Of late, I have been getting a lot of questions about reusing customer's gold to make up my work. This in part seems to be because of the economy out there right now, but it also seems to be fueled by everyone's awareness of how high gold prices have gone. Unfortunately there are a number of problems for me with this concept.
First of all almost all jewelry is made up using solder in it. While some cast pieces may not need solder to finish them, some errors in the casting processes are often corrected with solder and pieces are often sized, or altered in some way that brings in the use of solder as well. There is often no easy way to determine this (finding a sizing seam is usually fairly easy but the rest isn't). Repouring gold with solder in it will yield a metal that has porosity (holes) in it and will never be of the quality that one should use in a fine piece of jewelry. Solder is not made only from gold so once it gets mixed into the batch it impacts the metal in a variety of negative ways.
Additionally, every manufacturer has different alloys they add into gold. Remember that almost all gold is an alloy: gold is mixed with copper and silver for yellow gold, nickel, copper and silver for white gold, palladium, copper, silver and some other metals I'm not at liberty to reveal (the alloy mixture that I use is patented by my gold supplier and although I know the mixture I'm not allowed to reveal it) for palladium white gold, etc. When you take two different alloys and mix them together you never quite know how they are going to work together. So if you try to combine different pieces to make something you just can't tell what it is exactly you're going to end up with nor can you tell how workable it will be.
Now I know that there are some jewelers out there who will, in fact, take your gold and create a new piece from it. Some of them are able to do this because they have more serious manufacturing (read: refining) setups than I do. If someone can take your gold, refine it to pure gold and then realloy it, they can get a decent result to work with. I occasionally alloy my own gold but I don't have refining capability here (nor do I want to since there are a lot of environmental issues involved). Some of them, however, just don't really care about the quality of what the end product is and will melt down anything handed to them and attempt to make something out of it.
At Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, I try to produce a high quality product at all times (one reason that I offer lifetime guarantees on everything I make) and I have found it simply isn't possible reusing a customer's gold. The only thing I can use is pure gold coins (like Krugerrands) that I can alloy down to the karat and color I want. However, there is not always a large savings on this. Because of the time and work involved, often you end up using so much more of my time that the cost will be virtually the same as if I use my gold. This is particularly true with a smaller piece like a ring, but less so with one of my handmade chains.
There are some other options if there is a strong sentimental attachment to the piece and you really want to use some of an original ring because of that. I have, in the past, made up pieces for customers in which I cut out parts of an existing piece and solder it onto something I have made up, or I can melt some small pieces down into gold beads that I use in my designs and that can be just soldered onto my own work. And I am always happy to use your diamonds or gemstones in my pieces. There are a couple of issues with that as well, but I'll talk about that in my next post. Thanks for reading!