Instructables
Picture of Gold Recovery
Wait don’t throw those old electronics in the garbage, there’s gold in them there things. How about putting it in your pockets instead of someone else’s pocket?

Laptops, phones, cameras, and the like are filled with gold plated circuit boards even printers and scanners have gold, silver, and copper, even platinum in them.

Gold is a precious, conductive, and pliable metal that retains a stable value better than many commodities. Its chemical properties make it useful for the manufacture of computers parts and electronics. Some people find it profitable to attempt to extract the gold from these scraps, then refine and sell it. This complicated process requires chemical expertise as well as access to various chemistry equipment. However, with the right knowledge, experience and tools, you can remove valuable gold from computer parts, other discarded electronics.

Things You Will Need:

Scrap electronics
Rubber gloves
Rubber apron
Goggles
Hydrogen Peroxide 3% I got from local pharmacy.
Muriatic acid 31% local hardware store.
Methyl Hydrate is 99.9% methyl alcohol it is used for fuel line antifreeze and can be purchased at your local hardware or automotive supply.
Funnel filter I used a drip coffee filter
2 large glass containers I like coffee pots for chemical heat.
Stir stick glass or plastic
Weigh scale mine is accurate to 1/10th of a grain.
Blow Torch hot enough to hard solder.
Borax
Clay bowls just about anything that has a melting point 500o above the melting point of gold will do.
Measuring cup anything you can use to make a 2:1 mix will do.


Although no special skills are needed one should follow all chemical and heat safety procedures.
 
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Step 1: Extracting Gold from Scraps

Collect any gold-containing metal scraps to which you have access, including jewelry, computer processors, old telephone wiring or gold tooth crowns. Keep in mind that outdated electronics are likelier to produce parts with a high enough level of gold to make the procedure worthwhile.

This is the gold I collected in a bucket over three months.

Sort the gold into circuits that need cleaning, gold plated parts, gold plated pins, gold fingers, and solid gold large and small. Use a magnet to separate all gold plated steel this needs a different process than I am demonstrating.

Step 2: Stripping the Fingers and Clean Circuits

Picture of Stripping the Fingers and Clean Circuits
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Apply all safety gear correctly before working with chemicals and do this outside as the fumes are nasty.

Put the gold fingers and clean circuit boards in the coffee pot, in another container mix two parts muriatic acid and one part hydrogen peroxide and add to the coffee pot until it just covers the gold fingers and wait a week giving it a stir daily. Since I have a week I will move on to processing my solid low grade gold parts.

Step 3: My Scale

Picture of My Scale
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My RCBS scale is accurate to 1/10th of a grain when setup right however do not go by the Oz to grain chart on the scale. A grain is a grain however a troy Oz is 1/12th of a troy pound and a regular Oz is 1/16th of a pound so a Troy Oz is 480 grains not 437.5 grains. Setup the scale remembering to zero it by adjusting the screw on the left.

Step 4: Cupellation

Picture of Cupellation
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Cupellation is a process where ores or alloyed metals are treated under high temperatures and controlled operations to separate noble metals, like gold and silver, from base metals like led, copper, zinc, and others present in the ore or alloyed metal. The process is based on the principle that precious metals do not oxidize or react chemically, like the base metals; so when they are heated at high temperatures, the precious metals remain apart and the others react forming slags or other compounds. This process has been in use since the Bronze Age and still used today able to raise the gold and silver content to 95%, however the process cannot separate silver from gold, but this is good enough for me.

Cupellation is simple weigh the solid pieces of low grade gold, burn the crap out of it until you get no more slag and it becomes a nice bright yellow bead, and then you weigh it after it cools.

My solid low grade gold parts with garbage attached went from 180 grains to 75.9 grains of high grade gold with no garbage attached.

Step 5: Gold Flakes and Dust

A week has passed and it is time to collect your gold flakes and dust from your cleaned fingers and circuit boards, after a week the acid darkens and with a stir the flakes of gold can be seen floating around in the pot.

Pouring the acid into a coffee filter the acid passes through the filter leaving the gold behind, save the acid do not dump it down the drain.

Next dump the remaining fingers and circuit boards into a deep plastic tray and add water, sort out the cleaned of gold parts, put the cleaned parts in the waist and save the un-cleaned parts for re-dipping.

After you have sorted the circuit board parts pour the water off through the coffee filter and flush with methyl hydrate to clean. Since the methyl hydrate is 99.9% methyl alcohol it cleans and dries the gold flakes better and faster than water, water will cling to the gold flakes and give you a false weight.

