August 14, 2012

How Scrap Platinum is Used to Make Jewelry

Platinum is statistically 35% rarer than gold, and this rarity combined with its aesthetic appeal and strength make it one of the most valuable metals on earth and a popular choice for jewelry makers. However, platinum is also found in many other industrial products, from wires and lab equipment to automobile parts. For this reason, many jewelry makers source their platinum not from mining companies but from brokers who specialize in selling scrap metals. The following paragraphs explain the process of how scrap platinum is used to make jewelry:

1. Brokers and Individuals Buy and Sell Scrap Platinum

The first step in scrap platinum being converted to jewelry involves the recycling of the precious metal through brokers. After confirming the purity of the metal, people bring their old jewelry to a metal broker. Other platinum containing items that are commonly bought and sold as scrap platinum include:

  • Catalytic converters (found in automobiles) contain anywhere from $40 to $200 in platinum content, and can be found in old vehicles at junkyards.

  • Thermocouple platinum wire is commonly used (and wasted) in the plumbing and heating industries.

  •  Crucibles (platinum has a high melting point so it is a common component of crucibles that are used to melt down other types of metals).

2. A Crucible is used to Melt down the Scrap Platinum

A jeweler purchases the scrap platinum from a broker, then places pieces of the scrap into a crucible (a small, yet highly refractory vessel), and adds a small amount of flux (a mineral derived from borax) to prevent oxidation of the metal as it heats. Once inside the crucible, the platinum is melted down with a butane torch, and stirred with a graphite rod to encourage faster melting.

3. An Ingot Mold, Jeweler’s Saw, Mandrel and/or Other Equipment is Used to Shape the Platinum

After the platinum is sufficiently molten, the jeweler picks up the crucible using metal tongs and pours the melted platinum into an ingot mold where it can be stored for current and later use after cooling. The cooled platinum is then progressively reduced into a more malleable, flat sheet using a jewelry rolling mill (the jeweler can control the thickness of the sheet using this tool). From this point a jeweler’s saw can be used to cut out pieces of jewelry into predefined shapes (i.e. pendants), or a strip of the platinum can be hammered against a ring/bracelet mandrel to form a ring or bracelet.

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Christina Cruz said...

Great article! Scrap metal can be used for so many things but my favorite has to be jewelry. Thanks for sharing.