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The Gold Refining Process

Recycling is extremely important for the precious metals industry. In fact, recycled gold makes more than a third of the current world supply. Here at Manhattan Gold & Silver we are pleased to be one of the few companies with the flexibility to offer precious metal refining services to a variety of businesses—from jewelers of all sizes, to pawnbrokers, dentists, and more.

The process begins when a client brings us scrap gold to be recycled. To determine the purity of the gold, we perform an assay or test. Depending on the size of the lot and type of scrap it contains, we may do an acid, XRF, ultrasound, or fire assay.

  • For the acid (AKA scratch) assay, we scratch a piece of the gold against a basalt stone, marking it. By applying certain strengths of nitric acid to this mark and measuring the resulting reaction, we can accurately measure the purity of the gold.


  • For X-ray fluorescence (XRF), a gold sample is placed in one of our two machines. The XRF machine bathes the sample in X-rays, causing the sample to emit light (fluorescence) at an energy level specific to its atomic structure. The machine analyzes this energy level and determines the amount of pure gold within the sample.


  • For the ultrasound assay, we use a special machine that sends an ultrasonic pulse through a sample and measures the frequency for changes. If the consistency of the metal changes, so does the frequency. This makes the ultrasound assay perfect for determining whether an item is precious metal-plated without damaging it.


  • For large lots of scrap, we recommend the fire assay. This test is extremely accurate, but time consuming because the gold is melted down and specially processed.

Once we have determined the weight and purity of the gold, we have all the information we need to quote you a payout price. From there, your gold is melted down and recycled (you can watch if you want). This infographic explains how we recycle gold every day here at MGS.


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