History is filled with stories of gold panners and miners who went out west and struck it rich. While it’s true that this precious metal can be found in the ground or get carried away by running water, these stories often gloss over what happens next. The weight of this raw mineral will differ from the finished weight of a refined and sculpted ring, the gold leaf used in art and architecture, or the gold filaments in high-tech electronics.
Precious minerals, such as gold, must be refined using a detailed process that involves chemical catalysts. A chemical catalyst that helps along a chemical reaction by altering exactly how this reaction takes place. In many cases, this reaction may now occur at cooler temperatures or at a faster rate. An example given is speeding up the reaction of hydrogen peroxide breaking down into separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules with the use of potassium permanganate.
When using catalysts to extract and protect precious metals, there are some specific processes that work well.
As described when finding that gold or silver ore, the metal is unrefined and could have different concentration of the precious metal within the greater mineral itself. Precious metal sampling allows you to get a “sneak preview” of the overall content of your ore, and make decisions as to how you want to process this material. The sampling process involves distilling down the overall ore often tons, to small amounts for testing (often grams) that represent the overall ratio in the given material.
Common sampling procedures include:
- Melt Sampling – material is heated to liquid with a copper metal such as copper and poured into ingots with testing at different points throughout the poor yielding a high accuracy result.
- Solution Sampling – A cost-effective and accurate technique for metal-bearing solutions, a homogenous solution is created and tested at multiple points.
- Dry Sampling – Typically used when melt sampling or solution sampling will not work, the product is ground to a fine texture and sampled throughout, but accuracy is lower for this method.
Precious Metal Processing
Each specific metal may warrant a different process. Some popular chemical treatments of precious metals include the following.
Palladium Carbon Catalysts
Palladium in itself is a lesser known precious metal, although many may be more familiar with a palladium-gold mix known as white gold. In a totally different capacity, palladium is frequently used in catalytic converters in many automobiles. As the name catalytic converter describes, palladium can be involved in a diverse group of chemical reactions including metal refining, and these reactions fall under the category of palladium carbon catalysts.
BLUCLAD® refers to an Italian company that specializes in top layer surface treatments for luxury metal accessories. When referring to Bluclad, your metal refiner and supplier is often referring to products that have been treated with this substance to improve luster, life, and a luxurious image.
Different products will require different methods to test and refine. Chemical catalysts are used to quicken and control these refining methods, as well as apply surface treatments that can help improve the overall product. Testing allows manufacturers to make smart decisions about the refining process of metals such as gold, platinum, and palladium. The choice of chemical and extraction method may also be determined by the ultimate use of the metal, from industrial applications to fine jewelry.