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Old 01-01-2013, 12:16 PM   #1
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Refining Question

First post, it will be kind of long. Sorry. I will put cliff's notes at the end.

When I was young, my family moved around a great deal. We spent some time living in, among other places, India. While we were there, my parents got a set of silver flatware made at a local shop. The smith did not stamp the flatware with a purity number and many of the pieces are unstamped altogether but others are stamped "silver." The split between stamped and unstamped is 50/50 and follows patterns. Basically, all spoons and dinner forks are stamped but the dessert forks aren't so it might be that a different person was making the different pieces or that the shop only had one stamp (it was a hole in the wall shop in India in 1981, I don't know how they ran things). It was all made at the same time though and from the same material.

The parentals divorced and I grew up. Mom never used the flatware and decided that what she spent a few hundred dollars on in India 30 years ago is probably worth a lot more now so she wants to sell it. She is older and disabled so she gave it to me to sell...Enter the migraines.

I took it to a couple of places ranging from upscale to little more than a trailer with a sign out front that says "We buy Gold and Silver for CASH!!!!!"

Here's what I learned:

-As silverware, it's worthless. It wasn't made by a "real" company so it's unsellable and no one will buy it from me for what it is. My best bet is to sell it for what it's made of
-It isn't stamped sterling, 92.5 or anything similar. This means that no one wants to buy it for what it's made of either.
-One place "put it under a laser" and said that it didn't react like sterling should. Another place did a "file and acid test" and ruled out plate.
-The most informative thing I was told by one of the many people who didn't want to buy it from me was that it MIGHT be coin silver based on the tests.
-Bottom line is that it's entirely made of silver of questionable purity.

Anyway, at this point, it's taking up space and I want to be rid of it. I asked Mom what her bottom of the barrel, get it out my house and get cash for it price would be. She told me and I listed it on Craigslist. A guy acted interested but then said that at half Mom's lowest price it would be "too risky." With blades in the knives (not that many knives) etc. the lot weighs around 5 pounds and he was saying that $350 was too risky-didn't matter, I wasn't going to sell it to him for that.

So I've pretty well resigned myself to the idea that no one is going to buy this stuff from me for a mutually agreed "fair" price and my best bet is to find a refiner. The problem is that there aren't any local to me. Well, there is one but they only deal with businesses and I'm not one. It seems that every refiner I find online has an equal number of good and bad reviews at best which requires me to take a leap of faith if I send this stuff off.

Google has tried to teach me how to home refine but that presents problems of it's own. First, I was never very good at chemistry. Second, it requires nitric acid which isn't easy to come by and the best way to make it involves buying bomb making ingredients-I don't want to be on a watch list. Assuming everything goes off without a hitch, I'm back to square one: I have unstamped "silver" bars that have not been verified by anyone.

So the question is, can anyone suggest a reputable refiner that I can send this stuff to who will pay me reasonably close to what it's worth (I understand it costs money to do business) either in cash or in bullion and won't screw me over? I would prefer a quick turnaround as well, I live near Charleston, SC and don't want to ship it internationally.

Cliff's version:

I have 5 or so pounds of silver of indeterminate purity and need to be pointed in the direction of a refiner that won't rob me blind if I send it to them.
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Old 01-01-2013, 12:33 PM   #2
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Wow, you are in a pickle brother! There are a number of places on-line that refine metals from electronics and scrap circuit boards. That said, many of them will also refine your other metals, although they will not do US currency silver.

It will require a bit of faith on your part, but I have sold quite a few gaylord boxes of recyclable electronics in my day, and these guys are mostly bonded and use bonded shipping. There will be an up-front cost to get it to them, but if you have five pounds of metal it may be worth it to get back stamped bars.

If there is a scrap yard of size in your area, a lot of them will "shoot" metal for you with a Niton XRF, which is pretty exacting as far as initial assay goes, and they will pay you close enough to spot for the silver. All things considered, the scrap yard may be the best option as costs go.
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Old 01-01-2013, 01:01 PM   #3
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Have you tried contacting NTR/Ohio Precious Metals?

http://www.opmmetals.com/high-grade-refining
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Old 01-01-2013, 02:36 PM   #4
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I don't think it would be US coin only because it was made in India. I suppose some of it could be but my guess is that it's random scrap that the dealer/smith picked up from here and there.

NTR does have a local "store front" but on their website they say they don't deal with the public, only businesses.

I don't mind paying a fee up front as long as it isn't extravagant. I don't want to shell out $1000 to get $500 back or something silly like that.

I will look into finding somewhere that does XRF. The only scrapyard in town doesn't seem to want anything more valuable than copper so I might have to go a bit inland (coastal SC is weird).
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Old 03-09-2013, 10:19 AM   #5
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Update: was working in Wilmington, NC a little over a month ago and stopped into a place that calls itself a refinery there. It was more a of a store front that does some melting but sends 99% of their stuff off to get refined. Anyway, the guy that owns the place did the most thorough scratch test I've seen yet (he scratched and scratched for several minutes trying to make sure it wasn't plate), estimated that it was 60% or so silver and made me an offer which I took just to get rid of it.

It was a little less than I was hoping for BUT, beggars can't be choosers when they're selling unmarked metals.
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Old 03-09-2013, 10:37 AM   #6
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Glad you found a solution.
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Old 03-09-2013, 04:09 PM   #7
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Actually, this thread has begun a process that I have been wondering about, but done little/no work on (so thanks JohnGee!). Namely, find out whom to visit with the next time I am in Peru to do a GOLD in Peru article. I want some Peruvian gold porn pictures... I have read that Peru's Central Bank has only some 35 tonnes (that's it???), but they do have a LOT underground.

So, I will start looking into this, as gold refiners, wholesalers, etc. have good reason to be extra secretive and sensitive. Next time I visit down here (probably Nov), I will meet whomever I can. Since this will take time, I had better get started!

If I need help, I will ask! But for now, let me put in the time and sweat (and ask my in-laws, ha ha) to get going, I have not (yet) even Googled "Peru", "gold" and "refiner".

What a great article that would be, so it is worth it for me to do whatever has to be done over the next few months to set up the right meetings...
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:49 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by DoChenRollingBearing View Post:

What a great article that would be, so it is worth it for me to do whatever has to be done over the next few months to set up the right meetings...
of course then you'll have to kill anyone who attends....
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