Recycling and Refining Gold Alloys

Thousands of years ago, people began to mix other metals with gold. Some were trying to make gold more durable. Some wanted to make gold even more attractive. And some were even trying to defraud customers by passing off gold alloys as pure gold.

With the exception of 24kt gold, which is pure gold, all karat-designated golds are really gold alloys that contain other metals. This chart explains how karats work to designate gold’s purity:

Chart showing the percentage of gold and other metals in Karat Gold Alloy, which you can refine profitably at, part of Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners LLC..

You can think about it another way:

  • 24K gold is pure gold (The element "Au" on the periodic table)
  • 18K gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of another metal or metals
  • 14K gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of another metal or metals
  • 12K gold contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts of another metal or metals
  • 10K gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of another metal or metals

Those karat ratings don’t tell you anything specific about what other metals could be present in the gold that you have on hand. You need a gold refiner to tell you that.

What Could those Other Metals Be?

Gold Alloys include:

Photo of liquid, molten gold alloy being mixed in a foundry. Find out how much precious metals your gold, alloys contain at Gold, part of Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners.
  • Pink gold (also called rose gold) is an alloy of gold and copper. Silver and other metals are sometimes used too, to achieve the exact coloration that a jewelry manufacturer wants.
  • White gold is an alloy of gold and at least one white metal – sometimes more than one. Those additional metals could be nickel, palladium, or zinc. Sometimes a little copper is added to make the alloy less brittle and easier to shape.
  • Green gold – relatively rare – is an alloy that usually contains only gold and silver.
  • Blue gold – also rare – is an alloy that contains gold and indium.

Where Does the Color Come From?

The other metals that are added to 24K pure gold determine its color. Here’s a quick rundown on what those other metals are . . .

  • White gold is an alloy created by adding palladium to gold
  • Pink gold and rose gold are alloys created by adding copper to gold
  • Green gold is an alloy created by adding silver to gold

Are White, Pink, and other Golds Worth Less than Yellow Gold?

Are those tinted golds worth less than yellow gold? After all, yellow is gold’s natural color. The simple answer to that question is, the color of gold doesn’t affect its value too much. What affects the value the most is the karat rating of gold.

But Isn’t 18K White Gold Worth More than 18K Pink Gold?

Yes. 18K white gold is worth more per ounce than 18K pink gold is because palladium will make up 6 parts of white gold (25%) and copper will make up six parts of pink gold (25%); because palladium is worth more than copper, white gold alloys will be worth more than pink gold alloys.

It all gets even more complicated, because gold smelters sometimes add more than one metal to gold to achieve the exact hue that they are seeking.

What about Using Alloys for Gold Plating?

In fact, gold alloys are among the most common platings applied to other metals. Sometimes metals that do not contain gold – such as rhodium – are applied to give jewelry the appearance of white gold.

Recycling and Refining Gold Alloys Is Complicated

It’s all very complicated, right? If you want to know exactly how much pure gold is in a quantity of gold jewelry that you have on hand, and whether it contains other precious metals that can be recycled profitably, you’ll need to send us a sample for testing. In fact, if you’re sitting on a quantity of gold of any kind – from circuit boards to jewelry scrap to old gold-plating equipment that you don’t use any more – you owe it to yourself to find out more.

You need the services of an expert gold refiner like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners to evaluate what you have on hand and provide you with test results from our lab. Call 800-426-2344 to learn more.