has anyone melted silver tableware down? is it worth it?
This is perhaps a silly question, but serendipitously, as I’m debating another PM purchase, I just came across a box of goblets, plates and other family silver, that not being from my side of the extended family I immediately wondered whether I could melt it down to get it into a more storeable/transactable form. Has anyone found a way to do this, or is there not enough silver in the average heirloom for that to be worthwhile?
Good luck getting it to 1763 degrees. 🙂
You would probably not want to do this. A useful or artistic object containing precious metal will always have a higher value than the metal itself. There is the artistic and functional value of the thing, in addition to the inherant value of the metal content. If you melt it down, you destroy all except the metal value, and you even destroy that because you will obliterate the hallmark stamp showing that is is sterling silver. In the case of silver, even a simple cup may have a value at least double that of the metal.
The melted metal will not be more transactable. The advantage of metal bullion in terms of liquidity comes from the fact that commercial bullion from recognized mints is stamped with a mark of guaranteed weight and purity. Any blob of metal which you melt down yourself would have to be assayed for purity before it is sold (because 15% silver looks the same to the naked eye as 90% silver). The cost of assaying a small piece of silver would make it almost not worth your while to sell. Furthermore nobody would want to buy it because they, in turn, would have to prove its weight and purity before they could get rid of it.
well there you go. I figured it was a silly question. Thanks for clarifying it!
[quote=Pete In Florida]
Good luck getting it to 1763 degrees. 🙂
MAPP gas would certainly work. I use it sometimes to melt placer gold which needs at least 2000 deg F. The MAPP gas in the small cylinders used in open air will reach a temp of about 3000 deg F if I recall correctly.
So you could melt Sterling Silver but as pointed out by someone else it would not be a good idea.
I do know of someone who collects silverware as an investment, . . . . It makes sense, if you can obtain it at the right price.
I understand the agreement that the silverware might be worth more in it’s original form but who really actually uses it or better yet who would use or collect it in a post peak environment. It needs relentless polishing with nasty chemicals and the world has been flooded with so much cheap product of the same utility to last generations. I mean if you’re in a world where people are more concerned about feeding and fending for themselves I don’t really think people are going to really care about aesthetics as much. They can always use whittled chopsticks and old jars.
My personal opinion is that if you can get acquire this stuff at reasonable costs and have a reliable method to recapture/refine the metals they might still be a good investment as PMs. I wouldn’t try doing this yourself unless that’s your trade but getting to know your local salvage operator would definitely be an asset.
There is a thread somewhere around here about future career/business options and I think that the salvage and scrap metals business is going to be a winner. (I posted a reply there last night but sadly my Internet connection died) I think that eventually all metals PMs will go way up as Peak Oil makes extraction and refinement a much more difficult task. I think our dumps will eventually become our mines.
cheers (with silver goblets and steins of course)
I wanted to tie on to this thread, with a topic that’s relevant, if you’ll bear with me:
Several months ago, I read about bio-char in Mother Earth News. Always looking for ways to improve the desert soil, I was extremely interested. The "Two Beers" presentation on Bio-Char finally gave me the motivation to actually try it. (Thanks, Steve!) (Well, that, I and I was waiting for some rain.) I did not make my char in a manner that the guy [the expert guy; forgot his name!] would approve of, probably. I dug a hole in the ground, built a fire, and pumped enough air into it to get it going real good. Then, when I thought the time was right, I covered the hole with a sheet of scrap plywood I had, and some dirt, let it burn out and cool down, and voila! Bio-Char for the garden. Que Bueno!
Now, here’s the tie-in. In the meantime, between my interest in Bio-Char and the actual making of the Char, I had been doing some reading on the internet on homemade smelting. [Here are some keywords if you’re interested: "Backyard foundry" "flowerpot crucible"] A person can build a set-up to smelt aluminum and lead, for instance, pretty easily. Not the most valuable metals, but a good place to start. So, I took some of my charcoal I made, and constructed a crude (And, I mean: crude) foundry and smelted some scrap aluminum I had. It wasn’t wildly successful, but I did it. I melted some aluminum, and poured the liquid metal into a muffin tin, and I have a shiny aluminum biscuit! My soup-can crucible got so hot it melted in two test-runs. So, I had a lot of scrap and trash, along with the melted aluminum. Plus, my ceramic flower pot got so hot, it cracked into pieces.
