How to Melt Scrap Gold

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Melting rings like these, other old pieces of jewelry, or scrap gold, is quick and easy.
Melting rings like these, other old pieces of jewelry, or scrap gold, is quick and easy. (Image: Jayesh Nair)

Whether you want to make a little extra money from your scrap gold, or you simply want to change jewelry you no longer wear into something new, it's simple to melt scrap gold. The process requires only a few simple tools and doesn't take long. There are, however, several safety precautions that should be taken. Here's how to melt scrap gold.

Things You'll Need

  • Jeweler's charcoal or small ceramic container or melting crucible
  • Jeweler's tongs (optional)
  • Small knife or carving tool (optional)
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Boric acid (Borax or similar product)
  • Hand-held welding torch
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Jewelry or gold bar mold (optional)
  • Sulphuric acid (optional)
  • Metal polish (optional)

Prep the scrap gold. Before melting, you will want to thoroughly clean your scrap gold and remove any adornments, such as precious stones or clasps and bails that are not made of gold. To remove stones, use needle-nose pliers and grasp a prong holding the stone in place and gently bend it away from the stone. Then grasp the stone firmly with the pliers and gently wiggle it out of the setting. To clean the gold for melting, place it in a mixture of boric acid and water, and scrub gently with a brush. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.

Prep and test the melting container. If you are using jeweler's charcoal, use a small knife or carving tool to carve an indentation in the charcoal to hold the melted gold. If you want a particular shape or design and do not want to use a jewelry mold, you can carve the shape into the charcoal. If you are using a ceramic container, test the container's ability to withstand heat. Wearing protective goggles, gloves and long sleeves, slowly bring the torch to the container and heat it for a moment or two. Let the container cool and examine for any cracks or fractures. If the ceramic is fractured, find a different container and repeat the test. If it does not fracture, it should withstand the heat needed to melt your scrap gold. If you are using a crucible made for melting gold, you simply need to make sure the crucible is clean and dry before beginning.

Melt the gold. Place the scrap gold in the carved charcoal, ceramic container or crucible. Dust the gold with a pinch of boric acid. Wearing gloves and safety goggles, turn on the torch until you have a large flame. Slowly bring the torch to the gold, passing back and forth and getting closer slowly, so that the gold and the container are not heated up too quickly. Continue passing the flame over the gold until you see the surface begin to get shiny. Keeping the flame over the gold, carefully sprinkle another pinch of boric acid on the gold. Continue passing the flame over the gold until it is completely melted. If you are not pouring the gold into a mold, remove the heat and let it cool and proceed to Step 5. If you want to pour the gold into a mold, continue to Step 4.

Pour the gold into a mold. Working quickly but carefully, use jeweler's tongs to tip the ceramic container or crucible and pour the melted gold into the mold you have chosen. If the gold does not pour smoothly, you can attempt to carefully push and shape it in the mold using a piece of jeweler's charcoal or a small wooden stick, or you can sprinkle a pinch of boric acid on the gold and continue the melting process. If at any point you are dissatisfied with the appearance of the gold, you can return it to the melting container and melt it again. Just be sure to add a pinch of boric acid when doing so. Allow the gold to cool completely in the mold, then gently turn the mold over to release the gold.

Clean and polish the gold. Often the process of melting and molding scrap gold will leave some dark and dull surfaces. If you want to obtain a clean, brilliant surface, simply dip the finished gold piece into sulphuric acid for a few minutes and then rinse and dry thoroughly. Be sure to wear appropriate protective gear when working with sulphuric acid, as it will cause burns if it comes in contact with your skin. After cleaning in acid, polish the gold piece using a soft rag and a gentle metal polishing compound.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always wear tight-fitting clothes with long sleeves when melting scrap gold to prevent burns.
  • Don't work in cramped spaces or places with inadequate ventilation. Accidents are more likely to occur if you don't have enough room to work properly.
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