If you buy (or find) a lot of silver jewelry and other silver items, eventually you’ll want to earn more than the local gold and silver buyers are willing to pay. And if you buy/find enough silver, you’ll be in a position to make more money than the local buyers can pay. What a good situation to be in!
While the minimum requirements can vary greatly depending on which refiner you choose, most refiners will agree on one thing… they want you to send them as much silver as you can get your hands on… usually a reasonably large PILE. The reason is simple, it’s not cost effective to recover and refine silver unless it can be done on a large scale, and the larger, the better. While other factors play a role (like cadmium content and silver purity of the “unprocessed” scrap), the amount of silver you send to a refiner in a single shipment is not only their primary requirement, it’s also the largest factor in determining how much you will be paid in relation to the current silver value.
Generally speaking, most refiners require a minimum of around 5 (troy) pounds of silver scrap in order to be considered for refining. This would be scrap silver in the 80-95% purity range, including a lot of silver coins along with sterling flatware, hollow-ware, and silver jewelry. Silver that is less than 80% pure (or thereabouts) may fall into a different category, lower pay-rate, and possibly higher minimum shipment weights, again, depending on the refiner.
Once you get to 50% silver purity and below, the number of silver refiners willing to work with you is drastically reduced. Why? It’s even more difficult to economically recover this silver and as a result, quite a few refiners either don’t want to deal with it, or aren’t equipped to do so. So if you’re busy buying and stockpiling silver and hope to cash in by sending it off to a refiner, keep this in mind and be sure to give a healthy preference to items with higher silver content.
So… most refiners are looking for around 5 pounds of silver scrap and they want that scrap to be at least 80% pure. The good news is that precious metals are weighed in Troy Pounds… which weigh around 20% less than the common (avoirdupois) pound that most of us are familiar with. Still, at 373.24 grams per troy pound, we’re looking at almost 1,900 grams of scrap silver in order to meet the minimum requirements of most silver refiners.
If you don’t know… THAT’S A LOT OF SILVER!
But it’s far from an impossible amount. Hundreds of precious metals buyers deal with many times more than this amount on a daily basis. If you’re an individual, it may seem like a lot, but it’s still very possible.
Now that you know the minimum amount required by most refiners, the next question is how much you’ll get paid.
Unfortunately, refining silver isn’t as easy as refining gold, and silver sometimes has some extra challenges in the form of other metals used to create the different silver alloys.
All said, refiners don’t pay as much, percentage-wise, for silver as they do for gold. The standard amount for a standard silver shipment is around 90% of the silver value. If you’re getting paid less, either the type of silver-alloy you’re sending is difficult to work with (ex, those that have high cadmium levels), or the refiner you’re sending too isn’t paying enough. If you’re getting paid more than this, it’s likely due to the AMOUNT of silver you’re having refined. Some refiners will pay upwards of 95% for large silver shipments but even that amount isn’t the norm.