x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Gold transforms from molten liquid to gleaming bar

Gold is produced in three departments at a refinery in Sharjah.

Watching a bar of gold form before your eyes from molten orange liquid bubbling in a mould to a shiny yellow brick on a dark slab of cold steel, one instantly understands why we prize the element above all others, and why those who could produce it were once considered magicians.

The metal passes through several states as it cools from an almost transparent semi-solid that is so appealing in colour and consistency that it looks almost edible, like caramel cooling into hard candy.

A flawless and brilliant golden surface emerges slowly from this sticky mass until the gold cools completely into the smooth, gleaming bar we covet. The astonishing transformation is so awe-inspiring you can almost hear it.

Monzer Medakka, the managing director of Kaloti Gold, watches this process perhaps hundreds of times a day. What is more, the gold refinery he runs in Sharjah is strewn with the stuff. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold bars, gold sheets formed in electrolysis baths, and bags of scrap gold brought in to be refined.

There is even a large plastic bin filled with gold sand - a remarkable substance that looks and feels like common or garden construction sand but is in fact made of pure gold.

"Pick it up, feel it," Mr Medakka says. He is the life and soul of the place. "But wear a glove," he adds. "If not your hands will be dyed blue and it is very hard to get off."

Mr Medakka knows how to operate everything in the refinery, for he built it all over 25 years - even the giant walk-in safe that is filled with dozens of bags of scrap gold.

"I made it all myself," he says. "This is all concrete and steel inside. You are very welcome to try to break in, but I made this 25 years ago. Now we would buy it all from Switzerland but then I made it myself. Even the strong door, we made it here."

The gold itself is made in three departments - melting, electrolysis and aqua regia - a chemical process involving different acids.

"We can melt 150 kilos of gold every hour," Mr Medakka says. "We make 250 kilos at one time. This is 250 kilo just finished," he says, gesturing towards an enormous quantity of molten metal.

As workers leave the premises each day they are scanned with a metal detector in silence. "Nobody steals from us," Mr Medakka says with a grin. "Gold is too heavy to hide."

I wondered if anyone had thought of pocketing a small handful of the priceless sand produced by aqua regia and then I looked at my fingers. Caught blue-handed.

jdoran@thenational.ae