2017 Precious Metals Trends to Watch

2017 Precious Metals Trends to Watch

Will your gold, silver, platinum and other precious metals increase in value in the coming months and years? Will the demand for recyclable precious metals increase in 2017? There is no way to predict with absolute certainty. But here are some trends to watch.

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Don’t Be Fooled into Buying these Metal Items

Don’t Be Fooled into Buying these Metal Items

Shakespeare once wrote, “All that glitters is not gold.” If he had thought about it, he could have written something similar about silver, platinum, rhodium, and other precious metals. The fact is that some shiny things that look like they should be worth a lot of money really aren’t. They either don’t contain any precious metals at all or they contain such small quantities that there is no point sending them to a qualified precious metals refinery like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, because the cost of extracting those metals will be greater than the value of the metals themselves.

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Where to Find Precious Metals in Liquid Suspension

For today’s post, let’s assume that you have bought a factory. Along with it, you have come to own bottles or drums of liquid chemicals that were once used there.

What are the odds that those chemicals contain gold, silver or other precious metals that are worth recycling? The most definitive way to answer that question is to send samples of what you have to Precious Metals Smelters and Refiners – with a few simple tests we can determine what you have and its value. Or if your liquid chemicals are labeled, we can tell you what metals they could contain. (We say “could” contain because older lots of chemicals can be contaminated and difficult to process.)

Photo of skids of drums filled used manufacturing fluids containing traces of precious metals that can be recycled profitably by Specialty Metals.

But here’s some helpful information that can give you a rough idea about whether the chemicals you own contain precious metals.

The Presence of Precious Metals Depends on What the Factory Was Producing

Film processing - By far, silver is the most common precious metal that you will find in industrial chemicals, because silver chemicals were (and are) used in the processing of photographic and x-ray films. And as you know, those processes have been very widely used over the last century.

Application of thin films – If your factory was applying thin films of gold or silver onto glass, ceramics, plastics or other surfaces, chances are good that your chemicals contain quantities of those metals that can be recovered by a qualified precious metals refinery. Among the most common examples of those processes are applying reflective films to architectural or optical glass, but there are other processes that use precious metals in suspension too, such as the manufacturing of solar panels. And if your factory was manufacturing decorative ceramic tiles, you could be looking at chemicals that contain gold and other precious metals.

Jewelry manufacturing - Precious metal-bearing chemicals are also used to apply thin films of precious metal – most often gold or platinum – onto watch cases, rings, and other pieces of jewelry. Those plating processes are accomplished by tank plating or brush plating, in which a paste that contains the precious metal is applied by using an electrically charged metal brush.

How Are Precious Metals Extracted from Liquids?

It depends on a number of factors, such as whether the metal exists in the liquid in suspension (small powders of the metal are dispersed in pure form in the liquid) or in a chemical compound (the metal is present as a chemical compound, like silver nitrate, in the liquid). Depending on those factors, different processes can be used, including the use of centrifuges or (more commonly) the introduction of other chemicals that cause reactions in which the precious metals are separated and precipitated out of the liquid.

In either case, it is mysterious to watch precious metals like gold or silver suddenly become available from liquids where they were hiding. If you think we can work that kind of magic for you, give us a call at 800-426-2344 and we can tell you more.

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Three Trends that Will Keep Demand for Precious Metals High

In a famous moment in the movie “The Graduate,” an annoying man named Mr. McGuire says to a young college graduate named Benjamin, “I just want to say one word to you . . . just one word . . . are you listening . . . plastics.”

McGuire was telling Benjamin to make his career in plastics. Plastics, the material of the future. But McGuire wasn’t entirely right. Although the use of plastics has boomed since that movie was released in 1967, plastics haven’t replaced metal, for several reasons. Metals conduct electricity, and plastics do not. Plastics can be corroded by harsh chemicals, and many metals cannot. Plastics are not hard enough to serve as parts in many machines where metals perform beautifully.

And advanced as plastics may be, they are not about to replace precious metals in the technologies that we’re going to take a look at in today’s post.

Photo of workers replacing old solar panels, which contain more silver, with newer ones. Don’t miss the opportunity to recycle them profitably with Specialty Metals.

Silver Trend: The Boom in Solar Panels

Have you noticed that a boom is happening in the use of solar panels? It seems that wherever you travel, you see new installations on roofs and in open fields. While it is true that thin-film solar are becoming more and more popular than the older thick-film models that used more silver, the demand for silver will remain strong because of the sheer number of thin-film panels that are being installed. See our earlier post, Replacing Your Old Solar Panels? Don’t Throw Away Valuable Silver Too, to learn more.

Physicians insert a platinum EP catheter into a blood vessel that leads to the patient’s heart.

Platinum Trend: High Demand in Medical Applications

Platinum is finding more and more uses in medicine. It’s being used throughout modern medical devices in hospitals, in implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs), devices that monitor or regulate brain functions, neurovascular devices, stents, and pacemakers. Remember, platinum is rare in nature. According to some estimates only about 16 tons of it have been mined in all of history. That means that demand for the recyclable platinum scrap that you have is sure to remain high.

Palladium Trend: High Demand in Catalytic Converters

Photo of catalytic converter containing platinum, palladium and rhodium which can be recycled and refined for best prices at Specialty Metals.

Palladium is also rare in nature, found almost entirely in Canada, Russia and South Africa. Yet it is widely used in catalytic converters. And as you know, the demand for automobile and industrial catalytic converters is not going to diminish anytime soon. That scarcity, coupled with high demand, means that collecting and recycling catalytic converters will remain a profitable activity – and a viable business – in the years and decades ahead.

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How To Recycle Your Old Silver Recovery Columns

If you’re already using silver recovery columns in your production processes, you know what they are and what they do – they extract the silver from liquids and return it to you as a metal that you can sell or recycle.

