Why Not Re-Use Your Old Gold?
What About That Pile of Broken, Dated and Old Gold? Have you ever wondered if you could re-use your old gold and re-cast it into something new?
A client asked me, her Goleta Jeweler, last week if I could make one of my more intricate rings using the gold she had from three old earrings and two old rings. I had to tell her it wouldn't be a good idea.There are two main reasons that this is a bad idea.
Three Reasons Not to Re-Use Your Old Gold
1. Doing a single casting wastes gold.
2. The alloys in the gold DO NOT cooperate when being re-cast.
3. Single castings don't benefit from the vacuum casting technology. Vacuum casting gives your jeweler a better finish and higher chance of excellent casting result for your project.
1. Why Single Casting Uses More Gold
Typically, professional casting companies cast multiple items at the same time.
This saves on material and labor costs. Casting a single item costs more.
When I cast my designs with my caster it is done with many other jewelers’ items.
When casting multiple items, we are able to use smaller sprues, which are the little pipes of gold that lead into the design I’m casting.
When I cast a single design I have to use a single casting crucible (like a bowl that you melt the gold in).
I need up up three times as much gold as your ring will need to do the casting.
That extra gold goes into the sprue. When we cast multiple pieces the sprues can be much shorter.
That is not the biggest reason I don't recommend re-using your old gold in casting.
2. Finicky Alloys in Gold Cause Trouble When Re-Used
14k gold jewelry is an alloyed mixture made of 58% of pure gold and of 42% other metals. Gold as a pure metal, can be used over and over again.
It’s the other metals that are used as hardening alloys that can screw up the batch.
Without scientific testing in a lab, it’s impossible to know what the alloy metals in your old gold are, much less their quantities.
When those alloys that aren’t chosen for their ability to be cast repeatedly are asked to combine and be re-cast weird things can happen.
Doing a single piece casting from a bunch of old gold and its mystery alloys, risks discoloration, porosity, and cracking.
Having done single casting earlier in my career, I’ve experienced all three bad outcomes.
I'd been advised never to use old gold in casting and I felt like a proper idiot when I did it anyway and created various disasters.
3. Vacuum Casting Creates More Efficiency
When casting into a mold, an even pressure must be applied to the molten gold to make it go into the mold. (Your design).
The vacuum pulls the molten gold evenly into the molds. Getting molten metal into small areas in a mold can be challenging.
The even suction of vacuum casting is ideal for getting a complete casting.
The other advantage of vacuum casting is that it is done with an ambient gas like argon and no oxygen.
This is a weird detail, but important to understanding what can go wrong with casting. Gold loves oxygen. And when gold is heated it somehow grabs oxygen if given a chance.
As the gold cools in its new shape after casting, it let's go of the oxygen it grabbed while hotter.
However as its solidifying and cooling, the large oxygen bubbles can't always make it out before the gold cools.
This causes porosity. Porosity is not always visible. It causes weakness in the newly cast piece as the integrity of the new piece is riven with air pockets.
Some are visible and some are hidden weaknesses.
Recycling: It’s Hip and Old Gold's Not Helping You by Taking up Space!
A better alternative to trying to re-cast your old jewelry is to recycle it. I give my clients credit on old gold jewelry that they use toward new projects.
For example, my client Mary was helped in paying for her new ruby and diamond ring by giving me a heavy old broken chain worth $500.00. And my contractor client Billy, totally paid for the repair of his wedding band by trading in his old, out of date, 70’s gold bracelet. I actually gave him money when I delivered his wedding band to him. It was cool and made us laugh.
By recycling your old gold, you’re also helping save the planet! For every ounce of gold successfully mined, tons of earth is dug up. With the price of gold today, you might be sitting on hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of gold.
What if that tangled ball of ancient gold chains in the back of your jewelry box would actually pay for a brand new ring? Wouldn’t that be nice!
