Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Mercury and silver

Hello all. Up last night pondering… I know that mercury will bond
with gold upon contact. Will it react with silver in the same way?
Does it show as a stain as it does with gold? And lastly, if it does
bond, can you remove it? Cheers and thanks for your input. Stephanie

In the past they used mercury to leach out gold in mining…It will
desolve gold…and mercury is very dangerous…Do Not heat mercury or
anything that has mercury on it! It is a good thing to stay away
from…I don’t know what reaction it will have on silver though.


Hi, Stephanie

I’m not sure whether it also reacts withsilver, but I think it does.
However, the point I want to make is that it does not jus bond. It
actually alloys itself with the other metal. and therefore cannot be
removed without removing all of the other alloyed metal.


Stephanie -

In regards to mercury and gold - not only will it bond, but it will
eat the gold completely away! I found this out when I had a summer
job just after high school in an electronics factory doing light
welding. We used mercury in the process, and the lovely opal ring
that my dad had given me upon graduation was soon without its back!

Ivy, in Oakland, where it decided to do spring today instead of winter!

Stephanie, Yes! Mercury wets silver and coats it in much the same way
as it coats gold. The resulting product is called amalgam. The same
stuff that dentists used to use fill your teeth. Some still do, I
suppose. The easiest way to get rid of it is to vaporize it. Heat the
piece to barely dull red for about a minute. Then examine the piece to
see if the mercury is all gone. Continue heating if necessary. CAUTION:
Mercury vapor is VERY toxic, so heat the object under a hood or
outside in the open air. Be sure you are UPWIND of the heated
object…Bob Williams

Hi Stephanie,

I believe that that both gold and silver dissolve in mercury and such
metal solutions/alloys are called amalgams. Dentists use the
technique to get silver into fillings. In Theophilus’ day copper
champlev� enamels were gilded with gold by dissolving the gold in
mercury, coating the copper with the amalgam, and then heating the
mercury so that it evaporated. These artisans knew about the acute
toxic nature of mercury fumes were, apparently, quite unaware of its
chronic (long term) toxicity. In chemistry labs, if we broke a mercury
thermometer we tried to sweep up as much of the mercury as possible
and then dust the surface (usually the floor) with sulphur powder.

From the context of your message, I think that it would be best that
you never exposed your jewellery to mercury.

Hope this helps.

David in Victoria, Canada

    I know that mercury will bond with gold upon contact. Will it
react with silver in the same way? Does it show as a stain as it
does with gold? And lastly, if it does bond, can you remove it? 

G’day; Mercury will bond with a number of metals including silver
and it’s alloys; gold of course, brass, copper, even galvanized iron;
in fact mercury must be kept away from contact with most metals. Such
bonding is evidenced by the sudden acquisition of what appears to be a
brilliant silvery white polish. If left, the mercury will soon
penetrate deeply into the metal.

It may be removed easily by heating fairly strongly to around 500�C
for several minutes. It is extremely important that the heating be
done in a very well ventilated area - preferably out in the open. A
mercury contaminated object containing hard soldered joints could best
be put into a shallow tin and heated strongly by any means, but great
care must be taken to avoid breathing any of the vapour. I have so
removed mercury contamination from my wife’s ring twice whilst she was
working in a student laboratory. She still wears that ring 45 years
later. Cheers –

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

Dear Stephanie,

I read a formula for inlaying gold onto silver using mercury. It
seems that you use gold powder and mix it with the mercury. You pack
the mixture into the crevices and allow the mercury to out gas. I
never did use it though. I decided that it was far too toxic and
keum boo works quite well without the danger.


Mercury vapor is very toxic,heat the object in open air and …

Hello all,

This is not a personal atack to you dear Williams ! I know that you’re
trying to help people with good advice.

Everybody is drawing people attention to the very high toxicity of
mercury and I agree with all of them.So, here is my question and
point of view.

1.What occures if your nice fan blow this toxic stuff in open air?

2.Imagine that your fan faces opposite your garden?

3.Imagine that your kids are playing in this garden?

4.You don’t like to bread it in but what about people passing your

I can pose many questions related to this subject without asking for
a respond.Seriously,this stuff is without any question “DANGEROUS”,so
tread it this way.It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with small
amounts or not.By all means,take it to a refinnery or sell the stuff
to someone or a company (Rio Grande does it) who knows how to deal
with it.If you still want to refine it by yourself … learn how
to do it properly and by a good book which explaines you how to
refine to mercury aswell,but DO NOT BLOW MERCURY FUMES IN OPEN AIR.
Even gold is not worth it contaminating our precious air. Any big
event is started by a single person,so why not starting this subject
by every individual goldsmith or newbee !

Again,to all the persons who contributed to this mercury subject,this
is not pointed to your personal advice,but more an article to those
people who do not understand the hazardhous of little operations like
this one.

Lots of people pretend to say “I didn’t know”.Well,personal I do not
accept this as an apology.You’ve got do know before you start it and
if you don’t know … then ask.

Just trying to be helpful.
Regards Pedro

Just an aside (and a warning!)

Felt hat makers in London during the 18th and 19th centuries used to
use mercury to compress and form the wool into felt - the traditional
bowler and top hats are felted.

The mercury fumes eventually gave them serious symptoms such as
hypersensitivity, tremors, visual and hearing disturbances.

Hence the saying - “Mad as a hatter” and the character from Alice in

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone