Are you giving a precious metal to your loved one this Valentine’s Day?
The three main precious metals gold, silver and platinum, are labeled precious for a reason. It’s probably no coincidence that we give them as gifts to those we consider precious to us. Read on to discover some things you may not know about the metals we all love. It may bring even more meaning to your life!
What are precious metals?
Precious metals are defined as rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical elements of high economic value. They are usually ductile and have a high lustre. Historically, precious metals were important as currency, but are now regarded mainly as investment and industrial commodities.
How are precious metals used?
Well, it’s obvious that we love to wear precious metals. And give them as gifts. But they also have provided a bounty of benefits in many industries including medicine, transportation, currency, electricity and power, electronic devices, spacecraft and even photography. Precious metals have also been deeply rooted in customs and traditions all over the world for centuries and can be found in religious ceremonies, costumes and ornaments.
Think about it next time at dinner. If you are using silverware, this is because silver is most notable for being antimicrobial. Or if you visit the dentist you may have received an orthodontic crown made from gold. Silver has the highest electrical conductivity and reflectivity of any metal. Most precious metals are superconductors and are good at harnessing conductivity in electrical currents, making them perfect for use in electronics or as a barrier against heat and radiation.
Where do precious metals come from?
Only about 155,000 tons of gold have ever been mined in recorded history, which equates to a little over 3 Olympic sized swimming pools. But regardless of how it gets here, it is the refinement process that creates the metals we know and use regularly. A majority of gold that is extracted from gold mines as ore is separated by crushing it into a powder. Then chemicals are used to extract the gold and other valuable components. It is then melted down to obtain gold in its purest form. Most silver, for instance, is produced as a byproduct of copper, gold, lead and zinc refining.
Why are these metals precious?
It’s easy to see that not only their rarity makes these metals precious to us. They also have beneficial characteristics that increase their demand. With so many uses, combined with a low abundance, they will always continue to hold great value to us.
Are precious metals recyclable?
Of course! Gold and silver have been recycled for thousands of years. More recently, electronics recycling offers a rich source of precious metals that can be recovered and then refined. This e-waste contributes to about 320 tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver used each year to make new electronic products around the world. E-waste contains 40-50 times more concentrations than naturally occurring deposits.
The carbon footprint of both metals and plastics recovered through recycling is much smaller than for the production of the same materials from virgin sources. This is why it is important to recycle your old smartphone, laptop and computers. A little from each can add up to a whole lot! Bring your scraps to us today! »
So the next time you get your hands on gold, silver or platinum, think about what it took to get it here and how long it has been in existence. And if you receive a precious metal in the shape of a ring, necklace or bracelet, just remember you are a part of a long tradition, and you are precious!
TT&E Iron and Metal
Recycling for a better environment.