Step 6: Using Borax with your Salvaged Gold

Picture of Using Borax with your Salvaged Gold
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There are basically two methods of melting gold flakes and dust to recover gold available to the average person, the mercury method called Gold-Mercury Amalgam with its obviously toxic by-products and the Borax Method.

I do not recommend the mercury method it works but it is extremely toxic for generations.

The Borax Method is a technique of artisanal gold mining, with its basis in the principle that borax reduces the melting point of all minerals, including precious metals like gold. The melting point of gold is 1063 ˚C, which is a higher temperature than can be obtained by cheap torches and burners. By adding borax to the heavy mineral concentrate, the melting point temperature decreases, allowing people to melt gold out of their concentrate and salvage. By using borax, no mercury flour is produced, and gold recovery increases.

Step 7: Melting Your Gold Flakes

Take your cleaned gold flakes and weigh them, this tells you how much you lose in melting and cupellation when melting the flakes.

Heat your clay bowl, don’t worry if the bowl cracks or splits, add borax to the hot bowl, when the borax melts add the gold flakes and more borax then heat until you get a nice bead of gold, let it cool and weigh to see how much you lost.

Step 8: Gold

Picture of Gold
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There you have it gold from electronics, one troy Oz is 480 grains and I have 576.5 grains or somewhere between 600 and 1600 bucks for three months work. I think I will retire.
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astrong010 months ago
so I have a quick question. what date would you say most of those electronics were from? 70's 80's 90's?
-thanks
Josehf Murchison (author)  astrong010 months ago
All of them including 1940s and 2000s

so about how much did just the PCB's and gold fingers make, and was the stuff shown in the pictures all you had? cause I have like 4times the amount of PCB's and gold fingers then that as well as processors so just wondering (and all the PCB's have all the traces gold plated) like this one:

like this one

IMG_0852.JPG
Josehf Murchison (author)  sleblanc22 months ago

The one pot produced about 4 grams but I have about 500 pounds of circuit boards and other components to process.

I just dissembled a radar unit from WWII that had about a pound of silver and gold in it, older electronics have higher quantities of gold and silver.

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I hope you ran that by a collector first, it may have been worth more as a great example of early radar.

Please always check the electronics is actually scrap and not worth the same entact to someone who collects.

Josehf Murchison (author)  andysuth27 days ago

Key part missing.

Reflectometer circuit.

Got one big load of silver and gold out of it as well as a 12 volt to 50,000 volt flyback.

Joe

Poppy Ann10 months ago
A great instructable, here in the UK trying to just get Muriatic acid is almost impossible unlike the USA where you can get it from just about any hardware store.

many thanks for putting this instructable together.

You can usually get Muriatic Acid at pool supply places in Canada (if you live in a large city, that is) fairly easily (most at 30-32%). In the UK, Muriatic Acid is sold as 'Spirits of Salt' as a domestic cleaning product (usually at percentages that the US calls industrial grades, 32 - 38%) which you will want to be exremely careful with.

dburtuk Poppy Ann10 months ago
Hi Poppy Ann, Muriatic acid is Hydrochloric Acid, Its available from Amazon in the UK at the 30% mark....

Dburtuk
Josehf Murchison (author)  Poppy Ann10 months ago
Here in Canada it isn't that easy ether, some things require you to pass a university course in order to get the licence so you can buy the chemicals.

Because of my work I have 5
Wow, here in the US, We use it as driveway cleaner... lol
Josehf Murchison (author)  tstubblefield110 months ago
Here in Canada the Muriatic acid isn't bad try buying fertilizer I sharecropped urea is a fertilizer.
yes each country has its own idea what their people can have and not have, its about time the world was all the same.
Josehf Murchison (author)  Poppy Ann10 months ago
It is environmentalists and terrorists.
batman9610 months ago
I was really intrigued by your article here. Something I have never thought of before.
I have an foot locker over flowing with circuit boards, the box is like 2*2*4 ft. Some computer mother boards a few processors, but mostly audio amplifiers, and a few dvd players. How much do you think could be obtained from this supply? I just keep them around and desolder parts as I need them.
Josehf Murchison (author)  batman9610 months ago
I do the same thing I strip the parts I want, expensive audio and video can have more gold video games like X Box are loaded the circuit in the intro pic is a tower audio card and it is covered in gold. Most of it will only be 9K plate but it is still gold, if you have a couple hundred pounds of circuit boards you can have an OZ or more.

