Why not use a refinery?
If you are dealing with a lot of metal on a regular basis and are paying high for it, it’s probably worth your time to wade through some questionable refiners to find an honest one with a fair payout.
That’s what we had to do.
Some refiners run honest businesses, but if you speak with someone who has used a number of them, they will usually say that not all are fair. The product is melted, so any evidence of graft is easy to cover up.
As a rule, refiners will take advantage of sellers at two junctures, the melt and the assay. Most refiners will tell you – and even advertise on their websites – that you should expect a 3-5% melt loss on your material: send in 1000 grams of solid metal, and 30-50 grams will melt off into the ether. A number of falsehoods are offered to justify this claim, but what your gut tells you is correct: this is metal, it doesn’t vaporize. There is always some melt loss, but I’ve seen 500 oz loads that had a total melt loss of 5 grams. Melt loss should be under 1%, as a rule.
The assay is the analysis of the purity of the melted metal. This is the 21st century, and two honest and competent refiners should arrive at the same assay for any given melted lot, but this is often not the case.
It’s also worth noting that most refiners (unless you work out another arrangement with them) will lock your price on the day they process the metal. Many sellers have noted that the processing just happens to occur on a day when the price is low, and often at or near the low price of the day. And with few exceptions, submitting sterling to a refinery involves a wait of several weeks for processing and payment.
Most refiners advertise a payout of 90%. After melt loss and assay, you’re likely to yield less than you would if you sell the metal to us at our top payout. We pay based on gross weight – you know exactly what you will get with every shipment, and we videotape the processing of every shipment.