Gold is a highly coveted precious metal that has held its value over time. Grand Rapids Coins buys and sells coins and currency, but we also buy scrap gold and sterling silver. If you’ve ever wondered about the value of your gold jewelry or silver items, in this blog we will go through the differences between types of gold and silver. We will also discuss how scrap gold is processed into investment grade gold bullion.
Different Kinds of Scrap Gold
Gold is a very precious metal that has held value over time, unlike many other mediums of exchange. There is currently a great deal of interest in gold because the price of gold has been high and rising for some time. That high price is an incentive for people who may have jewelry or other gold items lying around that they do not use. Those items can be sold as scrap gold for cash.
Most people are familiar with phrases like 10-karat gold, but they don’t know how 10-karat gold is different from 8-karat gold or 24-karat gold. A karat, abbreviated K, is the traditional measurement of gold. It has a purity scale that is measured from 001 to 999. Gold designated a 750 means that it’s 75 percent pure gold. The purest gold is 24K gold or a 999 on the scale. Gold that is 75 percent pure is 18 of 24 parts pure or 18K gold. Gold that is 8K is 333 on the scale, or a third (33.3%) pure.
Gold can be tested a number of ways, but most jewelers and dealers will use an electronic analyzer that will determine the purity of the scrap gold without damaging the pieces being examined.
What Is Sterling Silver?
The difference between silver and sterling silver is also confusing for many people. Pure silver is elemental silver which is on the periodic table under the abbreviation Ag. The Latin word for silver is argenti, and now you know how the country Argentina got its name. It’s a country rich in mineral and precious metal resources, including silver.
Any item described as being pure silver or fine silver is as close to being pure elemental silver as possible. It’s commonly stamped 999 or .999. This sounds great, but silver is a soft metal. It’s hard to shape and is not especially durable. Elemental silver is often used in the photography and medical industries and to make electronic devices rather than to make jewelry or decorative items.
Sterling silver is a metal alloy composed of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent another metal, typically copper or zinc. Combining silver with copper or zinc makes it stronger and more durable. It can be easily shaped and will hold up to use, even daily use. This makes it much better for use in making jewelry, cutlery, plates, and decorative items. Sterling silver will be stamped with a 925 or .925.
How Is Scrap Gold Processed into Bullion?
When scrap gold is sent off to refineries there are two methods of purifying it to eliminate other metals or impurities. The first one is to heat it. Melting will result in the different metals separating, and the gold content will settle to the bottom of the mix while the impurities rise to the surface where they can be skimmed off. This is a simple process but the result will not be 99.9 percent pure, only 99.5 percent at best.
The second method is chemical and was developed by Emil Wohlwill in 1874. During this process, gold ore is lowered into a chemical bath, and an electrical current is sent through the system. Using this method the gold is purified up to 99.99 percent pure. Often both of these methods are used together with the heat method being used initially and the chemical method used to purify anything that must be 99.9 percent pure, including investment grade gold bullion. Sterling silver is purified into fine silver via a chemical method as well.
A caveat: when taking your scrap gold or sterling silver to a venue to sell it, always ask what percentage of the weight they are paying you. Dollars can really add up!