I had a transmitter from 1940 it had 2 lb of silver in the tuner and a old industrial video recorder from a TV station it had an OZ of gold in the video head alone ICs have gold in them also.
Tom Hargrave10 months ago
So, what happens to the other metals you burn off?
Josehf Murchison (author)  Tom Hargrave10 months ago
Some oxidizes and turns to ash and some the higher temperature metals turn to slag, this slag is high in copper so I sell it with my scrap copper. There is a market for everything if you look.
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TREX ZoaR0K10 months ago
about how much money worth of gold would i get from 1 laptop and 2 old desktop computers
Josehf Murchison (author)  TREX ZoaR0K10 months ago
That is really dependent on what is in them and the gold market extra cards and maker and where it was made you can have any where from $20.00 to $200.00.
Some of the gold will be 9K and some will be 18K but none will be 24K unless you get prototypes.
info_kill10 months ago
Nice Instructable! I see in your profile that you are a photographer. Do you know of any process to extract Platinum / Palladium from scrap electronics? I have heard that these can be had from MMCs but I'm not quite sure how. My interest is purely for my own printing experiments as a hobbyist photog.
Josehf Murchison (author)  info_kill10 months ago
Wish I did all I get is silver and gold, you should see the stalks on them.
bsimon210 months ago
this is cool i have piles of electronics just sitting around and this process would be a lot easier than trying to make use of them....i would like to know the process for the gold plated material as well as a way to separate the silver from the gold if at all possible
Josehf Murchison (author)  bsimon210 months ago
To separate the gold from the silver you need to use these methods.
There is the nitric acid process.
The sulfuric acid process.
Reverse electrolysis process.
All of these take a hotter torch than I have and these three methods use chemicals due to 9/11 many of these chemicals are highly regulated because they are also used to make explosives.
The Muriatic acid process which I used.
And there is cupellation process which I used.
i have been watching several youtube videos and have noticed several differant solutions one of which disolves the gold into the solution its self, i think the chemicals were Muratic acid 31.5%, house hold bleach, sodiummetabisolphate

would this outcome be any different than yours with your given solution?

here is one of the videos i have seen and is using a different solution than you are.
http://youtu.be/SJN9LW1kJWI
Josehf Murchison (author)  bsimon210 months ago
I like that one tells you how to separate the gold doesn't tell you how to get the gold out of the solution.

Add vitamin C ascorbic acid,
it tells you in the next video i believe ( i watched about 4 of his videos) to add something and it makes the gold materialize and form in flakes at the bottom.

my question being about that video in particular is does it extract the gold in a more pure form than the method you have shown here with out the silver being mix'd in?

the idea behind this question being a more pure extraction process and then perhaps repeat your process for silver extraction?

here is the video he shows how to get the gold from the solution:
http://youtu.be/H1VHJCLfxS4
Josehf Murchison (author)  bsimon210 months ago
what they don't tell you is with solid pieces you do what I did then spatter the gold in water. then follow that process.
stoobers bsimon210 months ago
Put all the copper plated gold in a pile, then melt it into a puck. Wait for the copper price to rise, then sell the copper puck. Forget the gold, the concentration on plated objects is super low, and copper is a valuable metal in its own right.
Josehf Murchison (author)  stoobers10 months ago
You don't loose the copper it is the slag.
Is it copper nitrate or some other copper salt? If so, wouldn't they have to reduce it to get it back to metallic copper?
Josehf Murchison (author)  stoobers10 months ago
The slag or the acid residue?
Thanks in advance for asking these questions.
Regarding slag or acid residue containing a copper salt: are they both (or either) copper salts?
Josehf Murchison (author)  stoobers10 months ago
The slag I am going to cash in as #3 copper.

I am trying to find that out now about the acid residue I am thinking about making conductive paint with it.

if I can separate the copper moliquels it should make good paint.
Okiomooki17 days ago

will this work with gold plated and gold filled jewelery

Josehf Murchison (author)  Okiomooki16 days ago

Break up the jewellery into small pieces so the etchant can get to the metal under the plating.

There are some metals the etchant doesn't work as well with so it may take longer for the gold plate to separate or the gold filled to be etched out.

Joe

Josehf Murchison (author)  Okiomooki16 days ago

Break up the jewellery into small pieces so the etchant can get to the metal under the plating.

There are some metals the etchant doesn't work as well with so it may take longer for the gold plate to separate or the gold filled to be etched out.

Joe

Okiomooki17 days ago

will this work on gold filled jewellery too

nikbgs2171 month ago
Can this really be done!? And get the pure gold that I can sell!? How much time does this process work!? I am asking these questions cause I tried to do it before with no luck! Now I have a lot of old computers! And after I separate everything I sell the steel, copper etc... But the gold I was thinking sending it to a refinery! And I will have alot of spare parts to build things!
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