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Can you re-use my old gold and platinum?

Yes we can, but…. There are two main reasons that people would like to re-use their old metal. The first is to save money. The second is because of the sentimental value of having some of a family piece continuing on in a new form. These are good reasons, but there is a reason why it can be less than a great option.

 

 


In the case of trying to save money, we can help by crediting you 75% of the gold towards new metal. In the case of platinum, we will credit you 60% towards new metal. The reason for the difference is nothing more than the cost of refining the metal by a refiner. This only applies to cast pieces. Fabricating a new piece using old metal is extremely labor intensive as the old piece must be converted to wire and/or sheet metal, and the extra cost of the labor far exceeds any savings. The reasons for not using the old metals follow.

 

Yellow gold alloys when they are first mixed contain primarily gold, silver and copper and trace amounts of other metals, like zinc. White gold alloys contain nickel or other metals giving it a white color and also contain these trace metals. These trace metals are added to help the metal in the casting or cold-working processes by preventing oxidation and removing contaminates. These metals are sacrificial in nature meaning that they burn off during the melting process. Once they are gone, the metal alloy is unprotected and may act in ways that are less than ideal. For example, the finished piece quite often will be redder in color than it was previously and it may even be splotchy looking with somewhat concentrated areas of red. The casting may also develop porosity, which is even more likely than discoloration and it’s very possible for both to form together. Porosity appears as an area that won’t quite polish right, looking very much like a smudge or fingerprint that won’t clean off. The more the piece is polished in an attempt to remove this “smudge”, the worse it gets. White gold behaves quite similarly, but is even more prone to porosity. It is also almost guaranteed to be brittle and prone to cracking.

 

When a piece is fabricated from wire and sheet made from old gold, the metal can crack and split, causing lots of little marks and making prongs and other parts brittle, significantly weaker and prone to cracking and breaking than they would be if fabricated using new metal.

 

There are things we can do to minimize these effects, and quite often, it is not a problem at all. But the risk is always there.

 

Once these risks are known, you can decide whether they are worth it or not. In the case of sentimentality, it is usually not an issue; the value of having Mom’s and Dad’s wedding bands in the new ring outweighs any slight discoloration or porosity. Many people consider these to be the proof and mark of the very sentimentality they feel. As long as the risks are known up front, there will not be a surprise. We hate surprises like that too. As long as you know what might happen, and will be happy even if it does occur, we are more than happy to re-use old gold.

 

Platinum has its own problems with re-use, primarily due to contamination of the metal. Platinum and its various alloys are very susceptible to problems with re-use, and unlike gold alloys, it is almost guaranteed there will be problems of one sort or another. Older pieces are quite often of an unknown alloy, as the old masters mixed their own metals, adding all kinds of different metals in varying amounts in an attempt to create the perfect metal for the piece they were making. It worked well the first time, but on the second go-around, it can be a real issue. In the past it was also quite acceptable and even normal practice to use white gold solders to fabricate and repair platinum, as the temperatures needed for working platinum can damage or destroy any stones anywhere near it, even diamonds. It still is done today by goldsmiths not familiar enough with properties of the metal, or not having the proper tools, metals or expertise. Platinum pieces that were fabricated or repaired using white gold have been all but ruined as far as repairing or re-using it with modern platinum techniques. The difference in their melting points is extreme, with white gold solders melting in the 1200 degree Fahrenheit range while platinum melts at more like 3500 degrees. This difference causes the white gold to either permeate into the platinum, changing its crystal structure into something unusable and un-repairable with anything but white gold or significantly weaker than is acceptable as the solder does not bond well with platinum. White gold repair of platinum jewelry is considered by most professionals today to be unacceptable, as in addition to the strength problems, the color of the two metals is very different.

 

A newer piece made of cast platinum of a known alloy that has not been repaired, fabricated or sized can be used with great success; however, it is often impossible to tell just what has been done with the platinum until the new piece is created. Then it’s too late to do anything about it. It is not recommended to use the metal from older platinum pieces in the creation of new jewelry, but as long as you are aware of the difficulties and are willing to accept the risks, we are more than willing to give it a go.

 

 

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