October 6, 2016 Michelle Sawbridge

Recycling Precious Metals

The life of Silver in the workshop.

An important practice in the workshop that I have always been keen to follow is: to be meticulous about keeping all work waste of precious metals. All of the trimmings, fillings and odd shaped off-cuts that are discarded when making each different piece are swept into a small tub for a rainy day.

I find that this practice is now more important than ever in my time of jewellery production.

Rewind to the summer, after returning from an incredible honeymoon I re opened my shop and excitedly ordered some pieces of silver sheet, however when the invoice arrived I was shocked at the price!

Our honeymoon coincided with the unfortunately coined ‘Brexit’ vote. We both voted then left the country and access to the news for 3 weeks. When I looked back through the past months precious metal prices after the specific date when the ‘Brexit’ vote results were released, precious metals alongside a myriad of other commodities had experienced a huge spike in price. Silver in particular having almost doubled in price per Kilo. (You can now see my shock at the invoice from the silver purchase)

This graph shows the dramatic leap in price in the large ugly blue area of the graph.

Where political instability or changes occur precious metals as well as many other commodities are  hugely effected. Not forgetting the massive drop in the strength of the pound in currency. This as you can imagine has not only been frustrating for me to buy silver but also for selling my finished pieces. Having spent time carefully pricing each piece accordingly, all of the prices were now completely wrong. I was really happy with the final prices that i had managed to achieve which i found to be quite fair. I now had to increase my prices in order to continue to cover my costs. Very annoying!

I always try to be as thrifty as possible, so the little pot of silver scraps was looking more appealing by the second. So this is my method of turning otherwise useless pieces of scrap silver into beautiful sheets, good as new.

Ensure all metal is clean and free of any other bench filings;

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Using oxy acetalene torch melt metal until it is free flowing around the crucible and poor quickly in the awaiting ingot.

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I unfortunately did not have anyone or a spare hand to document this part so this image is borrowed. However i use exactly the same set up.

(Image courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Melting_silver_scraps..JPGfg)

Once the metal is cooled, file all burrs from the edges and ensure the surface is clean.

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Begin rolling the metal to the desired thicknesses, annealing every third time or so to soften the metal.

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Final result! I needed lots of different thickness for my workshop from 0.8- 2.6mm so I have varied shapes to maximize the amount of metal salvaged from this process.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my metal recycling process, if you have any questions or would like to share how you recycle your metals I would love to hear them.

Thanks for reading!

*Title image courtesy of  http://custommasonicrings.com/?tag=melting+old+gold

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