Helter Smelter . . .

Helter Smelter . . .

What You Need to Know about Modern Smelting and What We Do

As we wrote on this blog back on February 24, 2014, “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.”

Read More

Can You Save Time and Money by Using Acids to Refine Gold, Silver and Platinum?

Can You Save Time and Money by Using Acids to Refine Gold, Silver and Platinum?

Let’s say that you have an old gold-plated set of silver tableware. As you know, the gold that the set contains is worth much more than the silver. Can’t you throw everything into a tub of some kind of chemical that will dissolve the silver and leave only the gold behind in solid form?

Read More

Your Guide to Incredibly Useful 2016 Posts on the Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners Blog

Your Guide to Incredibly Useful 2016 Posts on the Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners Blog

Our editorial team had a very busy 2016, writing a total of 46 blog posts on a variety of topics. Some posts contained only nuts-and-bolts advice on finding and processing precious metals. Others covered trends. Yet we did our utmost to deliver practical, usable advice in every post we wrote. In today’s post, we’ll organize those 2016 posts by topic, so you can quickly find the information you’re looking for.

Read More

Georgius Agricola (1494-1555), Father of Modern Metallurgy

If you’re involved in mining, smelting, refining – or any process that has to do with metals – you’re using techniques developed by a Georgius Agricola, a German scientist who is often called the father of metallurgy. His book, De Re Metallica (“On the Nature of Metals”) was published in Latin in 1556, a year after he died. Georgius described techniques of mining and smelting in such a practical way that the book remained a standard handbook for nearly 200 years.

This guy was ahead of his time. In fact, all of us in the metals business are still doing a lot of the things that he wrote about, including . . .

16th Century Mining Woodcut from Georgius Agricolas 'De re metallica libri XII'

16th Century Mining Woodcut from Georgius Agricolas 'De re metallica libri XII'

  • Smelting ores to extract the metals they contain.
  • Finding veins of precious metals like gold and silver in rock and underground.
  • Separating gold from silver, lead from gold or silver, and silver from copper.
  • Surveying mine sites and safely digging mine shafts.
  • Selecting the right tools and machines to extract ore from mines.
  • Extracting, crushing and washing ores from mining concentrates.

Some Trivia about De Re Metallica

Agricola’s real name was Georg Bauer, which means “George Farmer” in German. But he used the name Georgius Agricola – which means the same thing in Latin - when he published his book. Back in the sixteenth century, Latin was the language of scientific discourse.

In 1912, the first English edition of De Re Metallica was published in London. One of the translators was none other than Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer who later became president of the United States. You can still buy a copy of his translation in a modern edition from Dover Books.

If you’re involved in mining or recycling precious metals, Georgius Agricola still has some lessons to teach you, even though he died way back in 1555.

It’s all part of the colorful history of precious metals recycling. Thanks for joining us for this little history lesson today.

Related Posts:

A Fast, Fascinating History of Metals like Gold and Silver
Some Fascinating – and Potentially Profitable – Facts You Never Knew about Refining Gold
A Brief History of Circuit Boards and the Gold they Contain
A Brief – and Useful – History of Fool’s Gold

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