Silver is a precious metal people have used to fashion jewelry and use as currency for thousands of years. It also functions as an excellent conductor of electricity in electrical contacts and circuit boards. However, it is not easy to find silver in its pure form. It is often found in metallic ores that contain quantities of other metals, such as copper. To separate silver from an ore containing a quantity of copper, you need to heat the ore sample to a level sufficient to melt the silver but leave the copper in a still-solid state.
- Metal melting furnace
- Safety glasses
- Heavy apron
- Silver and copper ore
Take great care when removing the heated crucible at the end. If molten metal splashes onto your skin, it can cause severe burns.
Put on a heavy apron, then don heavy gloves and safety glasses. Leave these protective items and garments on for the duration of this procedure. The metal melting furnace will reach temperatures of nearly 1,000 degrees Celsius. Later steps will require you to remove a crucible filled with molten silver. Do not remove the safety gear until the silver has cooled.
Deposit the ore sample in a crucible made from heat-resistant ceramic material. Take the crucible to the metal melting furnace and place it inside. Make sure the furnace is securely shut before you turn it on.
Heat the furnace until it reaches a temperature just above 962 degrees Celsius. Maintain the temperature at this level and no higher. This is the melting point for silver. At 1,083 degrees Celsius, the copper would begin to melt as well.
When the silver has melted and formed a pool in the bottom of the crucible, turn the furnace off. Open the furnace just slightly and allow hot air to dissipate before opening it completely. Reach in and remove the crucible using a pair of tongs. Keep the crucible distant from your body at all times. Place it on a nearby table free of flammable items.
Pour the molten silver into another crucible or a mold of your choice. Dispose of the copper and other remnants left in the first crucible after it cools.
Let the silver cool until it reaches room temperature. At this point, it should be solid and completely free of copper.
Things You'll Need
- Take great care when removing the heated crucible at the end. If molten metal splashes onto your skin, it can cause severe burns.
About the Author
Robert Paxton has been writing professionally since 2002 when he published his first novel. He has also published short stories and poems and writes ad copy for various websites. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in creative writing. Paxton is a trained Montessori instructor who has taught at both the elementary and the secondary levels.