Can You Recycle Items that Have Gold or Silver Appliqués? What Are They Worth?

What is an appliqué? It is a small decorative piece of silver or gold that is applied to another metal. The word appliqué is French, meaning “applied.” (An appliqué is also a piece of fabric that is sewn onto a garment as a decoration, but that is not the kind of appliqué we are writing about in today’s post.)

The art of decorating metal items with appliqués isn’t being practiced too much today, but it was quite popular among metalsmiths and fine jewelers in prior centuries. And even though you might not have known what you were looking at, chances are you have seen items like these that were decorated with appliqués . . .

  • An antique brass pistol that has bright appliqués made of silver or gold on its barrel, handle and other surfaces.

  • A silver candelabra, probably from the Far East, that has thin copper appliqués on its surfaces. (Not all appliqués are made of precious metal.)

  • A silver cigar or cigarette case that has initials or a decoration applied to its surface in the form of an appliqué.

  • An old silver brooch, locket or pin that has been decorated with gold appliqués.

How Much Precious Metal Is Contained in Appliqués?

In most cases, very little. But there are times when you will find appliqués that contain enough precious metals to be worth recycling, such as a large set of silver tableware that is decorated with gold appliqués. (The gold is worth something, the silver is worth something . . . so you could have a holding that is valuable as a collectible or for its metallic value.)

What Is the Difference between Plating and Using Appliqués?

In plating, a thin layer of gold, silver or another metal is applied evenly to the entire surface of an item. (Example: A gold-plated watch.) Appliqués, in contrast, are small decorative pieces of precious metal that are applied only to certain areas.

How Did Jewelers Apply Appliqués to Other Surfaces?

A very thin coat of special solder was generally used to adhere them to other metals. Though in some cases, heat alone was used to create a bond between the appliqué and the metal it was applied to.  In more modern times on new cheap jewelry, small false appliqués are created by plating a thin layer of gold onto certain areas only.

How Does a Precious Metal Refinery Remove Appliqués for Recycling?

Appliqués can usually be removed simply by heating a metal item with a torch, which can lift the gold or silver from the metal underneath.

Is There Always Money to Be Made by Removing Appliqués?

It depends. If you own a storage box full of dozens of pieces of antique silver tableware that has gold appliqués, for example, chances are good that it will be worth more money to collectors than it will be to precious metal investors. In a case like that, it is not worth extracting the gold that the appliqués contain.  

Do You Want to Know More?

Call Specialty Metals at 800-426-2344 and ask about how your precious metal scrap and other items can be scientifically tested in our labs. We are here to answer your questions and provide you with prompt payment if your discoveries turn out to have high value.

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