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Are you getting the most from your precious metal scrap? Or are valuable dollars literally slipping through your fingers? Refiners share their hints for maximizing your scrap returns and elaborate on their services.
Establish regular scrap collection procedures and be diligent about sticking to them.
Look at all sources that may contain precious metal scrap like bridges, crowns, inlays, clasps, grindings, casting splash, sludge, sweeps, vacuum bags, crucibles, towels, rugs and ventilation systems. Even molds and investment waste can take in small amounts of gold during casting.
Install carpeting in metal finishing areas to capture grindings and filings.
Process and store precious and non-precious metals in separate areas. Then separate precious scrap materials by type to make it easier to keep track of what and how much you sent. Always separate solids (crowns, sprues, buttons and flash), grindings and sweeps when possible. Keep filter bags, castings and investments separate as well.
Remove paper clips, burs and other metal from bench sweeps.
To capture scrap from the bottom of shoes, use pieces of carpet at exits and send for refining regularly. Another idea: instead of carpet pieces, use peel-away sticky mats (www.stickymats.com); simply peel away the used layer to expose a new layer and send it in to be refined.
Place a filtering device under the main sink where gold technicians wash their hands to trap minute gold particles that will otherwise get washed down the drain.
Never discard old or clogged air conditioning filters because they suck up precious metal dust particles that circulate through your lab. Place the filters in a scrap sack with your vacuum system suction bags for refining.
Clean out the casting well by brushing daily. Save the flash, slags, grindings and dust for refining.
Make sure your lab has a quality vacuum unit to keep dust levels under control, and vacuum bench surfaces, chairs, floors--and even lab coats--daily.
Establish a regular preventative maintenance program on your vacuum unit to keep vacuum lines in good repair, keep the trap clean and change the bags. After carefully removing the bag, tape it shut, seal the hole and send it in for refining.
Encourage technicians to grind directly into a suction unit. This minimizes airborne scrap loss, improves air quality and keeps the lab cleaner.
Have your staff wear paper dental refining jackets. They're designed to catch the microscopic shards of metal that become airborne near the lab bench. Throw the jackets in with your floor sweeps to refine.
Label your collected scrap in the laboratory; scrap kept in unmarked or unlabeled bags can get inadvertently thrown away. Then secure it under lock and key.
Don't try to time the market. Refine on a regular basis to hedge your return against fluctuations in the market price over time.
Before You Ship Be realistic about your expectations. Know the current prices for gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Look at the mix of alloys you're processing and expect the analysis of the material you refine to be proportionately similar.
Keep an accurate log about what, when and how you are sending your materials and take pictures. This allows you to compare your records to the refiner's records to ensure accuracy and help verify what you sent in in case of a discrepancy.
Weigh your scrap before sending it in and weigh the different types of scrap (ie, solids vs. grindings) separately. If you don't already have one, buy a troy oz. scale that's large enough to handle your normal size scrap shipment. You should see the weight verified on the refiner's purchase order slip.
Communicate with your refiner to confirm receipt of shipment.
Choosing a Refiner Reputation is everything. Ask fellow owners and managers about trusted refiners or ask for customer testimonials or referrals from the refiner.
Research your refiner to make sure it complies with all regulatory bodies such as the FDA, OSHA and any applicable regulations via the International Standards Organization (ISO). Consider evaluating its financial stability by buying a Dun & Bradstreet or Jewelers Board of Trade report (visit http://www.dnb.com/us/ or http://www.jewelersboard.com).
Make sure you receive a detailed refining report and that you understand the rates and terms on the settlement form such as the insurance and payment options. Also ask about the refiner's general refining charge prior to sending materials. These flat rates can vary and affect the amount of your final return.
Visit your refiner to evaluate the operation and learn about its security measures. Here are some specific things to look for and ask:
- Check to see that the assay instrumentation looks modern and up-to-date.
- Make sure the refiner is environmentally sound. It must be in compliance with federal, state and local regulations as this will protect you from future liability or regulatory action; according to federal regulations, if the refiner improperly disposes your waste, you are ultimately responsible.
- Watch a few of your lots being melted and prepared for sampling. If you're not confident the staff has the training and skills to handle your material properly, go elsewhere.
Ensure the company is a "primary refiner," meaning it processes all precious metal waste in-house. Eliminating the extra step of using a middleman will ensure a higher--and faster--return.
Enclose a note with your return information (address, phone number, contact name) as well as to whom the check should be made out.
Thanks to the following companies for sharing their refining tips:
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