How To Choose A Precious Metals Refinery

Precious metals refineries are not created equal. The differences exist in every aspect – from additional services to fundamental techniques used to extract the metal. Before you entrust your excess jewelry and precious metal scrap to a refinery, it’s best to do a little research.


There are basic questions you should ask when choosing a refinery such as: “How long have you been in business?” and “Are all your fees posted?” But don’t stop there. Here are some questions you should ask to help you literally separate the dross from the gold when it comes to refineries. Think of it as a verbal assay:

  1. “Do you perform ALL of the refining steps or do you outsource to another refiner?” For a variety of reasons including security, turnaround time and ROI, it’s better to work directly with a refinery that can handle all your needs and not simply ship your material to another plant.


  1. “What are your turnaround times?” Time is money! Most refineries are extremely busy, particularly during economic downturns, so press for an honest answer, knowing that a proper assay takes at least 24-hours.


  1. Do you handle all types of precious metals and materials?” Make sure they will process all the precious metals you give them, not just the gold or platinum.


  1. “Are you in control of your pricing? Can you lock it in if the market is moving fast?” This will help you ascertain if you are getting a fair spot price or one that is docked.


  1. “What is your final return?” Fees become immaterial if the assay is incorrect.


  1. “Do you offer updates on the lot once you’ve received it?” Reputable refineries understand the importance of communication. You should confirm you will at least receive an email when your lot has been received, with follow-up emails on the progress of your lot. Ask if they have any additional ways for you to monitor your lot electronically.


  1. Are you EPA compliant? Ensure the company you elect to work with follows all EPA rules and regulations. This is not just important from an environmental standpoint. If a refiner were to have a legal problem while your material was in their possession, you could lose your money at worst or have it tied up until the “smoke clears” so to speak.


  1. Are you compliant with the US Patriot Act and anti-money laundering rules? Patriot Act rules require refineries to collect and maintain information on the companies with whom they deal. As with the EPA laws, it is important to identify that your refinery is Patriot Act compliant because non-compliance could result in closure which could affect any of your assets they have in their possession.


  1. “How diverse are your services?” Make sure they can perform stone removal at their facility and are not operating as a middleman. They should be capable of removing even the smallest diamond melee, which can greatly enhance the return on scrap jewelry. Some refineries even have professional diamond buyers on staff, making the process totally turnkey.


  1. Finally, ask for a sample. You can send it to an outside lab to make sure your refiner is accurate and honest. Even if you don’t send it anywhere, just asking for it will keep them on their toes.

You can likely find many of the answers to these questions on each refinery’s website, but making a call gives you the chance to determine the knowledge and attitudes of their staff. Reputable refineries understand you are entrusting them with a valuable asset and should make every effort to make you comfortable with their process.


Scott Christiansen, General Manager, Dillon Gage Refinery