big!

After 1850 . . .

Tank electroplating became the method of choice for applying layers of gold onto silver and other surfaces, replacing the use of processes that exposed people to noxious mercury gas.

Brugnatelli finally had his day, even though he was not around to see his electroplating discovery gain almost universal application.

If Brugnatelli Were Alive Today . . .

He would sputter to see the way that gold sputtering targets are now used to apply thin, yet durable, layers of gold onto other metals. The thick layers of gold that he liked to apply to other metals are now nearly a thing of the past, at least in the way eyeglass frames and other items are coated with gold.

If you have gold items – especially gold-filled older items such as eyeglass frames and jewelry that is more than about 40 years old, they could contain valuable quantities of gold that are worth recycling. So do your used gold sputtering targets. To learn more, call us at 800-426-2344.

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Why Gold Plating Tank Scrap Could Be Worth More than You Think

Have you acquired an old factory where a company used to perform gold-plating operations? Does your business currently plate gold onto other metals, and do you have old tanks and other equipment that need to be cleaned or discarded?

In either case, it’s worth knowing that more dollars than you expect can be hiding in gold plating tank scrap. Here are some reasons why.

Gold Travels

Shown: Photo of gold electroplating tank scrap that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for recycling.

Shown: Photo of gold electroplating tank scrap that customers have shipped to Specialty Metals for recycling.

It could have adhered to tank walls and electrodes – the easiest-to-see parts of a tank-plating operation. But it could also be hiding on filters, perforated drain covers, sponge that is made of other metals, and even on the inside walls of drain pipes that connect the plating tank to other tanks where used electrolytic solution is collected. With gold currently trading above $1,240/troy ounce, even small amounts of gold are well worth reclaiming.

Stuff that Doesn’t Glimmer Could Still Be Gold

When gold is found in mines and in riverbeds, it glitters and is easy to see because it doesn’t combine with other metals in its natural state. In plating operations, however, it can be harder to spot because other metals can become plated to its surface. The result? The surfaces of plating tanks and other plating equipment may not look as valuable as they are.

Valuable Gold Could Be Hiding in Sludge and Gunk

Sludge and used electrolytic plating fluid might not look valuable, but it is a mistake to toss them out – and an environmentally irresponsible mistake too. Remember too that although dried-up sludge and fluids from old plating operations might look like dirt, they could still contain valuable quantities of gold, platinum, palladium and other precious metals.

Watch this Video to Learn How Gold Plating Works

Here’s a video that shows a simple gold-plating process. Although it shows non-industrial plating being done by a hobbyist, it provides a fascinating review of the basics of electroplating gold onto other surfaces.

To Mine the Value of the Gold You Have . . .

Call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344. We’ll be happy to discuss your gold plating scrap and help you recoup the gold that’s hiding in it.

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Extracting Gold from Ceramic IC Chips

If you’ve ever disassembled a computer, you know what printed circuit boards look like. They’re usually green wafers that are embossed with patterns of metallic paths that connect various components that sit on their surfaces. At their edges, you’ve noticed rows of gold-plated “fingers” that serve as points of attachment. So with printed circuit boards, it’s pretty easy to see where the gold resides.

Photo of scrap electronic ceramics CPU chips sent to Specialty Metals to be refined and recycled for their gold, platinum, silver and palladium.

It’s not quite as easy to spot the value in the ceramic integrated circuit (IC) chips that are found in computers, especially in the form of large central processing units. You know them, because they are often inscribed with the name of a manufacturer like Intel or Fujitsu. But what are they exactly? Because the gold and circuitry are sealed up inside, all you can see are the pins or contact points on the outside that allow the chip to be snapped into a contact block on a larger printed circuit board.

Why Are Ceramics Used?

Integrated circuitry is encased in ceramic for several reasons. First, ceramic can protect delicate circuitry from damage caused by impacts, dust and oxidation, and contamination caused by oil deposited by fingerprints. Also, ceramic makes an ideal protective sheath for microchips and micro circuit boards because it doesn’t conduct electricity.

If Ceramic IC Chips Are So Strong, How Can they Be Recycled?

Gold is usually extracted from ceramic IC chips in two steps:

  1. The ceramic casing is mechanically removed from the outside of the chip. This often involves manual work to physically split the ceramic “shell” of the chip and expose the microchip within.
  2. The inner chip is immersed in chemical baths to separate the gold from surrounding plastics and other materials.

How Much Gold Is Contained in a Ceramic IC Chip?

