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Using customers metal


#1

Looking for some advice or best-practices: We are selling our own
created and hand fabricated pieces, mostly using silver.

Every now and then, customers ask us for the price of certain pieces
made from gold. Easy if I supply the gold. Things get complicated if
they want us to use their old gold. I won’t

How do others handle this situation?

Thanks for your experiences,
Ditto


#2

I will use a customers gold IF its hall marked and the job is for a
casting.

I dont do this kind of work so I put it out to awax modeller, and
get it cast by my dental mechanic. He has a minimum gold weight of 25
grams and melts it into a lump first to see if its useable. He uses
high frequency induction melting coil and a centrifugal casting
setup.

Customers want family gold kept in the family for sentimental
reasons. The professional casters in London and birmingham wont do
one off small castings of customers gold. So its off the the dental
lab.

there happy to do this.

Did 2 signet rings recently like this. I Wont touch gold thats not
hall marked.

Hall marking is a blessing here in the UK.

Then the remade gold is tested and re marked by our assay office…


#3

Howdy,

I have a customer that says he has some silver, and wants to cut
costs. I tell him I don’t know what alloy the silver is, could be
anything, I haven’t seen it and I believe it’s unstamped.

He doesn’t have enough to do the job, so I’ve told him that we run
the risk of making the sterling I’d buy to complete the job "not"
sterling, basically lowering the value of the silver needed to be
bought.

I’d only use the customers gold if it was for sentimental reasons.

However if I were to use the customers gold, it’s a bit easier than
it is with silver, as we can do an acid test to determine the carat.
Figure out how much gold you’d need, deduct the amount the customer
has on hand, and charge for the remainder. Add your labour, and
present the figure to the customer.

Regards Charles A.


#4

Customer must sign and acknowledge that various imperfections
including: pits, carbon spots, porosity, and fire-scale could be
present in the newly cast piece if you are using their own "old"
gold. You cannot be liable for these outcomes. Customer risk.

The other option is to ask them to sell their old gold to a gold
buyer and use the money towards a deposit for the custom job.

Margie in MN where May feels like March


#5

Where I work, we give “old gold credit”, which is less than we’ll
get for it from the refiner-- much less.

Noel


#6

We give the customer credit for the new piece in exchange for their
old gold scrap value. We use fresh metal for their project. We then
add the old gold to our scrap to have it all refined at a later date.

We make a little money on the new and old metal exchange.

If the customer insists on having their gold in their project we
charge extra for the small batch refining fee that we will be charged
by our refiner.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#7

We have a daily price sheet (database based) that we input metal
spot prices into. Then it tells how much we charge for metal, and
how much we pay, with a higher amount if the customer is trading in
toward custom work. The sheet is confidential, but we use it to
calculate price sheets.

If the customer will want to use their gold for sentimental reasons,
we send it as a single lot refining order then charge a $150. fee
for this service.


#8
Things get complicated if they want us to use their old gold. How
do others handle this situation? 

If it’s clean, stamped gold and they want to use it for sentimental
reasons, sometimes we will. We don’t buy scrap but I have several
friends who do. In any case - The ring is a $500 job.


#9

I am asked this a lot. I say no and say I don’t cook metals.

Happy to send it to refiner if there is enough.

It can get very complicated. Will your test of the jewellery match
the fineness mark?

I was shown a large linked chain and asked what I thought it was.

Marked 14 kt Italy and I said as much. The lady then showed me the
assay report and told me to get my loupe out. Gold plate over
copper.

Personally I won’t touch other peoples’ metal because it is an
unknown quantity.

Higher skilled metal smiths than me will use it, but if casting what
do you do with the button?

Save yourself from potential headaches and upset customers when they
find out that granny’s heirloom piece is gold plated crap and set
with paste.

I pay top dollar for my 18 kt yellow as the quality from that
supplier is the best.

Richard
Xtines Jewels.


#10

I have explained the possible issues to the customer when using
customers old gold jewelry to cast a new design. I have had great
success over the years using customers 14 kt yellow gold to cast
with, and I have done a few fabrication jobs with 14 kt yellow. I
have cast with 14 kt white and the customers have been happy with
the results.

I have tried to fabricate with a customers old white gold jewelry
and these have always been spectacular failures.

I have been fortunate, I just use a lot of borax and heat the metal
till it looks clean and shiny on the top of the melted gold. I have
a big welding torch to melt gold for casting, getting the metal
liquid and rolling around really seems to help clean the metal to
have good results. I do not have issues with porosity.

Richard Hart G. G.
Denver, Co.


