My cousin in Alaska has a sterling ring with raw chunks of
green gold soldered into it. Will this gold have mercury in
it? Is all gold mined with mercury? Do I need to ask the
miners. I don’t want to melt it down to use it, I want to use
the chunks pretty much as is. What do I need to know to
do this safely?
Good questions. To my knowledge:
Not all good is retrieved with mercury. As a matter of fact, I think
mercury “leaching” is illegal and rarely done anymore. It is an
interesting process, though, whereby gold is recovered by pouring mercury
over it, often in river beds. The gold “melts” into the mercury which then
carries it further downhill. Then the gold-bearing mix is heated to
evaporate the mercury, leaving the gold behind.
Gold and Mercury do not form alloys. They form an amalgum at room
temperature, or if heated in the proper proportions they form a very pretty and
incredibly hard purple “rock” which is an intermetallic compound.
Don’t bother to ask miners. I think it was Mark Twain who defined a
gold miner as, “A liar standing over a hole in the ground.”
Green gold is the color of gold alloys that have mostly silver
and little or no copper in the mix. Each region on Earth has its own
particular alloy of native gold (gold found in nature), with its own individual
color, contents and other characteristics. An expert can identify the
source by visual examination of native gold.
Treat the green gold nuggets as you would any other gold alloy. I do not
believe there could possibly be any hazard to using it or even melting it.
However, there is no harm in wearing the proper type of respirator, rated
for such use. And if you are concerned about toxicity, set up a fan behind
you, blowing gently toward an open window in front of you, before heating.
I welcome comments on this explanation from anyone who can add anything.