You might not know, however, that silver recovery columns are used in a lot of industries, including . . .

Photo of used silver recovery columns sent to Specialty Metals for the profitable extraction and recycling of the electrolytic silver flake residue they still contain.

Photo of used silver recovery columns sent to Specialty Metals for the profitable extraction and recycling of the electrolytic silver flake residue they still contain.

Recycling the Recycler

Even if you are in an industry that uses silver recovery columns, here’s an interesting fact. When they have outlived their effective life in your operations, the recycling columns themselves can be recycled. In effect, you’ll be recycling your recycling device. You will be pleased to know that these devices themselves, once they have outlived their life as recycling devices, still contain valuable quantities of electrolytic silver flake.

We know this is the case because here at Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, we recycle hundreds, if not thousands, of recovery columns every year. As America's best silver refiners, we have the knowledge, skills, and technology in place to extract every valuable ounce of silver from your used units. Call us at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

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Are Recyclable Precious Metals Hiding in Your Hospital?

If you’re a hospital administrator, are you overlooking quantities of cadmium, gold, and other precious metals that you could refine for a lot of money?

If you don’t want to let precious metals slip through your fingers, here’s a checklist to keep on hand . . .

Photo of lab testing equipment, which contains precious metals that can be profitably recycled and refined by Specialty Metals when no longer needed.
  • Old electronic equipment that you are about to discard could contain quantities of gold (in circuit boards), platinum (in thermocouples that measure temperature or electrical activity remotely), in monitors, and elsewhere. Even if you are distributing new tablet computers to your staff, don’t discard old ones; they could contain more gold on their circuit boards than you expect.
  • Used and unused testing supplies like catheters and testing probes could contain valuable quantities of platinum, palladium, cadmium, and other precious metals.
  • Old x-ray and unused x-ray films contain quantities of silver that can be extracted by a qualified precious metals recycler. Older solutions that were used to develop x-ray film can contain recyclable amounts of silver too.
  • Specialty back-up batteries that were installed in older equipment can contain precious metals.
  • Laboratory crucibles, tongs, and other equipment are often made of platinum.
  • Catalytic converters that are installed on gas and diesel-powered back-up generators contain platinum, palladium and rhodium. If you’re replacing those catalytic converters or your entire back-up power system, don’t let those metals slip away.
  • Decommissioned vehicles, like patient transport vans and ambulances, contain precious metals in many places – in their catalytic converters, in onboard computers, and on printed circuit boards.
  • Old photovoltaic solar panels that you are replacing could contain large quantities of silver – do not allow the company that is installing new panels to simply haul your old ones away.

Those are only a few of the places where precious metals can be found in hospitals. If you take the time to review today’s checklist, you could discover that precious metals are “hiding in plain sight” in your facility.

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Replacing Your Old Solar Panels? Don’t Throw Away Valuable Silver Too

Photovoltaic solar panels that generate electricity might seem like a new technology. But the fact is, they have been in widespread use for more than a decade now. Whether you’re a business that installed solar panels to lower your energy costs, a company that manufactures solar panels, or even a homeowner that jumped on the solar bandwagon early, If you’re replacing your old solar system with a new one, don’t toss your old panels away or – worse – let your installer take your old panels away.

They could contain valuable quantities of silver that you can recycle. Here’s what you need to know.

Photo of workers replacing old solar panels, which contain more silver, with newer ones. Don’t miss the opportunity to recycle them profitably with Specialty Metals.

Thin-Film Panels

Many newer inexpensive panels are “thin-film” models that contain very thin layers of cadmium telluride, not silver. Interestingly, they are not very efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, but their lower cost appeals to many buyers. The cadmium telluride that they contain has usually been applied by using sputtering targets, which we have discussed often on this blog in the past.

Thick-Film Panels

More expensive new panels, and almost all older ones, use “thick-film” technology. In other words, they contain relatively thicker layers of silver. These panels are more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, but their cost is higher.

How Much Silver Could Your Thick-Film Solar Panels Contain?

It depends, but a used thick-film solar panel could contain as many as 13 troy ounces of silver. With current silver prices hovering at about $20 per troy ounce, the silver in each of your panels could be worth as much as $160. The trick is to speak with Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, America’s leading silver refinery, to learn more. If you give us a call at 800-426-2344, we’ll be pleased to explain how you can convert those flat solar panels into cold, hard cash.

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How Solar Panel Manufacturers Let $MILLIONS Slip through Their Fingers

If you’re in the business of manufacturing solar panels, you’re already an expert in applying thin films. You’re as familiar with applying molybdenum, selenium, tellurium, tin, and other materials as most folks are with walking their dogs. You’re already buying sputtering targets for your thin-film applications from manufacturers in America, Asia and possibly elsewhere too.

No question, you’re an expert. But do you know something else about those metals that can put dollars back in your company’s pocket?

Photo of solar panel production, which uses sputtering targets that could contain valuable gold, platinum, silver, palladium and rhodium.

We’re talking about recycling sputtering targets once they have outlived their effective production life. Not many companies realize that even when sputtering targets have lived out their lives in the manufacturing of solar panels, they can still retain 4%, 10%, or more of the precious metals that they contained when new – and that significant dollars can be reclaimed by recycling them.

If you spend $10,000 each year on sputtering targets, a simple precious metals recycling program could return $1,000 or more to you. If you spend more than that, you can net an even bigger return. It doesn’t make sense to let those dollars slip away.

Specialty Metals Refiners will help you design a detailed recycling process that can help you understand just how much value you can reclaim from every sputtering target you purchase and then recycle.

Why let dollars slip through your fingers? Call Specialty Metal Refiners today at 800-426-2344 to learn more.