How To Refine Silver

Silver can actually be found as scrap from many sources and just needs to be purified. Scrap silver will have different levels of impurity as it is mixed with different metals or contaminants which have to be removed. If you know how to refine silver you can take advantage of these sources and extract a good quantity for yourself. The best part is that silver can be refined using chemicals which are commonly found in a household. Using such substances will also give a purity of 99% or more, which is what is commercially accepted.

Refining silver involves dissolving the silver into a solution, which requires Nitric Acid that is at least 50% concentrated. This acid is no longer freely available as it is also used to make explosives. To get around this problem you can make Nitric Acid by a process using substances which are readily available. You will need Sulfuric Acid and Sodium Nitrate to make Nitric Acid. You can get concentrated Sulfuric Acid at the hardware store as it is used for clearing blocked drains. Sodium Nitrate can be got from a store specialising in gardening as it is a fertilizer.

Heat about 200ml of distilled water and add Sodium Nitrate of about 400 grams in weight. Let it completely dissolve in the distilled water and then take it off the fire. After it has cooled from its boiling temperature but is still hot, add 110 ml of the concentrated Sulfuric Acid very slowly. The solution will react and start to heat up, so do not let it boil. After adding the acid let the solution coll to room temperature and then place in the freezer till it reaches a temperature of 5 degrees celsius. After some time you will find a precipitate which has settled down. Carefully pour only the liquid into a glass receptacle and throw off the precipitate. The liquid you have collected is 50% concentrated Nitric Acid.

To refine the scrap pieces of silver place them in the Nitric Acid until they are completely dissolved. After that filter the solution using several coffee filters and then suspend a copper plate with the help of a twine into the filtered solution. The silver will start gathering on the plate and tap it gently so that the powder settles at the bottom. Let the solution sit overnight and in the morning you will have a precipitate of 99% pure silver. The precipitate can be filtered and washed with distilled water and you can make the powder into nuggets by carefully using a torch.

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refiner said:

Impossible to dissolve 400 grams of Sodium Nitrate in 200 ml of water! Check out solubility curves for Sodium Nitrate. Even at 85C you would only be able to get maybe 300 grams to dissolve. At 50C could only dissolve 230 grams.

Stephen said:

Hello, I am hoping you can provide direction to me. I am new to refining silver. A friend's home which was filled with antique gold & silver items burned to the ground destroying all of the historical value of said items. I learned about being able to refine silver using nitric acid & have been able to recover 4#'s of silver so far. I have boxes of sterling that needs to be refined. The first 4#'s went as planned. Then I did one batch - 4 quart mason jars - & after adding the silver to the nitric acid / water solution - I filtered the solution & placed copper in the solution & NOTHING happened. The only thing I can think of is that I mistakenly boiled the silver & nitric acid too long. I read after the fact not to boil the acid but to use boiling water in a bowl replacing the water several times to keep the reaction going. The liquid is bright blue but again when I added the copper there was no reaction. Could you please provide me direction on how I can retrieve the silver that remains in solution? I am not a chemist & have no clue how I might salvage a considerable amount of silver out of this solution. Your time, consideration & any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated! Kind regards, Steve Gavin

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