#11

If the customer has a desire to use their old metal in a new piece,
I’ll happily do it for them. We have the discussion about the
possible casting flaws that might occur so they are well aware of the
porosity or funny colors that might occur and the fact that I can’t
verify the karatage. I ask them if it is for sentimental reasons or
financial, if they reply financial I recommend trading it in for
fresh metal instead, it’s probably not worth the risk. But if it’s
for sentimental reasons, I tell them that they may have to accept a
"fingerprint that won’t wipe off kind of look". If they still want to
use it after that, I’m all over it. I don’t charge extra, I don’t
make them sign anything, I just do what they want. Never had an issue
with an unhappy customer, even if the casting came out a little swiss
cheesy. Part of the charm of using Gramma’s old ring.

I add a bit of ReCastIt from Roseco and I keep a button for just
such use. Far more often than not, the castings come out just fine
and I’m a hero. The customer is usually really happy because everyone
else has told them it can’t be done or they want to charge some
exorbitant amount that really amounts to them being told by their
now-former jeweler that “I don’t want to do that, you’re really being
a major pain in my neck” more than anything else.

What’s the problem? Why are so few willing to do what the customer
wants? Not just here on Orchid, I hear that kind of thing all the
time. It’s easy to do, it doesn’t require any special burnout or
investing, it doesn’t cost anything extra. The worst that can happen
is a less than perfect casting that the customer is already
expecting, and even in that rare case they can usually be made to
look pretty good through the use of burnishing and textures so that
few but other goldsmiths could ever see it.

I really am at a loss as to why this is an issue at all. But then
again, I can’t seem to grasp the concept that a customer that wants
their old findings and gold back after a repair is somehow being
unreasonable either.

Dave Phelps


#12

I offer to use their metal but tell them I cannot karat mark it
because the karat content will not be known. I council them that for
them having an unknown karat item may not be a problem but for
future generations it could be a problem especially if the metal
being used is being used for sentimental reasons.

If they want it karat marked I make an offer based on spot to sell me
the piece as scrap which they can use against my labor and calculate
the new item piece just as I normally would less their trade.

Sam Patania


#13

I get many clients that want things made from a piece they no longer
like stylistically just to reuse their gold. Others come in with a
piece that has sentimental value or may be an heirloom and want three
of something made to distribute the gold between three descendants.
Ok. If the gold is hallmarked and at least 18 Kt. I agree to use it
in the melt, but have them sign a waiver that outlines the potential
problems that may occur mixing their gold into the new alloy as I’m
certainly going to have to add clean gold and possibly a master alloy
to the weight to get X quantity necessary for the job. It gets pricey
though: I charge them for using their gold a flat rate of $150.00 up
to 10 dwt., then I have to figure the value of their “scrap” - that
is, what the local gold buyers would pay them for the lot - far below
spot, and far below what I would pay if I bought scrap. generally
around here its an embarrassing 35% of the actual value of the amount
of fine gold in an alloy. but that’s competitive…- and deduct that
from the materials charges. If it’s white gold regardless of karat I
flat out refuse the job stating that alloys used are too variable.
then from there there are all the customary costs involved with
fabricating and duplicating an agreed upon original design - unless
they want the original piece copied. If they want the colour of the
gold changed, or the karat changed, or both those are additional flat
rate charges In those cases. So before a pencil is put to paper to
render the design each piece is around $450-500 USD. in fees, I
rarely use the stones that may have been in the original but given
the stacking fees already tallied, don’t charge for stone
removal,(unless they are small chips or 100’s of very tiny, pain in
the ass, pave’d work on rails) but list it in the labour schedule. If
the stone happens to be a particularly nice precious gem I return it-
never mentioning having it cut down to 3 pieces so each recipient can
have a piece of grandmother’s rock !,and in the case of the tiny
pave’d stuff ordinarily it gets incinerated in the furnace or
crucible and if some live through the process, great- I know i’m
going to have to remelt it anyway to make the gold usable and small
stones aren’t worth the time to remove. Pretty much anyone has a jar
of take - out/ “accent” diamonds lying around, that keeps growing
their entire careers, and are rarely used save for making one’s own
diamond tipped tooling!..hope this helps. rer


#14
However if I were to use the customers gold, it's a bit easier
than it is with silver, as we can do an acid test to determine the
carat. Figure out how much gold you'd need, deduct the amount the
customer has on hand, and charge for the remainder. Add your
labour, and present the figure to the customer. 

A couple of things to consider, an acid test will only give a
reading on the surface spot being tested and will not tell you what
other metals are in the alloy. So heavy plating will test as high
carat gold but when you put the torch to it it is a bad day in the
studio. There are gold coins and ingots that are being passed off as
pure gold that have been drilled and filled with tungsten rods and a
gold plug burnished over the holes. Tungsten has almost the same
density as gold so if you end up with one of these in trade another
bad day in the shop. Mixing different alloys in the same crucible
can lead to unpredictable results and a less than desirable quality
of casting.

