November 13, 2009 – Before precious metals are formed into bullion bars or minted into coins, they must be purified so that their inherent precious metal content is guaranteed. This process is called precious metal refining. It is a relatively complicated process, and it is not something that investors usually consider when they hold their physical gold in their hands.
Precious metal refining is the process of purifying a raw metal so that the remaining material is as close to 100% gold as possible. This is why companies such as Engelhard and Johnson-Matthey stamp their bullion bars with “0.999 pure,” and 24-karat coins carry the same designation. 22-karat coins like the American Gold Eagle could be purified further, because these coins contain an alloy of silver, copper, and nickel. An alloy will produce a harder coin that is more resistant to wear, whereas a 24-karat coin can easily be tainted by something as incidental as handling the coin.
Refining is not the same as smelting or “calcining”, because those processes involve a direct chemical reaction. Precious metal refining employs a physical change only, because no molecules are inherently altered. Technicians utilize various techniques to separate precious metals from other metals and alloys. One technique involves melting the solid and pouring off the extra materials that rise to the top. Another method requires hydrochloric acid and chlorine gas to refine the precious metal, and both of these methods are quite dangerous and expensive.
When purchasing precious metals, keep in mind that the premiums on top of the gold spot price are incurred by the costs to refine, manufacture, and distribute the items across the world. Contact Precious-metal.org directly to learn the most affordable way to buy pure precious metals.
Senior Staff Writer - Precious-Metal.org