Refining Gold

See the many steps gold goes through to be transformed from its raw state into the beautiful bullion coins and jewelry people everywhere know and love

The world’s fascination with gold is nothing new. Since ancient times, people have prized the yellow metal for its beautiful color, malleability and its resistance to tarnish.

In fact, 78 percent of the yearly supply of gold is made into jewelry, according to the American Museum of Natural History. “Other industries, mostly electronics, medical, and dental, require about 12 percent, and the remaining 10 percent of the yearly gold supply is used in financial transactions.”

But, how does the raw gold, drawn from the depths of the earth get transformed into what you see in your local jewelry store or the beautiful pure gold bullion coins and bars you can purchase from Provident Metals? Gold refinement is a process that takes many hands and many steps to complete.

To understand what went into making that gold ring on your finger, or many of your favorite pieces in your coin collection, see the explanations below.

Finding Gold

Although the U.S. made gold mining popular with the California Gold Rush in the 1800s, the majority of gold in the world is not located in America.

According to the American Museum of Natural History, the largest surface reserve of gold lies somewhere in the world’s oceans. In fact, there is likely 8 times more gold in Earth’s watery depths than the total amount of gold mined on land up to the present. However, the logistics of setting up a mining operation in the ocean make gold extraction there infeasible.

The largest land deposits of gold are located in South Africa; though, gold is found in many other countries. South African mines have been responsible for more than 40 percent of the total gold production. Other top gold producers include:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Ghana
  • Kazakhstan
  • Mali
  • Russia
  • United States

Extraction Process

Gold is derived from the ground through either placer or lode mining. Placer mining, or panning, is the act of extracting gold from sand or gravel. Think of gold miners squatting alongside rivers, swishing water and sediment around in a circle with a gold pan. The lighter material gets washed away, while the heavier material (gold) stays on the bottom of the pan. Of course, large scale mining operation have developed much more advanced panning methods these days compared to the gold seekers of old.

Sluicing, another version of placer mining, utilizes a slanted box with ripples and continuous running water, such as the ones they use on the popular TV show “Gold Rush.” The sluice boxes can range from small wooden boxes to large industrious metal ones.

Lode, or vein, mining is when gold is extracted from solid rock beneath the earth. It is usually obtained through tunnels dug into the earth or a mountain.

Post-Mining & Refinement

Most gold is found in a state of purity, but at times it can be combined with another element, such as quartz. If gold is mixed with another element, it is crushed and then powdered using specialized tools.

What happens next is a chemical process. One way this has been done throughout history is by the use of mercury. Gold, like most minerals, can be “dissolved” in mercury to form what’s called an amalgam. The gold amalgam is then separated from any unreacted mercury. Gold is then extracted from the amalgam through a process called “electrowinning,” where an electric current is passed through the mixture causing the gold to come together in a solid state.

Smelting is the final step in the purifying process. It is the process of heating the gold to around 2,100 degrees Celsius, thus burning off the “slag” or unwanted elements from the base element.

Buying & Selling Pure Gold

Once the gold has been extracted and refined, it is then sold to gold buyers. Buyers test the gold for purity and give an offer based on the current market gold prices. Gold prices are continually updated, so you can easily find up-to-the-minute market prices on sites like or on

For the final step, the purchased gold is sent to a metalworker to be made into jewelry, coins or bars through one of several techniques, such as vacuum and centrifugal lost wax casting, vulcanized and silicone mold processes, hydraulic press techniques and die forming, or three-dimensional modeling and CNC milling.

Here at Provident Metals, we take care of all the details of turning gold in its raw form into the shiny and pure precious metal bullion that investors everywhere know and love. Whether you are looking to buy gold bars for wealth protection, or gold coins to grow your own collection, we invite you to browse our inventory of gold bullion products at your leisure.

Have a question? Feel free to contact us for an answer. Or consult our Bullion & Coins Buying Guides for fast information on all of our precious metal items, including gold, silver, platinum, palladium and copper bullion and coins.