Anyway, here’s my thoughts on this. This might be a valuable skill to learn for the future, We may actually need someone with some blacksmithing abilities. Further, with some practice, and a good set-up, a person could probably get pretty good at smelting other metals. ie, gold, silver, copper, etc. There are, of course, inherent dangers with this type of trade, so it will be wise to invest in safety equipment if one is to pursue this.
Also, this: Looking on e-bay, a person can buy a jeweler’s furnace for about $500-$1000 bucks. They’re electric, and run off 110V electricity. That model looks pretty simple. Plug it in, turn it on, put in the metal, and wait. (SAFETY CAVEAT GOES HERE!) When I was a kid, I had an uncle with a lead furnace. We cast our own fishing sinkers and jigs for a fun winter’s day garage project. What if a person with some cash ran an ad like we’re seeing more of now, "I buy your gold. Cash today." or something like that? Pay cash for gold at a small percentage of spot, melt it down into ingots, and there’s gold. Of course, there’s the problem with 14k-24k varieties of gold alloys. I haven’t read up enough (yet) to know how this might impact the melting process. Melted jewelry gold will not be as pure as American Eagle gold. Will the alloy metals separate out? What about silver? I know in Mexico, they sell .999 sterling silver. Is sterling the same as ‘regular’ silver? Not sure if the economics of any of these ideas would make this a viable source of income.
In the past, my company has performed demo jobs on industrial buildings. I made a small fortune (well, to me, anyway. Paid off the student loan!) gleaning the metal/wire scraps that the demo didn’t want to mess with. I’ve got a pretty large pile of copper wire still in my backyard that I need to do something with. Waiting for that hyper-inflation to make it more valuable.
I’m going to continue to research and develop this skill-set, at least as a hobby, because it’s interesting to me. Has anyone else out there considering smelting/blacksmithing/metal-working as a skill-set for the future? It’s probably too obscure for a "definitive" thread, but I’d love to hear your comments/thoughts.
When I was a kid, I had an uncle with a lead furnace. We cast our own fishing sinkers and jigs for a fun winter’s day garage project. What if a person with some cash ran an ad like we’re seeing more of now, "I buy your gold. Cash today." or something like that? Pay cash for gold at a small percentage of spot, melt it down into ingots, and there’s gold. Of course, there’s the problem with 14k-24k varieties of gold alloys. I haven’t read up enough (yet) to know how this might impact the melting process. Melted jewelry gold will not be as pure as American Eagle gold. Will the alloy metals separate out?
Indeed, melting gold is not the same as refining gold. If you melt 14K gold jewellry you will still have only 58% gold (14K/24K). In order to increase the purity you would have to refine the gold – a much more difficult task than just melting it. This is one of the reasons that when buying gold or silver you should stick with smaller units that have a refiners hallmark and weight stamp. This will minimize (not eliminate) the chance that you get a counterfit coin or bar.
What about silver? I know in Mexico, they sell .999 sterling silver. Is sterling the same as ‘regular’ silver? Not sure if the economics of any of these ideas would make this a viable source of income.
Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals.
Has anyone else out there considering smelting/blacksmithing/metal-working as a skill-set for the future? It’s probably too obscure for a "definitive" thread, but I’d love to hear your comments/thoughts.
I have done some melting of gold. It is not really very difficult. A simple charcoal fire with a bellows and enough time will get you the approx. 2000 degrees F that you need. MAPP gas works a lot better. A jeweller’s crucible works best to contain the gold. I acquired some from a jewellry supply house but I also got some at Harbor Freight (much cheaper). It is amazing all of the different stuff that Harbor Freight has. Almost all of it is Chinese but today everything is made in China.
Yeah gold purification and extraction traditionally uses either Cyanide, or Mercury. Both of these are seriously bad for living a long and full life.
Gold will dissolve in a Sodium or Potassium Cyanide solution, allowing it to be precipitated out, while leaving behind the base contaminents. Or Alternatively you can drop the low quality gold into Mercury, which gold dissolves in, then take the Mercury gold solution, and evaporate the mercury, leaving Gold in the evaporation cup.
For further reading on Gold purification using Cyanide.
Small snippet of info on removal of Mercury from Gold Amalgam.
So due to the dangerous substances, this is not recommended for either the faint of heart, or non-professionals.