Melting Down and Remaking Thrift Store Jewelry | Quick Ways to Identify Possible Sterling Silver

I’ve featured a number of metalsmiths who melt down old jewelry metal to recast into new creations. Most of them just melt down the metal bits in a crucible with a torch. 

Well known Youtuber, Safiya Nygaard who vlogs on style, beauty and quite a number of DIYs is a metalsmith newbie who decided to melt down thrift store jewelry.  Her video shows her adventure finding, melting down and remaking into new jewelry. 
She worked under the guidance and supervision of experienced metalsmiths, Sarah Tector (stectormetals) and Suijin Li (suijinli). She clearly enjoyed melting down metal as she has previously melted down other things before.

The best advice she got was to go after just sterling silver material. So she had to learn how to identify them at various thrift stores. The underlying metal of silver plated jewelry could be any metal which would have different melting temperatures. This would complicate the process. 

The really interesting bit is how she made her new jewelry. Usually, metalsmiths pour the molten metal into long molds. They can then pound the cooled bar and make it thinner through a rolling mill and thus make wire. Or they pour into new molds of their own. 

What Safiya was taught to do was to pour the molten metal into water and also into some peas!  Yes, the edible kind!  It’s fascinating to see the resulting organic shapes. She was also taught to solder jump rings to create her pieces. 

Safiya online : 

Looking for Sterling Silver

There are a few quick tests we can use to determine if thrift store jewelry or items might be sterling silver.  Shown here are examples from my late sister-in-law’s British charity/thrift store collection. 

Rubbing it on a jewelry polishing cloth will show if there is oxidation on silver looking pieces. Sterling silver is an alloy of silver and copper – the latter easily tarnishes. Several of this tarnished collection left to me did leave marks.

However, the magnet test (I used my fridge magnet I made) picked up virtually all the chains I had and some of the rings.  This showed they were silver plated with a ferrous (iron) base metal. Silver, like  other precious metals, is non-magnetic. 

Check for hallmarks. These three tarnished rings passed the magnetic test – i.e. they were not magnetic. However, even though they were clearly handmade, only the tiger eye ring bore hallmarks.

I magnified the view of the inside of the tiger eye ring band using my iPhone and saw these hallmarks. British sterling silver hallmarks have been in use for centuries and are very informative. 
The leftmost hallmark is the maker’s.The lion passant (walking lion) is the standard hallmark for certified sterling silver (925/1000). The anchor hallmark denotes this was assayed in Birmingham. The capital letter D in cursive indicates the year, 1978. There was a legal requirement to use date letters from 1697-1999.

Of the three rings shown above, only the one on the left is a candidate for melting down as I am not fond of the twisted band look.  The other two will be kept as is. 

This gold, silver and copper triple band ring was tiny. My friend, Sonya (rocpoet) says they used to be called Russian rings. 

I thought it was made up of plated silver. But the hallmark 375 on all three rings indicated it was 9 karat gold – the silver and copper were plated on the gold. The crowns beside the 365 marks state it was assayed in Sheffield.

After a good clean, I just added a jump ring and silver chain and turned it into a contemporary style pendant for myself! My very own decades jewelry although it has been quite a while since I passed my third decade! 

Some finds do not deserve to be melted down!


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