How much money you get paid from your gold refiner and the minimum amount of scrap gold jewelry they accept are two common yet very important questions that come up often. If you buy scrap gold (or want to), the answer to these two questions should always be front and center in your mind. In order to be successful (and make a good amount of money), instead of ending up losing it all, most of your buying and selling decisions will be based on these numbers.
Usually I cut right to the chase but in this case I feel it's important that you understand WHY these numbers are important, and then we'll look at answering the gold refiner payout percentage and minimum gold shipment amount questions above. If you're impatient, feel free to skip ahead but you'll only be cheating yourself.
Buying Scrap Gold Jewelry
The amount of money a refiner will pay you, along with the current price of gold, are two main factors that you must know in order to calculate a fair price that you can offer to those looking to sell scrap gold while ensuring an adequate profit buffer for yourself.
Keep in mind that the current melt value of gold when you're buying scrap is not going to be the same melt value when you've accumulated enough scrap jewelry to cash in with a refiner... the gold price will fluctuate so the longer it takes you to acquire enough scrap jewelry to cash in with a refiner, the more risk you take on (but with potential upside as well).
This is why knowing a gold refiners minimum shipment amount before buying gold jewelry is important. If you are a long way from buying enough gold to cash in, the gold you buy initially will sit for longer and thus you'll have added risk that the price may go down while you hold on to it. In this case, you may want to adjust your own payout percentage when buying scrap gold to reflect the added risk.
On the flip side, when you're sitting on enough scrap gold that you're close to the minimum weight to cash in, it's very beneficial to know this as offering a slightly higher percentage to attract more scrap gold deals is often in your own best interest as it means you can cash in and get a big payday yourself!
Selling Scrap Gold Jewelry
When you sell your scrap gold jewelry to a refiner, it is either evaluated and purchased outright by the refiner, or melted down, tested, then purchased based on the amount of pure gold recovered. In either case, the payout amount is usually a fixed or sliding-scale percentage of current gold prices and may or may not include additional fees (assay, etc).
When a refiner offers a fixed percentage of gold melt value, you can always know roughly how much money you'll receive when cashing in.
When a refiner offers a sliding-scale percentage, this is usually based on the amount of scrap gold you send them, with the payout percentage getting progressively larger for larger amounts of gold.
Finally... Payout Amount & Minimum Weights
Refiners pay on average, around 95% of the current gold value and while the percentage may be fairly consistent across the board, not all refiners are equal. Be especially cautious of extra fees as these can quickly erode the payout percentage, most certainly on smaller shipments.
That being said, the real answer is -- "It depends". The amount of money you can expect to get back from a refiner in the form of cold hard cash in hand is usually in the 90-97% range with some variance.
Some refiners will pay up to 98% of gold melt value when the shipments are large enough (10+ ounces of mixed karat solid gold).
The other thing to consider in payout percentage is that not all gold is created equal and it is quite legal for jewelry makers to use slightly less gold than the stamped purity. In the U.S., jewelry can contain up to 1/2 karat LESS gold than the purity marking states and still be OK. So when a refiner pays based on the gold recovered, the payout amount may seem less for this very reason.
As to minimum weights for accepting scrap gold, most refiners will accept shipments of around 3 troy ounces of mixed karat solid gold. Any less, and it is severely less economical to refine and recover the gold.
Even so, there are a few smaller refiners that will work with small-time gold buyers and are willing to accept gold shipments of less than 3 ounces, although at a reduced payout percentage.
So now you've got a few more nuggets of knowledge to add to your gold buying tool kit. Good luck and thanks for reading!