Potassium Cyanide vs. Potassium Gold Cyanide

What's the Difference?

Potassium Cyanide and Potassium Gold Cyanide are both chemical compounds that contain the element potassium and cyanide. However, they differ in terms of their composition and properties. Potassium Cyanide is a highly toxic and deadly compound, commonly used in industries for gold and silver extraction, as well as in chemical synthesis. It is a white crystalline solid that releases hydrogen cyanide gas when exposed to moisture or acids. On the other hand, Potassium Gold Cyanide is a complex compound used in electroplating processes to deposit gold onto various surfaces. It is a yellowish-white powder that is less toxic compared to Potassium Cyanide. Despite their similarities, it is crucial to handle both compounds with extreme caution due to their potential hazards.


AttributePotassium CyanidePotassium Gold Cyanide
Chemical FormulaKCNKAu(CN)2
Molecular Weight65.12 g/mol288.1 g/mol
AppearanceWhite crystalline solidYellow crystalline solid
Solubility in WaterHighly solubleHighly soluble
ToxicityHighly toxicHighly toxic
UsesChemical synthesis, gold mining, electroplatingElectroplating, gold refining
ApplicationsUsed in insecticides, fumigants, and metal cleaningUsed in electroplating to deposit gold layers

Further Detail


Potassium cyanide (KCN) and potassium gold cyanide (KAu(CN)2) are two chemical compounds that contain cyanide ions. While both compounds share the same potassium cation, they differ in terms of the other elements they are bonded with. In this article, we will explore and compare the attributes of potassium cyanide and potassium gold cyanide, including their chemical properties, uses, and potential hazards.

Chemical Properties

Potassium cyanide is a white crystalline solid with a chemical formula KCN. It is highly soluble in water and forms a colorless solution. The compound consists of potassium cations (K+) and cyanide anions (CN-). Potassium cyanide is a strong electrolyte, meaning it dissociates completely into ions when dissolved in water.

On the other hand, potassium gold cyanide is a complex salt with the chemical formula KAu(CN)2. It is also a white crystalline solid and highly soluble in water. Unlike potassium cyanide, potassium gold cyanide contains gold (Au) atoms in addition to potassium and cyanide ions. The presence of gold gives this compound unique properties and applications in various industries.


Potassium cyanide has several applications across different fields. One of its primary uses is in gold mining and electroplating processes. It is employed to extract gold from ores by forming a soluble complex with the metal. Additionally, potassium cyanide is used in the production of organic chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, dyes, and plastics. It can also be utilized as a fumigant for pest control in certain agricultural settings.

On the other hand, potassium gold cyanide finds its main application in the electroplating industry. It is used as a gold source for electroplating processes, where a thin layer of gold is deposited onto various surfaces to enhance their appearance or provide corrosion resistance. Potassium gold cyanide is also utilized in the manufacturing of jewelry, decorative items, and electronic components.

While both compounds have significant uses in electroplating, their specific applications differ due to the presence of gold in potassium gold cyanide. This compound is specifically employed when a gold coating is desired, whereas potassium cyanide is more versatile and can be used for various metals.

Potential Hazards

It is crucial to acknowledge the potential hazards associated with both potassium cyanide and potassium gold cyanide due to their cyanide content. Cyanide is a highly toxic compound that can be lethal even in small quantities. Both compounds can release toxic hydrogen cyanide gas when exposed to acids or when heated.

Handling potassium cyanide requires extreme caution, as ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact can lead to severe poisoning. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning include headache, dizziness, rapid breathing, and in severe cases, loss of consciousness and death. Therefore, strict safety measures, such as proper ventilation, personal protective equipment, and secure storage, are essential when working with these compounds.

While potassium gold cyanide shares the same hazards as potassium cyanide, its use in electroplating and jewelry manufacturing is generally well-regulated to minimize the risks. Strict protocols and safety guidelines are followed to ensure the protection of workers and the environment.


In conclusion, potassium cyanide and potassium gold cyanide are two chemical compounds that differ in their composition and applications. Potassium cyanide is a versatile compound used in gold mining, electroplating, and the production of various organic chemicals. On the other hand, potassium gold cyanide, with its gold content, is primarily employed in electroplating and jewelry manufacturing. Both compounds pose significant hazards due to their cyanide content, requiring strict safety measures when handling. Understanding the attributes and applications of these compounds is crucial for their safe and responsible use in various industries.

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