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Melting and reusing gold jewelry scraps


#1

I’ve asked a few family members if they have any odds and ends of
gold they would like to get rid of (items no longer wanted due to
being broken, ugly, orphaned, etc.) and my sister turned out to be a
gold mine (!), having apparently been a little addicted to QVC in
the nineties.

I’d like to melt down these 14K and 10K gold items. But most of them
were made as cheaply as possible: hollow with soldered seams. Can I
make an item from a melted down 14K bracelet and call it 14K, or
does the solder change the K? And, will I have problems working with
the material if it has unknown type solder in it? Suggestions,
warnings? (Or must I wait till the very distant day when I have
enough scrap for refining?)

Thanks much,
Carolyn R
(in steamy Houston. It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity. )

P.S. By the way, acting on the suggestion of an orchid poster,
(thank you!) I do occasionally pop into an estate sale when I happen
to see one, and do in fact find a little gold here and there.
(example: ugly little toe ring missing its stone, 10K gold, 25
cents. How cool is that!!! )


#2

Carolyn, If you are in Houston just take your scrap (gold or silver)
to Houston Precious Metals, 607 Chenevert and ask for Pat. You can
tell him I sent you. Phone 713-228-3931 they pay the best prices in
town and will take care of your scrap sales as well as sell you 24kt
for alloying. I have used these people for years,even after I moved
to Arkansas I still ship them my scrap. I send all my jeweler friends
there as well. Even those not in Houston.

Frank Goss


#3

Depending on when the work was made the solder may indeed lower the
karat value too much. Regulations are stricter now about what is
allowed in the way of deviation from the stamped karatage in the US.
But a much bigger problem is solder will make the metal useless for
any fine work. It will make bad castings and poor mill product. Just
trade it in for clean metal with your refiner.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#4

I have been re-casting customers gold for years. I have found a good
product for cleaning up yellow gold material when casting. It is an
alloy supplied by United Precious Metal (1-800-999-fine). Makes the
casting come out nice and clean. I add 7% of the alloy to the
customers gold, together with 5% pure gold, which keeps the karat
consistent. I should state that I do NOT stamp the cast item with a
karat mark. I would recommend that you try it.

Ted


#5

Carolyn,

When I was in school, I brought in some gold scraps to melt down so
I could make gold pieces with them & not spend a fortune on buying
gold. My teacher told me I might have a problem working with it, I’d
much more enjoy working with “fresh” gold, but I did it anyway. The
first time I did it, I had really an odd collection, I don’t know
what it all was. It worked OK, but it was temperamental for sure.
From then on, I at least made sure the karat was all the same. He
said that might make it a bit easier to work with, and I suppose it
did. I was never told that I needed to worry about the solder in
there, or that it would change what I could call the metal. I’ve
only ever used a bit of that for pieces I sold, mostly it was for my
own enjoyment, so I wasn’t too concerned about it. I was “allowed” to
stamp it 14K, though, and I’m assuming he would have told me not to
if it was an issue. That’s certainly not an official “OK”, just my
experience. :slight_smile: I did stop doing that, though, as I no longer have
the facilities (big old honkin’ torch, for one thing) to melt it &
pour into a wire or block. I sent in the rest as scrap & just start
fresh now. By the way, congrats on finding your local gold mine! Just
remember, you don’t need a ton to send it in somewhere. A small
handful of pieces (assuming they’re not all 10K) will certainly give
you something useful in return, more if you ask for credit to use
with them, as opposed to just a check. I know other folks here have
used a myriad of places for sending in scrap gold. I have used only
Rio myself, but I’ve been very pleased so far.

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com


#6

Carat solder has the same gold content as the metal but contains
nasties like cadmium which is definitely bad for you and your
castings so beware when melting it in quantity. I find that if you
use too much scrap in a melt you have to flux the metal more and you
get a bit more pitting as the tiny bits of oxide, flux glass and odd
bits tend to stick to the surface and dissolve in the pickle leaving
a slightly rough surface. I centrifugally cast so am more likely to
get these problems compared to vacuum or button casting.

Nick


#7

I have a loaded question-After all I am a sales rep for a refiner!
With all the recent attention paid to “reclaimed” or “green” or
"Earthwise" (Trademark!) AND-Given the relatively low cost of
refining gold-and the return of your own 24kt when refined-

Why mess with scrap other than when you are in a pinch? If refining
is as much as 5% (a rate easily beaten to two or three percent) that
is about $30 or less per ounce pure. I suspect a jeweler could easily
spend more than that wrestling with a temperamental batch of gold.
Once you get past the minimum charges, send it in to your trusted
refiner.

Daniel Ballard
Precious Metals West
National Sales Manager


#8
If refining is as much as 5% (a rate easily beaten to two or three
percent) that is about $30 or less per ounce pure. 

Daniel Ballard certainly has this right. I know some of you are
purists out there who feel a strong need to do everything from
scratch, but if your goal is to make jewelry you have to think about
all of that time that is wasted trying to pour metal, refine it, make
something out of a pour that isn’t clean look right, etc. Certainly
if you undervalue your labor (as many of you unfortunately do) it
might (I emphasize might) make sense to approach things this way but
the reality is that it is simply cheaper and more time effective to
leave the refining to a refiner and use clean (accurately karated)
metal from them. I’m not saying there is never a time to pour your
own metal, just that it seems kind of silly to spend a huge amount
of time dealing with this when you could be making beautiful jewels
up instead.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#9
Why mess with scrap other than when you are in a pinch? 

I agree and would like to add that (I feel anyway) a professional
jeweler has an unspoken obligation to the customer. They are buying a
new product. It seems to me using inferior scrap material is not
looking after the client’s best interest and therefor ultimately your
own. If you can process scrap inhouse as mentioned elsewhere so that
you get very clean finished product, fine. The characteristics of the
reconditioned gold are as new. But if you sell a product that has
pits or ‘deficiencies’ and the client sees it, even if they say
nothing, has your cost saving really been worth it? Can you count on
that client returning for more purchases? The core of our trade is
repeat business, foster that and you’ll do OK. That is why we should
be very concerned about quality in general…the next sale.

Every time gold is remelted the karat actually goes up, as some
alloy constituents burn off. But this is by no means desirable
because any solder porosity in the mix also gets worse every time its
melted.

Now, if one is reusing this scrap purely as a learning aid or as a
hobby with no intention of selling the article as a ‘new’ piece of
professionally made jewelry than I don’t see an ethical problem at
all. If one can further one’s experience this way, by all means have
at it.


#10

What he (Neil) said. And, I might add, if your customer has some idea
that his gold has some magical connection to the previous wearer, and
wants you to use his scrap after you’ve informed him that you cannot
in good conscience stamp any karat numbers on the finished piece and
explain to him why not, and cleared it with him that there may be
some porosity as well, there is then no reason not to use his scrap
and charge him a little extra for the extra work involved.