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Old 07-18-2018, 08:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Recovering gold?

I'm a maintenance worker in a factory, and I was looking around at some burnt up worn out safety switches that had been replaced, and noticed that every contact in it is gold colored. I tore one apart, took it to a grinder, and it's solid. Not painted or plated or whatever.

I'm just curious, what are the odds that it's real gold? Is brass ever used in industrial electrical equipment? If so, how can I tell if it's brass or gold?

The company just throws these away. If it is gold, I might be able to tear these down "for spare parts" or something, to "keep in my tool box for emergencies" and stuff.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I doubt anything outside of some serious industrial and lab equipment is solid gold. If it is and it's getting tossed instead of recycled or sold for scrap, leave now--management doesn't know how to keep a business.
Pretty much everything like that is plated, and probably copper beneath. Possibly brass where they want or don't care about conductivity; brass is only something like 25% or 30% as conductive as copper, IIRC.
If you really want to reclaim it, it's possible. Probably by disconnecting and finding something to dissolve the base metal more than the gold. But if it's plated, there may be so little it's not worth it with what a single person can collect.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:44 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Look up how electronics are recycled. There's a fair amount of process involved in extracting.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It's definitely not plated. My little grinder test verified that. These contacts are for three phase 240v and 480v applications. The stuff is mostly from Rockwell automation.

But, these guys have no idea how to run the business. So, it wouldn't surprise me if they have no idea that they should be reclaiming this stuff. It's run by the son of the son of the founder. So there's quite a big gap, and a lot of arrogance, in corporate.
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Old 07-19-2018, 01:49 AM   #5 (permalink)
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You haven't discovered anything valuable, sorry to burst your bubble.

The blades on a higher (208 and up)-voltage disconnect switch are either copper or some sort of copper/gold alloy. Pure gold is waaaaaaayyyyy too soft to stand up to use as a blade contact, it'd mash itself to pieces after a few actuations.

I suppose if you were really energetic, you could build yourself a simple smelter and learn how to seperate the small amount of gold, but whether that'd be worth anything to anyone is pretty debatable.
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Old 07-19-2018, 03:56 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Brass brought a fair bit at the scrapper's last time I had enough to take. Cut the leads off, save 'em from the dumpster for awhile, and cash in.
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Old 07-19-2018, 04:12 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I can virtually guarantee you there is zero gold in those contacts. That sort of thing is generally a brass or bronze alloy, depending on how often it needs to be actuated and under what amperages.

Yes, it may look shiny but that's virtually guaranteed to be some other coating, such as (I think) iridium.

And if there was any gold, it would literally be a "wash" coating- a fraction of a micron. The guys that scrap out old electronics will generally process upwards of a hundred pounds of contacts in order to get less than a gram of gold. At current prices, that's about forty bucks.

There is no chance- zero, none- that those contacts are solid gold.

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Old 07-19-2018, 07:16 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Not gold.
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Old 07-21-2018, 07:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Gold fever... just do it, don't listen to doc, there's lots of gold in Alaska, and he doesn't want the competition.
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