What to Know About Refining Gold-Plated Jewelry

Melting & Refining Gold-Plated Jewelry

Did you know that you can refine gold-plated jewelry (and make good money doing so)?  Well, you can, BUT… not all gold-plated jewelry is created equal and most of it doesn’t contain anywhere near enough gold to make gold recovery and refining feasible.

While the modern “cheap, gold-electroplated junk” jewelry is rampant, there are still quite a few pieces and types of gold-plated jewelry that DO contain enough gold to economically recover.  These are the types of items to watch for and buy when you can get them for the right price.

First things first.  Refiners deal in BULK, costs, chemicals, equipment, and manpower dictate that they have to deal in BULK because many times it is not profitable to do otherwise.  This is especially true when dealing with gold-plated jewelry.

The amount of gold contained in the gold-plated items that refiners will accept is a very minor amount, especially compared to the usual scrap gold everyone’s used to dealing with.  While scrap gold jewelry can contain 40-75% or more gold, many of these gold-plated items have gold contents as low as 5-10%.

Such a minor amount of gold content in each plated item means you’ve got to make it up by having a whole butt-load of gold-plated items in order for it to be worthwhile (and for any refiner to accept your business).

While each refiner has different requirements, most have a minimum processing amount around 3-ounces (for mixed-karat scrap gold).  If the gold purity in such a shipment averages, say 45%, the refiners basically have a minimum requirement of 1.35-ounces of gold (45% of the 3-ounce mixed-karat minimum).
That being the case, you can assume that refiners have similar minimums for gold-plated items (though quite a few won’t even accept ANY gold plated anything, so check first).
If a refiner is expecting around 1.35-ounces of gold as a minimum shipment, then you’ll likely need to come up with 10-20 times MORE THAN THAT worth of gold-plated items in order to satisfy their minimum requirements.
In experience, I’ve found that only a few refiners will deal with gold-plated items, and since the gold recovered is a small amount compared to the amount of material processed, they usually want even larger minimums than what’s stated here.

Different Types of Gold Plated Items That are Worthwhile

As mentioned earlier, a few gold-plated items are worth keeping and refining, but most are not.  Here we’ll look at the types of items to keep, and what to ignore.

Worth Money:

Any “Fractional Gold-Plated” Item – These items are marked with fractions, example: 1/10th 10k.  This means that 1/10th (or 10%) of the total weight is how much gold was used to originally plate the item.  Of gold-plated items, these are some of the best to buy and make money on since the gold purity, content, and value can be easily determined.  Be wary though, many of these items are old and platings wear off over time and with use.

Examples: Gold Jewelry, Tie Tacks, Pins, Cuff-Links, Eyeglass Frames, Pen/Pencil sets

Most Pocket Watch Cases – These are usually marked with something like “Warranted” or “Guaranteed” along with a gold purity and sometimes the amount of years the warranty or guarantee is valid for.  Usually, the longer the guarantee, the more gold the pocket watch case contains.

Some Wristwatch Cases – Gold-plated wristwatch cases can be a touchy area… some are worth scrapping, some are not… and it can be difficult to tell the difference.  In general, stay away from anything marked “R.G.P” (Rolled Gold Plate) and “H.G.P” (Heavy Gold Plate).


Not Worth Money:

Most all other gold-plated jewelry falls into this category, with few exceptions.

In general, you can ignore gold jewelry with markings similar to these:

GP – Gold Plated
GE – Gold Electroplated
HGE – Heavy Gold Electroplated
HGP – Heavy Gold PlatedWGP, YGP – White Gold Plated, Yellow Gold Plated

When in doubt, leave it out… and that’s surprisingly good advice.  The gold content in plated items is already so minor that adding thinly plated items to your refinery shipment increases the amount of waste metal and makes it more difficult to extract valuable precious metals.

Now that you know a little about spotting good gold-plated jewelry and distinguishing it from the worthless junk, ya better get busy snagging as much as you can if you’re gonna get enough for a shipment and PAYOUT.

All the best!