If You Have Sentimental Reasons to Re-Use That Gold
If you have strong feelings about your grandfather's wedding band or the ring that came over from the old country 100 years ago, it's understandable that you may want that actual gold to used in your design no matter what.
There is a way to do this. I work with a refiner who will refine the troublesome alloys out of a small amount of gold. I can then directly use your gold, add more fresh gold and do a single casting that will use your gold. It is not an economical way to go, but it is doable.
Sarah's Ring Blessed by the Pope
My client Sarah was given a wedding band from her grandmother that was blessed by the Pope. Her Nana wanted it to go into her wedding ring when she married. Sarah wanted to honor her deceased Nana's wishes.
Sarah had three rings from her Nana in addition to the blessed band and wanted to use them all. Two of them did not have a karat stamp. They were gold, but the karat of gold was a mystery. My gold refiner agreed to refine her small amount of gold. Refining it removes the alloy metals as much as possible from the gold content.
We added 50% new gold to the mix and alloyed it freshly. After her single casting was done, I gave her the leftover sprue of gold.
Her relationship with her Nana was very important to her. Having her engagement ring made with some of her Nana's gold meant the world to her. The extra cost involved was not an issue. I was glad to be able to help her. We both had to pull out tissues when I delivered her ring to her.
Design Something Special for Yourself
By all means, bring me your old earrings, rings, chains, and bracelets. I’ll tell you what the batch is worth. Then we can use your gold credit toward designing and making that special ring that’s been floating around in your mind for the last two decades.
What's the Takeaway Message Here?
There are many the steps of casting gold and more than one method.
I could melt and re-use your gold, but it wouldn’t be a happy experience for either of us. Let’s look at your old gold to figure out the recycle value you have.
Then let’s discuss the project you’d like to have and make that happen. You do have options.
I am so relieved to get this information about whether or not you can re-melt a bunch of different old gold jewelry to make new jewelry! Thank you, Calla for helping me make some tough decisions about some pieces that I have. Yeah! I needed this. I like as well that after you tell me what happens when you re-cast old gold, you offer the alternative you have been using. Offering options is a good thing to do.
Melodee, It’s funny I’ve been asked about re-using old gold so many times, I’m surprised at myself that I didn’t blog about this sooner. As it sat in my drafts folder I sent it to three people who inquired about it. I was waiting for a picture of what a small casting looked like compared to using a casting tree. Once I had that bam, the post went up. Yesterday I delivered a beautiful ring with three bezel set diamonds to my client. She loved it. Her diamonds used to be in a very narrow prong setting, she wasn’t wearing… Read more »
Gold is not the first thing or the tenth thing that comes to mind when I think about recycling. I never thought about how one ounce of gold does indeed require tons of earth being dug up. Sounds like a great idea trading in old out-dated gold for credits towards something new and contemporary – thanks for sharing Calla!
I’m happy to create another gold jewelry recycling convert! I’ve watched again and again the pleasure when people have rooted out the old and end up with the new. They are so happy!
I’m a recycling queen. This is so cool. Recycling and jewelry in the same blog post!
Thanks for the good ideas about how to deal with my old broken and unworn inherited gold.
You’ve given me ideas Calla Gold. I’ll remember your name.
Thanks for coming by and being a good recyler!
Hello Calla, I feel like this is a dear Abby letter. I should start it Dear Calla! I have a big gold band from my grandfather and I really want to use the gold to make a ring for myself. He didn’t have much and the story is that he mined the gold for the band ring. Could you re-use it? Would I have to do a simple design or could it be more complicated? I’d really like a ring to remind me of him. He was like a size 13 and I’m a 6! I look forward to your… Read more »
I work with a gold refiner, which is basically a gold recycler who does very small batch refining on request. This is where your little pile of gold is refined removing the old alloys. So your gold is pure and ready to be re-used. It’s re-alloyed for strength and enough new gold is added for me to successfully be able to do a single casting with your own gold in your new design.
