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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Work, work, work. And a little bit on scrapping your gold.

An engagement wedding band set and the men's wedding band.
I know I said I would continue more of my autobiographical story in this posting but I'm heading in another direction today instead (because it's my blog and I can do what I want to!).

First of all I want to warn any of you who are my customers that I will be closing for most of the week following July 4 (I'll be closed July 3-8).  I'd like to take it as some vacation time but when you work for yourself a lot of times, time off becomes work time (something those of you who want to work for yourself should keep in mind).  In fact I will be in the store working but only on pieces for the case that I want to make up.  It's the stuff I enjoy the most working on and I rarely get any large block of time to actually do this (actually I can't remember a time when I could do this in the last 30 years) so I'm going to take advantage of what is usually a pretty slow period and do what I enjoy the most here at work.

Many of you know by now that I will take in scrap metal towards work I do or pieces from the cases.
I don't do anything with the scrap myself. I just bring it to a guy who buys scrap metal from jewelers like me.  I don't have acid testing equipment myself (too dangerous) but this gentleman was doing all of his testing with acids.  However recently he purchased an X-ray machine that determines the karat of gold in a much more accurate fashion.  Please don't ask me to explain how it works.  I haven't really looked into it but I have been hearing about the machines for awhile and I do know they are far, far more accurate.

This is what is interesting however from my standpoint. You would be amazed at how much jewelry is stamped 10k, 14k, 18k but is not that at all.  Now some of this is because of an old law that was removed a number of years ago that allowed a half karat tolerance when stamping gold.  So you could stamp something 14 kt but it could only be 13.5 kt and it was legal to do this.  The law has since been changed (quite some time ago now) and no longer allows this tolerance.    So the fact that some of these older pieces come in a half karat shy is not that surprising (because you can be sure that almost all of the jewelry manufacturers shot for the low end on the scale because of how much money they would save--and how much more they would make on it).  However not all of the material I'm scrapping is that old.  But even if it was the under karating going on out there is pretty incredible. On my most recent batch of gold the settlement sheet included 9.5 kt, 10 kt, 13kt, 13.5 kt, 14kt, 17kt, 18kt and 23.5 kt. Multiple pieces fell into each of these categories.  Now some of this material wasn't stamped but a good deal of it was and not one of those stamps said 17 kt, 13 kt or 9.5 kt. This is also not the first batch where I have seen such large discrepancies.

So what are the take aways from this?  Well first of all, I go back to what I say all the time.  Buy local, using small jewelers who are dedicated to producing a quality product.  My gold supplier is one of the best in the country and are 100% honest (when my scrap guy bought his machine I brought in a number of pieces of metal from them to see how the machine worked and every one of them was exactly on the money).  I have never in my life bought or used under karated gold and most small jewelers tend to be like me. When you buy product that is made overseas, especially by large manufacturers, you always run the risk that they will be underkarating their jewelry.  Why would they do this?  Because if they reduce the amount of gold in a piece by even 1/10 of 1% a large manufacturer can save huge amounts of money.  When you buy in a chain store, the vast majority of their product is made overseas now and most of them do not do routine purity checks on the metal coming in to them.  I'm sure many of them do it to begin with when working with a new supplier but it's easy to assume that everything will stay the same.  Even smaller jewelers who buy their product from larger manufacturers may be unknowingly selling you goods that are under karated.  No one can test every piece they buy.  On the other hand I make everything I sell so I know exactly what is going into it.

The second take away from this is that when a jeweler is buying scrap gold from you, you need to be aware of why they pay what they do.  You may have a pile of stuff that is marked 14k, so you think the pure gold content is 58.5% of that and you may assume that you should get pretty close to that amount (remembering that everyone has to make money on the transaction).  But the reality is that the buyer knows that not all of those pieces are going to yield 58.5% pure gold and has to pay out accordingly.  Acid tests, which most jewelry buyers use, are not nearly as accurate as the X-ray machine so they have to adjust things accordingly so they can make money on the purchase.

So as always, buyer beware.  But buy your wares from someone you can trust fully!