How to Smelt Old Jewelry

By Rose Brown
old jewelry, a drawer, it, the precious metals
jewelry image by Aleksey Ubozhenko from

For those who like to adorn themselves with rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories, jewelry is one of life's great pleasures. It is fun to collect and pleasing to wear. Most people, however, have at least a few old pieces of jewelry that they no longer put on, or an assortment of hand-me-downs from relatives that don't appeal to contemporary tastes. Such jewelry need not be relegated to a dark dresser drawer, never to be seen. If you smelt old jewelry made of precious solid metals, you can use the metal to create new jewelry or use for other purposes.

Verify that your old jewelry is made of a solid precious metal, such as gold or silver. Note that you should not attempt to smelt costume jewelry, or gold- or silver-plated jewelry. Any other alloys or materials that you melt with the precious metal will make it impure and potentially unusable.

Remove any gemstones from the jewelry before you smelt it. Smelt only the solid precious metal portion of the jewelry; remove any other components from the solid precious metal using pliers or a jeweler's saw.

Ensure the cleanliness of your crucible---a small, highly refractory, dome-shaped vessel in which metal is smelted---before using it to smelt old jewelry. Remove any bits of metal or debris that may be in the crucible. Wipe it with a dry cloth to get rid of dust.

Ready the crucible for smelting by adding a pinch of flux to it. Note that flux is a substance made of borax that prevents the oxidation of heated metal and helps it to flow better when it is poured.

Place the old jewelry in the crucible.

Turn on your butane torch. Aim the flame at the old jewelry. Adjust the flame so that it is neither too low or too high, but somewhere in the middle. Move the flame around slightly but keep it in constant contact with the old jewelry.

Stir the old jewelry with a graphite stirring rod while you heat it with the torch to encourage it to melt more quickly.

Continue to heat and stir the old jewelry until it is molten.

Turn off the butane torch and pick up the crucible with metal tongs. Move quickly but carefully. Do not allow the molten metal to cool and solidify, but be careful that you don't spill it.

Pour the molten metal into an ingot mold---a vessel in which to pour leftover molten metal that you plan to reserve for later use. Alternatively, if you are using the molten metal to make a new piece of jewelry, pour it into the mold you have prepared for that project.

About the Author

Rose Brown began writing professionally in 2003. Her articles have appeared in such Montana-based publications as "The Tributary" and "Edible Bozeman." She earned a bachelor's degree in literature from the University of California at San Diego, and a master's degree in English from Montana State University. Brown has been a professional florist since 1997.