Precious Metal Recovery: 5 Do's and Don'ts

Nearly all pieces of technology that are available today contain at least one type of precious metal. Precious metals like silver, gold, platinum and other less well known metals are found in trace quantities in computer chips, printers, film and other items. There are a number of reasons why you might consider recovering those metals from objects that are broken or outdated, including the possibility of selling them and for recycling purposes. If you plan to recover precious metals, here are a few important steps to take along with some mistakes to avoid.

1. Understand the Differences Between Recovery and Refinement

In most cases, recovery of a precious metal is not the same as the refinement of that metal. Do not make the mistake of confusing one with the other. Recovery of a precious metal involves removing all traces of that metal from another object. The refinement process is occasionally performed alongside the recovery process, but not always. Refinement consists of techniques like acid treatment and heat reduction that are designed to purify the metal completely.

2. Know the Objects You're Working With

Precious metals of different kinds are found in many common household objects, but you'll need to familiarize yourself with them before you can go about recovering them. Films of many types contain trace amounts of silver, chemical catalysts often contain platinum, and gold is found in many electronic devices. Before you consider recovering precious metals from your household objects, take some time to research the types of metals in those objects.

3. Work With a Reputable Company

The recovery process often is quite complicated and involves a number of potentially delicate steps. Fortunately, most cities work with a number of companies to recover different types of metals. It's common for these companies to specialize in one type of metal; for instance, a single company may work to recover silver from photographic and Xerox film as well as different resins and other products. Do some research to find a reputable company before you sign off your objects, so that you know all traces of the metal will be properly recovered.

4. Avoid Environmental Hazards

Many electronic devices contain not only precious metals like gold, but also certain materials and chemicals that may prove to be hazardous. While these materials are normally protected within the piece of electronic equipment, they can be released when the recovery process is initiated. This is particularly true of old computers and other related electronics. Take all proper precautions to perform the recovery procedure safely and to avoid contamination with potentially harmful chemicals.

5. Know Your Payment Options

Some recovery companies will offer you cash payments for the precious metals that they recover. Others will give you the option to receive the metal itself as a coin or bullion. Knowing what you intend to gain from the recovery process before you begin will help you decide which is best for you.