Recovering Silver: How to Refine Silver

March 18, 2011

Because the scrap silver market is always on the rise, many individuals may wish to find scrap silver from various substances and sell them for profit. While the notion of extracting silver from different sources may sound like a fool’s wish, this is entirely possible and in fact, many people do extract silver from various resources all the time. There are certain items that will not contain a lot of silver for you to extract; thus, making it not worth your while. Fortunately, there are certain items that contain an abundance of silver in addition to items that are made with silver. While you shouldn’t expect to hit the jackpot and make thousands of dollars at once, you might make some spending money while having fun with a new hobby.

According to Professor Haruo Ishikawa, approximately one-fifth of the silver used each year ends up in X-ray film. After the X-ray film is developed and fixed, it will hold roughly two percent by weight of silver in its emulsion layers that are made of gelatin. While it is possible to remove silver from X-ray film, it is somewhat challenging.

For those who are interested in removing the silver from X-ray film, one would need to buy an electrolysis machine (these can be found on any science supply website). Fill the machine with a caustic solution and power on the machine. Take your X-ray film and burn it, saving the ashes. Place the ashes inside the tank of the electrolysis machine and allow the silver to be extracted by the chemical reactions that are being conducted by the machine. As progress is made, you will begin to notice silver flakes being created on the charger plates. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours so patience is key. Once the process is complete, power off the machine and collect your silver.

The most obvious source of silver will come from silver scrap. This can exist in the form of an old silver necklace you have lying around or an old computer part from your outdated laptop. To extract silver from a silver-plated item, mix a solution of ¾ sulfuric acid and ¼ nitric acid inside a metal pot, heating it up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Attach a copper wire to the object you wish to extract silver from and dip it into the solution for a few seconds. Rinse off the object and rub in sawdust to dry the object. Then you must turn off the heat source connected to the acidic solution and allow the solution to cool. Pour distilled water into the acidic solution three times, ensuring there is as much water in the solution as acid. Pour the liquid through a Buchner funnel into a vacuum filtration flash. Save the filtered substance and heat the remnants on a hot plate until crystals begin forming. Dispose of the leftover water, repeating the process in order to purify the silver even further.

These are just a few examples of how to extract silver from different substances found in everyday life. Of course, there are other sources you can recover silver from, such as movie camera film and alloy 42 parts. However, keep in mind that recovering silver can be dangerous because you are required to work with chemicals. Therefore, if you are not confident in attempting to remove silver from different sources, seek out a professional who specializes in removing silver from different objects. Naturally, this will cost money and may in fact cost more to pay a professional to extract silver than the worth of the actual silver you will be extracting. The simplest solution is to use a large operation like