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How the Right Refining Company Can Save You Money

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Circa 2011 — the thick of the gold-buying frenzy, when prices peaked at $1,900 an ounce — “everybody became a refiner,” says Amanda Landry of Stuller. So when choosing a refining company, longevity should be priority No. 1, say Landry and her colleague Tammy Kidder, vice president, back of store. Ask, “Who’s been around awhile?” You have to trust your partner. For low-grade materials — sweeps and junk that comes off your bench — you don’t know exactly what’s in it. Until it gets converted to dollars or ounces, you’re at risk until you come to a settlement. And if a refiner goes under, your business can lose a lot of money, fast.

Frederic Goodman

1. Fire assay is a multistep process at Hoover & Strong.
2. Hoover & Strong was first certified for using recycled metals 15 years ago and continues its commitment to green processes today.
3. At Stuller, recycled precious metals are rolled through milling machines into sheets.
4. A Pease & Curren gold melt is part of the fireassay process. Fire assay recovers 20 percent more gold than other types of processes. 5. A Stuller associate prepares for the annealing process. “Being green is a main criterion we have at Stuller,” says Tammy Kidder.


Points to Consider

The more information you get on the report, the better. Spelling everything out, including the weight receipts (melt weight, assay, payout, the market) is essential, says Torry Hoover of Hoover & Strong. If you don’t understand the return or the calculation — and some jewelers don’t — call your refiner and go over the numbers. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Is the refiner using a true fire assay process? (Fire assay is a multistep process to recover precious metal, proven to recover 20 times more gold than X-ray processes and other melt processes.) All “melts” are not fire assay. Many customers are led to believe all refining is the same, says Jill Bibby of Pease & Curren.

Does the refiner use cyanide in its stoneremoval process? Cyanide is toxic, and refiners who promise quick processing of stone lots may use cyanide in their processing. “We have had customers come to us and specifically ask if we used cyanide because they have had instances where their employees have experienced light-headedness and shortness of breath after working with stones returned from a refiner that uses cyanide in the process,” Bibby says.

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Ask about containment practices. “Our ‘sweeps’ processing, as many customers call it, utilizes a slow roast to eliminate ‘spitting’ of materials,” Bibby says. “Many refiners do not utilize this type of process, and much of your precious metals ends up going out the stacks of the refiner. Lack of proper containment is a big issue with sweeps, and many customers are not aware of this.”

How can you gauge if your refiner is green? Here are a few criteria, from Hoover: “We use 80 percent fewer chemicals, and we are zerodischarge water. We were first to become SCS certified for recycled metals, about 15 years ago; first to be certified for a green refinery (10 years ago); first in recycled diamonds (five years ago); and most recently, first to bring artisanal, fair-mined gold to the United States.”

 


 

Retailer Take

Babs Noelle
Alara Jewelry Bozeman, MT

  • Honest, fair returns: I appreciate partnering with a refiner that has a clear definition of its rate of return, so I know what to expect monetarily, before I ship. While it can be tempting to go with the highest return, I have found that all the exceptions, additional charges and fees of such offers erode at the initial rate of return in such a way that creates confusion and fosters distrust.
  • Stone removal at minimal or no charge: Particularly when I take in several large trades in a short period, I don’t want to stop to remove the stones before shipping.
  • Stone buying, sorting, tradeups: Now that my refiner has removed the stones for me, I appreciate having options regarding the diamonds. Will they buy them at a competitive rate? Will they sort them for me for my own use? Will they allow me to swap them for a new parcel of matched melee?

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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