PawnMaster Blog

Guest blog: Tips on Testing Jewelry Scrap Part 2

Posted on 08 Oct 2019

header-Tips on Testing Jewelry ScrapIn this edition of Tips on Testing Jewelry Scrap we’ll cover the last two tips, tips #3 & 4: The Smell Test & Sharing information and training employees.

Tip #3 – The Smell Test

Perhaps the best testing tip I've learned - and the most simple - came from Mr. Michael Elliot, one of the smartest gold buyers I've known. Roughly a decade ago, there was information that people were going around to pawnshops selling thick, heavy white metal, Rolex-style link necklaces with all of the typical Rolex markings and an 18k stamp on the clasps. When a Mid-States customer brought it in with his scrap lot, we immediately recognized it as the suspect item that we had seen and heard about. With our X-ray instruments, we were quickly able to confirm that it was indeed a stainless-steel fake. The pawnbroker did all the proper testing. It passed the magnet test. It held up to 18k acid. But even more interesting, it held up to 22k acid as well, which should have been a clue. The pawnbroker had bought the necklace for $1400. He allowed us to keep the piece to show other pawnbrokers and gold scrap buyers. At an NPA Convention, Michael Elliot stopped by our booth to say hello. When he saw the piece, he told me to pick it up, cup it in my hands, and briskly rub my hands together to warm the metal. Then he told me to open my cupped hands just enough so I was able to smell inside my closed palms. It smelled exactly like scrap iron! Gold is odorless. How simple was that?

Tip #4 - Share Information & Train Your Employees

For all pawnbrokers, sharing information is extremely important – and employee training must be continuous. If your refiner identifies any bad pieces they discover in your scrap, whether it's before or even after the melt, have them return it to use in your training.

An Important Article for You

A great article from several years ago - "Pawnbrokers Guide to Metal Testing" by Mr. Art Arbutine from Bellair Coin, Largo, FL - offers a complete and detailed explanation for spot testing virtually all material types one would ever encounter as a pawnbroker or 2nd hand buyer of jewelry. This is critical reference material that every pawnbroker should have on hand and use in their employee training. For a copy of the article, just reach out to me directly at and I'll email it to you right away.

Jack Brown

Written by Jack Brown

Jack Brown is co-owner and Operations Manager for Mid-States Recycling, Inc., located in Des Plaines, Illinois. Mid-States, a family owned business began operations in 1981 under the direction of Jack’s father Ellis Brown, former President of the Simmons Refining Company of Chicago. Jack, having a background and firm understanding in technical sales joined Mid-States in 1982. Over the course of the next 35 years Jacks’ responsibilities have grown to include all Plant, Laboratory, Gemstone Recovery, Refining, Purchasing and Marketing functions of the company. Mid-States Recycling & Refining is known Nationally as a leader in Precious Metal Refining for the Jewelry and Pawnbroker industries and professions. Jack currently serves as an officer and on committees for the International Precious Metal Institute and a former member of the NPA Board of Directors.

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