You can be as detailed or as unique in the design as you want.
Thank you for asking Tracey!
I was just wondering if you could help me out. I was trying to find out how much it would cost to melt down my grandma’s necklace and make it into a male wedding ring? It is a nice thick necklace made of Italian 24ct gold do it says. And I would like to make it into a ring to have a part of her with me. If you could give mea ballpark price I would greatly appreciate it.
Hi Garrett, I recently had a client who wanted to melt down gold and make a wedding band. The gold with the alloys wasn’t suitable for making a ring. I can give gold credit but not use it because of the alloys. Another client wanted a super simple textured pendant made of a big ring. I was able to do that. There was a bit of discoloration on the finished pendant, but since I was texturing I was able to render the problem area invisible. Because of the problems with re-using the metal alloys in the gold I don’t recommend… Read more »
My biggest concern is lossing money selling my gold and getting a not so great economical purchase on something new As a client you can always lose both ways. They will always tell you it’s worth less and you always think it’s more expensive to buy. Unfortunately it can always be a bad experience no matter what you do.
Dear Dave, You are right that it can be frustrating knowing that you paid $200.00 for a fancy pair of earrings and then you find out that if you melt it down you only get $58.00. You also can’t sell your car for what you paid for it. If you buy a bar of pure gold as an investment and later sell it you’ll get the full value. Jewelry isn’t an investment from gold investment standpoint. It is a symbol, a gift, love, beauty. It does have intrinsic value, but the workmanship and artistry that went in to making it… Read more »
I just stumbled upon this blog now-I am a jeweller based in new Zealand.On average i get asked this question 10 times a day .I have exactly the same sentiments regarding old gold .A great read!
P.S. great answer on the question before.
Hello Deb, Thank you for writing from New Zealand. It’s always a pleasure to hear from other jewelers. I can’t tell you how many times people call me with this question and I just email them the link to this blog post. I am delighted to save the time by sending it. You might appreciate this story. I was called by a very detail oriented guy. “I know you jewelers are all out to make a buck,” he says. “I do make a living sir. How may I help you?” I say. “I paid $458.00 for a chain from your… Read more »
Thank you for the information. I am confused however as to what happens to my gold if I use it to part pay for my new piece? If, as you so brilliantly explained, it cannot be used for casting new pieces, what is the point of you buying it? I assume you don’t just store it on a shelf somewhere! 😉
You are a smart girl. It is true that I don’t just store it away. When I have bought a kilo worth, which can take a while I can bring it to my refiner who recycles it. I really believe it is a green thing to do to recycle unworn gold. You get the credit to use for something you will wear and the world gets new gold which it needs without having to mine it. Thank you for your good question.
Your Personal Jeweler,
Wow, what a bunch of lies, too many dumb people in this world, you are not savng the planet but selling this guy your gold so he can make more money off you, you could have your gold melted down into bars if you want then you could have your pure gold bars turned into a nice piece of jewelry or sell it to someone like this guy that wrote this article and give up more then half its value, to save the planet lol
Hello Jesus, For the record I am a woman. I’d like to point out that if you have a bunch of gold and want to make it into a pure bar of gold you need to have it refined. There is a cost involved. And you need a minimum amount of gold to do this. If you just make a bar out of your random jewelry you are keeping all the alloy metals in it and it would not be suitable for jewelry making. With enough gold it’d be fine to pay to have it refined into a bar. As… Read more »
Calla saying she makes it into gold bars, simply by melting it, which is real money and worth more then what she gave you
Dear Jesus, I’m not sure what blog post you just read Jesus, but I do not make gold bars. Taking in old gold is not part of my business model other than to help my clients pay for their services an alternate way or in some cases re-use their gold. My purpose in writing this blog post was to answer the, “what do I do with this old setting, single earring, gold bridge from dental work, knotted mess of thin chains?” And the frequent question, “Can you make a new ring out of this old ring?” I have answered questions… Read more »