We wish we could give you a definite answer to that question. Older IC chips generally contain a bit more gold than newer ones. But again, that is a generalization. If you have a quantity of ceramic IC chips that you are interested in recycling, give us a call at 800-426-2344. We’ll be happy to tell you whether it is worth refining your chips and set up a plan that can help you turn them into dollars.

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Recycling Gold-Plated Plumbing Fixtures – All That Glitters Could Be Gold

Do you have a quantity of bathroom fixtures that are plated with gold? If so, you could have something quite valuable that can be recycled in our gold refinery. Here’s what you need to know.

Most Newer Gold-Colored Bathroom Fixtures Are Usually Not Valuable

Image of gold-plated faucet, one form of plumbing fixture which can be recycled and refined by Specialty Metals.

In the last few years, bathroom designers have started to use more gold-plated items, including faucets, spigots, shower heads, and even towel racks and other accessories. Many manufacturers of these products have introduced more gold-toned products to meet the demand.

Lower-priced and medium-priced gold-toned items do not contain quantities of gold that will be recycled someday. For example, a $250 gold-toned faucet set that I saw recently at Home Depot contained very little gold. It was manufactured by electroplating a very thin coating of gold onto a brass surface, then applying a coat of clear lacquer for protection. Not much gold there.

Older Fixtures Can Contain More Gold

In decades past, faucets and spigots were sometimes plated with significant quantities of gold. Usually, those luxurious fixtures were installed in the mansions of wealthy people. If you have come to own a quantity of luxurious older gold-plated bathroom fixtures, they could contain larger quantities of recyclable gold. If you are not sure what you have, call us at 800-426-2344. Our experts will be happy to talk with you.

Want to Learn More? Watch this Video

At least one company, Phylrich, still gold-plates its very high-end brass fixtures the old-fashioned way, in tanks. Incidentally, Phylrich is a terrific company that is committed to doing 100% of its manufacturing in the USA. Here’s a company video that shows how its products are manufactured. Toward the end of the video, you’ll see some beautiful brass spigots and other fixtures being lowered into tanks for plating:

Got a Gold-Plated Mercedes-Benz? We Can Recycle That!

Over thousands of years, gold has been electroplated onto spoons, jewelry, watches, belt buckles, picture frames, watches, and even faucets. Now, things have gone even farther, because a company called Carlson just introduced a gold-coated Mercedes-Benz S Class sedan at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. It calls its modified car the Carlsson CS50 Versailles, because it is intended to replicate the opulence of the chateau of Versailles during the age of Louis XVI. There’s gold on the exterior panels, on the trim, and in the interior too. Carlsson isn’t giving out the price, but does state that about $17,000 worth of gold is used in the interior of the car alone. That should help you decide whether to inquire further.

If you’re in the market for a new car, you can read about the Carlsson Versailles and see pictures here.

Photo of a gold-plated Carlsson CS50 Versailles Mercedes-Benz S Class sedan at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, credit Drew-Phillips, which Specialty Metals would love to recycle!

A Squirrel Applies the Gold to the Outside

I’m not completely kidding about that. Here, from Carlsson’s press release about the car, is a description of how the gold leaf is layered onto the car’s exterior:

“In a process taking over 200 man-hours, the bodywork of the Carlsson Versailles is adorned with more than 1,000 sheets of wafer-thin gold leaf. A special Squirrel hairbrush is used to absorb these 80 x 80 mm gold leaves, and place them on the suitably prepared surface in an irregular laying pattern known as a Roman Association. This is merely the start of an elaborate process taking more than 14 days, during which the bespoke clear-coat undergoes its labour intensive application, drying and sealing to ensure a unique and perfect finish whose practicality and durability is comparable to that of conventional paint.”

And now let’s move onto a description of the trim and the interior:

“In a specially developed process, a further 278 interior and 30 exterior components receive a lustrous gold finish, with exterior elements such as the radiator grille, door handles, and grille inserts in the front bumper left glistening with a rich golden sheen. In the plush cabin, various buttons, knobs, air vents and even the speaker grilles also take on a golden glow, forming an aesthetic symbiosis with the gold leaf covered frame, panels and trim inserts. This task requires more than 100 man-hours of specialist craftsmanship to complete, and the value of the 985 gold used in the interior alone is around 12,000 euros. The skill of Carlsson's craftsmen is also apparent in the soft Nappa leather from their Signature Line that envelopes the seats in a contrasting combination of dark brown and champagne hues set off by the gold highlights. A gold Carlsson logo is incorporated into the champagne section of the leather as the finishing touch.”

Can We Recycle Your Gold-Plated Mercedes?

