Since it’s nearly impossible to destroy gold, most of the precious metal that’s been mined remains in existence in some form, and much of it is continuously recycled. How does this happen, and how is recycled gold used? Get answers from America’s Gold Authority,® U.S. Money Reserve.
Why Does Gold Need to Be Recycled?
The earth’s crust contains a finite amount of gold. While there’s still some of the yellow metal out there to be mined, discoveries of gold mines have dropped off over the years. Some analysts believe that the world’s supply of unmined gold could run out in the next couple of decades.
Therefore, “old” gold needs to be recycled to meet current demand for the metal.
Not only is gold recycling practical, but it’s also eco-friendly.
“Gold may be the most consistently recycled of all materials…. Gold is sufficiently [desired] to have been consistently recycled since its discovery,” according to the Alliance for Responsible Mining.
In 2019, the annual supply of gold increased 2% from the previous year, with much of that growth produced by recycling rather than mining, according to the World Gold Council. For the year, gold recycling rose 11% in 2019 compared with 2018.
What follows are three common sources of recyclable gold.
Most recycled gold—about 90%—comes from jewelry, according to the World Gold Council. Gold can be recycled from old, faded, or unwanted jewelry.
Sciencing.com explains that the first step in recycling gold jewelry involves sorting out the purities of gold (K), with 24 karats being the purest. Various methods can be used to detect the purity of gold in a piece of jewelry like a necklace or a pair of earrings.
Once the purity is determined, the jewelry is melted at more than 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit and then poured into bars based on the gold’s purity. Or it is further processed to eliminate impurities. This step is known as smelting.
By the way, government-issued gold, such as the gold coins sold by U.S. Money Reserve, is one of the purest forms of gold available.
These days, many jewelry designers and retailers promote pieces made from recycled gold.
“Recycling gold makes a lot of intuitive sense. Gold can be recycled with no degradation in quality, so gold originally mined centuries ago is just as good as new. It can be recycled and repurposed without the need for any new mining at all,” GreenBiz.com explains.
The electronics we use every day can be rich sources of recyclable gold. This includes mobile phones and computers, as well as electronic components of cars, according to Gold.info. The electrical contacts in these products, such as computer circuit boards, contain a small amount of gold. Combine those small amounts, and the gold volume is stunning. For example, there’s 80 times as much gold in one ton of cell phones as there is in a gold mine, says Federico Magalini, an expert on electronic waste.
However, it’s difficult to extract gold from these electronics because the gold is embedded in plastic or metal housing, and it might make up only 2% of a product’s weight.
Once the pieces containing the precious metal have been removed, though, the extraction process can begin with chemical stripping or with melting down the metal parts, cooling them, and then grinding them up, according to Gold.info.
Discarded fillings, bridges, and casting molds that contain gold can be collected by dentists and shipped to a recycler, Gold.info reports. The purity of dental gold is usually 16 karats, according to the website. But this gold is more difficult to recycle than jewelry because it might include nonmetal content like porcelain or tooth enamel.
A recycler can separate the gold from nonmetal elements, though, and the remaining gold can be formed into bars or be refined even more, Gold.info says.
The Future of Gold Recycling
In many ways, gold recycling is better for the planet and better for you.
As the World Gold Council notes, “Annual demand requires more gold than is newly mined, and the shortfall is made up from recycling.”
Without gold recycling, there’s a chance there wouldn’t be enough gold to go around. Call U.S. Money Reserve to buy pure, solid gold today. We specialize in stocking legal-tender gold products that are government-backed for their gold content, weight, and purity.