Is there money hiding in your workshop?

Make money by cleaning your workshop for refining recovery

Even when times are good, there’s no reason not to make every cent possible back from the precious metals waste that accumulates throughout your workshop (and which can even escape into different parts of your building). Experienced jewellers know to separate their waste by kind, by metal and by carat, but there are still some areas that we at CPM have noticed are being overlooked.

Tips to capture every last speck of precious metal you can:
Grinding, filing and buffing all send clouds of microscopic precious dust into the air, which can land anywhere and be easily lost as it sticks to shoes and clothing. Make a habit of brushing or vacuuming this dust off the bench after every job (or at least every day) and especially when switching between carats or metals. If vacuuming, use a dedicated (possibly handheld) machine for the bench make sure that these filters and bags are kept separate to the ones used on the floors and other surfaces.

  • British jewellers apparently have a saying: “we don’t employ people with sweaty hands or turned-up trousers” – so of course remember to wipe or wash your hands thoroughly after each job – And:
  • In addition to your leather apron, try to wear clothing that does not offer nooks and crannies where precious metal-bearing dust can disappear, or better still, wear an appropriately streamlined (and affordable) overall that doesn’t leave the workshop. You can either send it in for refining when it gets too worn, or:
  • Wash any clothing used in jewellery making as well as fabric hand towels in a dedicated laundry machine in the workshop. You can find small washing machine models designed for camping or for the trend towards tiny homes, and yours should of course have a sludge trap fitted to it. Some of these washing machines are portable and can be hooked up to your existing washbasin.
  • Wipe down all surfaces regularly, as well as everything you touch before you wash your hands after a job – even light switches.
  • If you don’t have a dedicated workshop laundry machine, wet wipes and paper towels (which should be tossed into your floor sweeps bag) are your best option for wiping and drying surfaces and hands.
  • Chair covers can be another overlooked source of precious metal recovery as they can get saturated in dust over time.
  • Floors should be wiped down regularly and the mop heads or cloths sent in for refining or washed in the dedicated laundry machine or basin with a sink trap.
  • Place inexpensive carpet runners in all walkways and vacuum them regularly. Send them in for refining when they’re looking tatty.
  • Even the welcome mat at the front door of your building can collect precious particles of dust – especially if it’s been there for years. Metal dust is heavy so it will always fall to the floor and it gets tramped around on people’s shoes.
  • Some workshops use a robotic vacuum cleaner – like the Roomba – since the rotating sweeper arm gets into even the smallest cracks and crevices to collect the tiny particles that would otherwise have been stuck to people’s shoes and lost.
  • If you have wooden floors in your workshop, the gaps between boards can swallow fine grains and filings. Vacuum these thoroughly and then ask your hardware store about a product that will effectively fill these cracks (it might need to be flexible).
  • In times before modern recovery techniques, wooden stairways and floors in busy, long-standing workshops reportedly glittered with embedded precious metals, and yielded a small fortune when eventually lifted and processed. If you’re not looking to remodel any time soon, or the thought of tearing out your beautiful old floorboards makes you shiver, sanding them down could produce more metals than you’d imagine. Similarly:
  • Sanding down the top layer of your jewellery bench and vacuuming up the dust as part of your sweep can recover tiny particles of metal that have been ground into the wood over time.
  • Consider upgrading your vacuum dust collector to one that uses water filtration. This will eliminate dust and separate heavy and light particles as well as some of the metal and buffing compounds. When the water has settled, collect the particles off the top and pour the water through a mesh filter or into a container to evaporate, and recover the slurry of metals and dirt for processing. If you’re worried about precious metal particles that might still be floating in the water, add a couple of drops of water clarifier to ensure that any remaining particles to fall to the bottom.
  • Stick a magnet to the funnel intake of your vacuum system to catch any stainless steel before it mixes with the rest of your precious metals. Note that if you’re working with precious metals that contain nickel or cobalt pre-alloys, the magnet should be temporarily removed, as these metals are magnetic.
  • Large workshops can benefit from a centralised ventilation system that utilises strategically placed hoses (often at floor level) hooked up to giant suction machine, which collects all dust in a single place.
  • If you have any form of extraction equipment, make a habit of cleaning or changing filters and dust bags to keep them running efficiently and ensure they remain lucrative collection points of precious metals particulate.
  • Filters from air conditioning units should be washed in a sink with a trap.
  • Regularly inspect the motor compartments on dust collectors for any dust, as its presence here indicates that the filters are leaking and maintenance or replacement is required.
  • Dust can settle in the panels of fabric blinds to such an extent that one large manufacturer installed an extra pane of glass to each window, sealing the (clean) blinds in a glass sandwich. Smaller workshops could simply go with plastic blinds that can be wiped down from time to time, if blinds are even necessary.
  • Most Southern African jewellers use skins to catch all filings etc. while working, but if you are using the drawer bench system, ensure that you use a different tray to collect each kind of metal.
  • Make sure that each of your refining bins or containers are clearly labelled, and that liners are placed inside barrels. This will keep sweeps from getting stuck in crevices and prevent dust from being lost into the air as we load your sweeps into the oven for incineration. CPM offers our clients complementary containers and clear thick plastic bags to go inside these.
  • Remove general rubbish bins from production areas to prevent precious metals from being thrown away.


Make money by cleaning your workshop for refining recovery

Basically – don’t throw any workshop waste away that may have come into contact with precious metals dust! Collect and send in envelopes, plastic bags, papers, rags, mop heads, etc. But remember especially with low-grade refining categories like floor sweeps, make sure you accumulate a large enough volume of material to make a profit before sending in for processing.

Always sort your refining into types of precious metal, and especially white gold should be collected on it’s own because it’s palladium content necessitates a different recovery process to other forms of gold. Red and yellow gold are the only kinds that can be collected together, but they should still be isolated into the various carats – for example 18ct red and yellow may be mixed, but must be kept separate from 9ct red and yellow gold scrap.


Flake and solids, comprised of:
Any scrap including: sprues, clean sprue grinding, stripping, clippings from claws cut to size, even engraving scraps. Basically, you should keep every bit of metal that is discarded during a job, and which is not requested back by savvy customers.

Bench sweeps and filings, comprised of:
High-grade filings and dust on your bench top or caught in your bench skin – supplied as clean as possible, with contaminants limited to sawblades and brush bristles.

Floor sweeps and Carpets:
Polishings, buffs, brushes, floor sweeps, rubber wheel grindings, sanding disks and emery paper, metals lost during lapping and setting, felts, and miscellaneous workshop debris including grimy mop heads, cotton wool, wet wipes, paper towels, vacuum bags and filters.

If you’re not collecting sludge, you could be pouring substantial amounts of money down the drain! CPM offers a packaged sink trap system that can be easily and quickly installed.

Here’s a list of things NOT to send in:

  • Anything flammable or explosive including aerosol cans, lighters and batteries
  • Tin cans or metal items like knives, files and tools
  • Domestic waste like foodstuff (or dirty nappies!)
  • Light bulbs
  • Ammunition
  • Solutions from ultrasonic cleaners – these must be removed by a specialist waste company and MAY NOT be discarded down the drain.

We ask our clients to photograph all materials being sent in for refining, and also to melt their filings and solids into bars. We can then conduct a surface scan on delivery to confirm the precious metal content with you, avoiding the disappointment that can occur as a result of inherent melting losses. This also reduces turnaround time, resulting in faster payment to you!

Make money by cleaning your workshop for refining recovery



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