Bill, We use red devil lye. I take a 600ml pyrex beaker, fill it
half full of water and add about a tablespoon of lye. Toss in any
gold jewelry as long as there are no stones in it, diamonds are ok,
let come to a simmer and leave it for about half an hour. Don’t let
it boil because it can foam up and over the edge of your pot, landing
on the burner and you won’t hardly be able to get near it. Check on
it to make sure you don’t simmer out all your water, I have done that
a few times. If you do, let it cool, add more water, bring back to a
simmer and all will be fine. The lye will eat hair, skin, lotion,
dirt etc. We do quite a few repairs in our shop. As we go over the
repairs anything that looks caked up or hairy goes directly into the
lye pot. Lye is caustic so it can irritate the skin and eat small
holes in clothing, so use appropriate care when handling. It’s not
anywhere near the danger of many of the acids we use in the shop.
Lye is sold at most grocery stores. My grandmother used to make soap
out of it.