When you work with precious metal, like silver and gold it’s very important to avoid waste due to the high cost of these metals.
As such, goldsmiths and jewellers always work over an open drawer or stretched canvas to catch the filings, wire bits and sheet metal cuttings that gather over the course of production. These metal scraps are then recycled and turned once more into usable metal sheet or wire.
When recycling gold, the metal goes through several purification methods. after removing any iron bits with a magnet and burning off other impurities, the gold is placed in acid that dissolves all other metals and solder, leaving only the pure gold behind. Working with acid is dangerous, so it’s best left to specialised companies. You can usually exchange your leftovers for new gold at jewellery suppliers.
In the case of silver, nitric acid can also be used and I’ve even made a tutorial about it, but again, it’s a dangerous process and should not be done at home. Since the cost to have it done by a specialised company is usually higher than the value of the silver, however, other solutions can be found to recycle your silver scraps. The best way to reuse your scraps is to separate clean bits of wire and sheet metal from the filings and any bits that contain solder. These can be melted and turned into more wire or sheet metal directly, without affecting the amount of copper in the alloy.
The rest can be turned into solder by adding an extra amount of copper and zinc, after cleaning the metal by running a magnet over it to remove any iron remains (from files and saw) and burning it it a pan to remove hair, dust, rouge and other contaminants.
To make this process easier, it’s useful to have two separate scrap boxes – one for wire and metal sheet and the other for filings and soldered bits. It’s also important to keep the drawer clean from contaminants as much as possible, be they other metals or broken saw bits, rouge dust or binding wire. Cleaning the drawer regularly with the help of a brush and a small dust pan is a good habit to have.