My point is that there are enough variables in making a nice custom
item for a customer adding in metal of uncertain origin and
composition just makes your job harder. If you must do this explain
these things to your customer when you are telling them that it will
cost more to use their gold rather than saving them money. And if
they insist then do like Michael Babinski suggested and send the
item out for small lot refining and use the gold from that as the
base to add to a master alloy of known composition to make the
piece.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#15
However if I were to use the customers gold, it's a bit easier
than it is with silver, as we can do an acid test to determine the
carat. Figure out how much gold you'd need, deduct the amount the
customer has on hand, and charge for the remainder. Add your
labour, and present the figure to the customer. 

A couple of things to consider, an acid test will only give a
reading on the surface spot being tested and will not tell you what
other metals are in the alloy. So heavy plating will test as high
carat gold but when you put the torch to it it is a bad day in the
studio. There are gold coins and ingots that are being passed off as
pure gold that have been drilled and filled with tungsten rods and a
gold plug burnished over the holes. Tungsten has almost the same
density as gold so if you end up with one of these in trade another
bad day in the shop. Mixing different alloys in the same crucible
can lead to unpredictable results and a less than desirable quality
of casting.

My point is that there are enough variables in making a nice custom
item for a customer adding in metal of uncertain origin and
composition just makes your job harder. If you must do this explain
these things to your customer when you are telling them that it will
cost more to use their gold rather than saving them money. And if
they insist then do like Michael Babinski suggested and send the
item out for small lot refining and use the gold from that as the
base to add to a master alloy of known composition to make the
piece.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#16

A question to all the re-melters of customers gold: How do you know
that the gold you have been asked to reuse is not stolen.

Where I live, I must keep scrap gold for 6 months, make a photocopy
of a piece of identity off the seller and be registered with the
police as someone buying gold off the street.


#17
Far more often than not, the castings come out just fine and I'm a
hero. The customer is usually really happy because everyone else
has told them it can't be done or they want to charge some
exorbitant amount that really amounts to them being told by their
now-former jeweler that "I don't want to do that, you're really
being a major pain in my neck" more than anything else. 

My experience is very much the same as Dave’s. I cast once a week
and most weeks there is a least one flask that is getting customer’s
gold. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, but they usually
don’t. How is this different from anything else in life? A couple of
years back, when business was pretty bad, using customer’s gold was
the edge that brought in enough business that I could make ends meet.

After all, in third world goldsmithing cultures, reusing customer’s
gold is the norm rather than the exception. How hard can it be?

Test the gold. Do the math. Sweeten the melt up with some fine gold
or fresh alloy if it needs it. If you are doing your own casting
this is a huge advantage you have over jewelers that don’t or won’t
use customer’s gold. Jewelry is an emotional product. Customers are
going to choose the jewelers that satisfy their desires.

Stephen Walker


#18
A couple of things to consider, an acid test will only give a
reading on the surface spot being tested and will not tell you
what other metals are in the alloy. So heavy plating will test as
high carat gold 

Working with client’s gold is how business is conducted in Russia,
at least that is how it was when I was there. To determine purity of
an alloy one can drill small holes in couple of places and test swarf
for purity. Plated items will reveal themselves under this test.

If drilling is not possible, than specific gravity test can be used.
Take finely graduated cylinder and fill it up with water. Mark the
level and lower item into the glass. Mark the level of water again.
The difference is volume of the item. Water specific gravity is 1.
Weigh the item and divide by weight of displaced water which is equal
to it’s volume. The test in not accurate for small quantities, but
for quantity of metal necessary for fabrication it is good enough.

The item must be cleaned and degreased before testing.

Specific gravity of gold is 19.2, silver 10.5, and copper 8.9.

SG of gold/silver 14k alloy is 14.2. SG of gold/copper 14k alloy is
12.7.

SG of standard 14k alloy should be between 12.7 and 14.2
Anything below 12.7 is a suspect and should be tested further.

Leonid Surpin
Studioarete.com


#19
A question to all the re-melters of customers gold: How do you
know that the gold you have been asked to reuse is not stolen. 

You never know for sure, but generally thieves want money, not
custom jewelry creations with a sentimental back story.

On the other hand, the customer may have doubts if the gold they get
back is really the same material they brought in.

Where I live, I must keep scrap gold for 6 months, make a
photocopy of a piece of identity off the seller and be registered
with the police as someone buying gold off the street. 

Those rules are local. Here in New York State they are generally by
county. I keep scrap for 2 weeks and photocopy ID, my rule, not the
law.

But if I am using the gold for the customer’s project it is not the
same because I am giving it back to them. Sometimes I let the
customer participate in the casting. In those cases they come to the
shop when the flask is already burned out and bring their old gold
with them. They have custody right up to the crucible. Offering this
does a lot to build trust, but most times the customer does it for
emotional reasons. Or for fun.

Stephen Walker


#20
How do you know that the gold you have been asked to reuse is not
stolen. 

Very good point. I have not used a customers gold where I do not
personally know the customer.

If I were to use a customers gold, where I did not know the
customer, I would want assurances.

Regards Charles A.