If you have old, broken, or sentimental gold jewelry lying around, it’s logical to want something new made out of it – especially given the high cost of gold in today’s metal markets! Gold and other precious metals are commonly recycled by selling them to a refinery where they are melted, refined down to pure gold (or silver etc.), alloyed (mixed) with other metals, and cast into ingots or billets or produced as casting grains.
Casting grains are designed to be melted down and poured into molds to create what are called castings. Most highly detailed jewelry designs (including my high end custom rings) are cast. Casting grains come in every alloy (mixture of metals) imaginable, from pure gold intended to be mixed by the caster to create custom alloys, to grains of already formulated gold in various colors and carats tailored to different needs.
Ingots, or billets, are designed to be milled. This is a series of mechanical processes including rolling, pressing, annealing, and cutting, with the end result being precious sheet metal, wire, rods, and other stock. These are typically already alloyed into standard carats and colors. Many handmade jewelry articles are made by taking mill stock and bending, cutting, hammering, die striking, and soldering it. This type of jewelry is usually referred to as fabricated, as opposed to cast. Many of my earrings are die struck, and I do fabrication in-house as well.
Casting is a simple process at its most basic, but in order to produce quality, detailed castings free from defects sophisticated equipment and alloys are required. At Distinction Jewelry, we send our projects out to specialty casting houses in order to get the absolute highest quality casting. After casting, the piece comes back to us for finishing, stone setting, and polishing.
What Does All This Mean?
As you can see, refining previously used gold into a new piece of fine jewelry is a multi-step process. When we send gold to a refinery, we sell it to them to be melted down en masse. We then purchase finished mill stock, or contract out to a casting house in order to produce the jewelry you see on our website. That makes the refinery route impossible when it comes to renewing a customer’s personal gold pieces.
The next option would be to send it to the casting house to be melted in place of grains and then cast, but casting requires knowledge of the specific metals used in the alloy, their working properties, etc. If multiple pieces have to be melted together, or additional gold used in the casting, they may be incompatible and ruin the casting. For these reasons, most casting houses will refuse customer gold.
If you point to a piece of jewelry on my website and ask if I can make it out of your gold, the answer will have to be no.
The Last Hope
With all that said, I can and have made beautiful new jewelry directly from my customer’s gold. I melt it down with a jeweler’s torch and crucible, pour it out in the shape of a golden river, and then with the help of hammers, anvils, and draw plates fashion it into a band to bend into a ring. The ends of the band are soldered together, and the result is professionally polished. This is a labor intensive process and thus not where you should look if saving money is your primary motivation for re-using your gold.
The final outcome of this process is rustic in appearance compared to the perfectly smooth, refined jewelry pieces you are probably accustomed to seeing. The handmade nature of it can do wonders to enhance the sentimental value of the gold in your piece, however. I do bring them to a gleaming polish or satin finish, and they are quite beautiful. I can also solder on settings for diamonds and gemstones.
If you are interested in going ahead with a project of this nature, please contact me with the amount and karat of the gold you have, what shape of ring you have in mind, and any production deadlines for a quote. Please be aware that custom work may take 1-3 months depending on the job and my current workload.