Where to Find Gold to Recycle and Use

Gold Nugget
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Gold is the only element with the color that bears its name. It's a soft, ductile metal that is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. It's also one of the noble metals, which means it resists corrosion, making it safe for jewelry and even to eat (in small amounts).

While it's certainly possible to pan for gold, you may be surprised at all the everyday items you use that contain gold. Here's a list of places to look to find gold. You can use it, recycle it, or sell it.

Gold in Computers and Smartphones

Computer processors are a good source of gold.

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If you're reading this article online, you're currently using an item that contains a significant amount of gold. The processors and connectors in computers, tablets, and smartphones use gold. You can also find gold in televisions, gaming consoles, printers, or essentially anything electronic. It's possible to recover this gold, but it takes a fair amount of know-how since the process typically involves burning the electronics to a crisp and using cyanide or acid to separate the gold. It's not particularly environmentally friendly, but it's effective.

You may be asking yourself why gold is used in electronics, rather than copper, which is more affordable, or silver, which is a superior electrical conductor. The reason is that copper isn't really up to the task, while silver corrodes too quickly. Since most electronics only last a few years, there is a trend toward using silver anyway, so if you're after gold, it's best to use older electronics rather than new ones.

Gold in Smoke Detectors

Some smoke detectors contain gold.

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Before you throw out an old smoke detector, you just might want to check it for gold. Many smoke detectors contain another interesting element you can retrieve: radioactive americium. The americium will bear a small radioactive symbol, so you'll know where it is. The gold you can find by sight.

Gold in Used Cars

Several locations in an automobile contain gold.

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Before hauling off your old junker of a car, check it for gold. There are several locations in an automobile that may contain gold. Newer cars carry electronics, which use gold, just like you'd find in a cell phone or computer. A good place to start is the airbag inflation chip and anti-lock brakes chip. You may also find gold in the heat insulation.

Gold in Books

It's easy to spot books that contain gold.

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Have you ever noticed the shimmery edges on the pages of some books? Believe it or not, that's real gold. It's fairly easy to recover, too, because the metal is much heavier than the cellulose used to make paper.

Before turning your books into pulp, check to make sure they aren't first editions. In some cases, old books are worth more than the gold they bear.

Gold in Colored Glass

Gold is used to add a red color to glass.
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Ruby or cranberry glass gets its red color from gold oxide added to the glass. Using a bit of chemistry, you can recover the gold from the glass. This glass is also collectible in its own right, so as with books, it's better to check the value of the intact object before scrapping it to recover the gold.

Gold From a CD or DVD

Some CD discs contain gold.

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Got a CD that sounds so bad it makes your ears bleed or a DVD that you either hate or else is so scratched up it skips all the best parts of the movie? Rather than simply throwing it away, one fun option is to microwave it to see plasma.

Whether you nuke the disc or not, it may contain real gold that you can recover. The gold is in the reflective surface of the disc. Only high-end discs use gold, which often gives them a distinctive color, so if you bought them on the cheap, chances are it contains a different metal. 

Gold in Jewelry

If jewelry contains real gold, it will carry a stamp.

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Your best bet for finding enough gold worth the time and effort of recovery is to examine gold jewelry. Now, lots of jewelry that looks like gold really isn't, and some jewelry that appears silver could contain quite a lot of gold (i.e., white gold). You can tell them apart by looking for a stamp or quality mark on the inside of rings and pendants and on the clasp of other jewelry.

Pure gold would be 24k, but that is too soft for use in jewelry. You might find 18k gold, which will be very "gold" in color. Other common markings are 14k and 10k. If you see 14k GF, it means the piece has a coating of 14k gold over a base metal. While it's not worth much on its own, a whole lot of plated jewelry could add up to a significant amount of gold.

Gold in Embroidered Clothing

Both gold and silver can be drawn into threads and used to embroider cloth.

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One characteristic of gold is that is extremely ductile. This means it can be drawn into fine wires or threads. You can find clothing that has real gold (and silver) embroidery. Decorative cloth may also contain gold.

How do you know you're looking at gold and not gold-colored plastic? Plastic melts at a low temperature. Another way to detect a real metal is that gold, like other metals, will fatigue and break. If you use a magnifying glass, you'll likely see a few broken threads on a piece of real gold embroidery.

Gold on Dishes and Flatware

China and silverware may contain high karat gold.

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 Many fine china patterns and some flatware contains real gold. The gold rims of cups and plates often are 24k or pure gold, so while there may not be a lot of gold on a single dish, the value can add up quickly. The best part is the gold scrapes off, so complicated chemical methods aren't required.

Usually, gold flatware is a lower purity of gold, since utensils take a lot of punishment, but there is more total mass of gold in them.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Where to Find Gold to Recycle and Use." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/where-do-you-find-gold-607643. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 29). Where to Find Gold to Recycle and Use. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/where-do-you-find-gold-607643 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Where to Find Gold to Recycle and Use." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/where-do-you-find-gold-607643 (accessed June 8, 2023).