To date, 10 people have placed orders for these cars. If you are one of them and you anticipate that you might want to recycle it someday, please keep Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners in mind. We have yet to smelt a Mercedes, but now that we have entered the era of the gold-plated car, we look forward to the opportunity some day. For expert advice and assistance with reclaiming and recycling electroplated gold, call us at 800-426-2344.

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A Brief History of Printed Circuit Boards and the Gold They Contain

Did you know that printed circuit boards are not a new idea? Today’s printed circuit boards actually evolved from electrical connection systems that were first used back in the 1850s, when makers of electronic devices mounted multiple components on wooden bases and then connected them together with metal straps, strips, and wires.

That’s just one fascinating fact that’s explained in Printed Circuit Board, an informative entry on the How Products are Made website. Here are more details about printed circuit boards that you’ll find in that article.

Modern Printed Circuit Boards Were Born in 1925

Shown: gold-plated circuit boards that Specialty Metals customers have shipped to us for recycling and refining at the best prices.

Shown: gold-plated circuit boards that Specialty Metals customers have shipped to us for recycling and refining at the best prices.

In 1925, an American inventor named Charles Ducas patented a method of printing electrical paths directly onto nonconductive surfaces by using electrically conductive inks. His method gave birth to the name “printed circuit.”

Then later, in 1943, a British inventor named Paul Eisler patented a way to etch circuit patterns onto a layer of copper foil that was bonded to a glass-reinforced, non-conductive base.

Their Use Increased Dramatically in the 1950s

Printed circuit boards had been around for decades before their use became widespread in the 1950s. That was when transistors suddenly appeared in radios and other consumer products – and those transistors were mounted on printed circuit boards.

How Printed Circuit Boards Are Made

First the boards (also called substrates or panels), are manufactured from rolls of woven glass fiber. Those panels are then electroplated with a layer of copper. That copper surface is then imprinted with the circuit pattern, using inks that will protect the areas that will not be stripped away during the etching process that follows. In that etching process, the copper surface is sprayed with acid that eats away all the unprotected areas. As a result, only the conductive copper outline of circuit is left. Fascinating, right?

Depending on the design and purpose of the printed circuit, various components are then soldered to the copper circuit pattern. They can include capacitors, diodes, transistors, circuit chips, and others.

And Then the Gold Is Applied

Gold-plated fingers, shown above, are just one type of electronic scrap that Specialty Metals recycles, along with contacts, pins and meltables, ceramics and CPU chips.   

Gold-plated fingers, shown above, are just one type of electronic scrap that Specialty Metals recycles, along with contacts, pins and meltables, ceramics and CPU chips.

 

Next, gold-plated contact “fingers” are created along the edges. They are the contact points where wire connectors slide onto the board. How are these fingers made? As the article on How Products are Made explains, “The contact fingers are masked off from the rest of the board and then plated. Plating is done with three metals: first tin-lead, next nickel, then gold.”

Today, Printed Circuit Boards that Contain Gold Are Everywhere

You can find them in computers, cell phones, televisions, radios, manufacturing equipment – just about everywhere. And the good news is, electronic scrap contains gold and other precious metals that can be extracted by an experienced precious metals refinery.

If you own quantities of older electronic equipment that contains printed circuit boards, you have something valuable. Call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 to learn more about your profitable eScrap.

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Gold Refining: Why It Takes an Expert to Evaluate Your Gold-Plated Items

If you have gold-plated items that you’d like to recycle, how much will they be worth? That’s a difficult question to answer, for many reasons:

Photo of gold-plated circuit boards that that Specialty Metals customers have shipped to us for recycling and refining at the best prices.
  • The thickness and purity of the gold plating can vary from item to item and age to age. Modern circuit boards, for example, are usually plated with a very thin layer of very pure gold. Old gold-plated jewelry, in contrast, could have much thicker layers of more impure gold.
  • When components have been soldered onto a gold surface on circuit boards, the purity of the gold at those junctures has usually been compromised. Another complication is that the gold that is used to plate the edge connectors on circuit boards (the places where multi-wire connectors slide onto the boards) is usually softer and thicker than the gold that covers other areas of the boards.
  • The gold that is used to plate the ends of electrical connectors often contains nickel or cobalt, which needs to be extracted by your gold refiner before the gold can be weighed and evaluated.
  • When gold is plated directly onto copper, copper atoms tend to diffuse through the gold, making it less pure. And in some plating operations, a layer of nickel is applied between the gold and the “main” metal underneath; that too can compromise the purity of the gold.

Sophisticated Testing Is Needed before Refining Gold-Plated Items

All those variables explain why the value of gold-plated items can only be determined by qualified experts who have access to sophisticated smelting and testing equipment. If you have gold-plated items and would like an expert analysis of how much they are worth, call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344.

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