Refiners vs. Smelters: The Benefits of Using an ACTUAL Refiner

Do you know the difference between a Refiner and a Smelter or Buyer? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Many companies sell their gold to smelters or other middleman companies that call themselves refiners but are not ACTUAL refiners.

“So what’s the difference?”

A smelter or buyer purchases your scrap gold in a variety of ways – scratch test, x-ray testing piece by piece, or melt and x-ray – just to name a few.  Local buyers or smelters offer certain conveniences like local drop off or pick up with cash or check on the spot. Convenience is by far the most common reason why pawnbrokers choose this option. There are also several companies that call themselves “refiners” who have you ship in your metals for processing. But what happens to your scrap after the sale is complete and what does the smelter or buyer do with your gold?

That’s where the ACTUAL refiner comes in. Smelters or buyers flip your gold to refiners who payout more than what you received. You’re thinking – “No way! My smelter paid me 98% off the gun or 95% off the scratch test.” Well think again.

An ACTUAL Refiner initially processes the scrap (similar to a smelter) but takes it to its purest form. Your scrap metal isn’t tested with a calibrated X-ray machine – it is tested using a fire assay that is proven to be much more accurate than an X-ray. This process takes several hours to complete which is why refiners payout after 24-48 hours. 

Refiners will pull out all of the precious metals and pay you on not only the gold but also the silver contained in your gold. When payable levels of PGMs (platinum group metals) are contained, you also get paid on those! Getting paid on ancillary metals may not seem like a big deal but when you factor that the average scrap gold lot contains between 9-11% silver, those dollars begin to add up.

You’re also looking at a better payout from refiners who pay you around 98-99% for your scrap and cover your shipping and insurance.

“But how can refiners survive on just 1% and cover costs?”

The answer is simple. Your scrap gold processed at a primary refiner gets refined and recycled to make a variety of products including bullion and jewelry products. These jewelry products are sold to manufacturers at a premium as are the bullion products such as coins and ingots that sell for upwards of 7%+ above spot.

“How can you tell if you’re selling to an ACTUAL refiner or a smelter/buyer?”

Have you ever seen a product such as karated grain, solder or master alloys with your refiner’s name on it? Does your refiner offer you bullion hallmarked with their company name on it in return for your scrap?  If not, you’re probably selling to a smelter/buyer who’s selling your scrap to an ACTUAL refiner.

United Precious Metal Refining, Inc. is an ACTUAL primary refiner and global supplier of metals for the jewelry industry. The scrap gold processed at United is refined to make a variety of jewelry based products from 100% recycled gold and silver from scrap.

Learn more at or call today 1-800-999-FINE (3463).

Refining Matters: Focus on the Pawn Industry


As a strong supporter of the pawn industry, United is proud to be a member of various pawn organizations. We also participate in most tradeshows including Pawn Expo in Las Vegas, Dixie Pawn Convention, Midwest Pawn Convention, the CAPA Spring and Fall Conferences, TAP and the Pawnbrokers Advisory Forum Conference.