After the death of a relative a small package came into my possession. It was a collection of gold dental fillings. Not unusual, a filling falls out you put it in a bag and life goes on. However, some of these fillings still had teeth attached. It’s possible that some of these teeth had been extracted for various reasons but they appear to have been postmortem extractions.
My relative, who had extensive dental gold-work, was cremated. What became of his dental gold, I wondered? My cultural conditioning prevented me from even thinking of desecrating my relative’s corpse to recover his gold. It hadn’t even occurred to me until after the cremation that it would have been following a family tradition. There are some things that families just don’t talk about.
But, I began to wonder, there must be in excess of 2,250,000 deaths per year. If 10% had gold in their mouths that would be 225,000 and assuming 1/4 Troy oz/mouth, we have 56,250 oz/year unaccounted for. That’s a lot of gold. I asked the owner of a crematorium I know and asked him what happened to the gold in my relative’s mouth. He told me that the temperatures were so hot that some of it evaporates and some of it just disappears into the bricks.
I considered this explanation. I didn’t buy it for a moment. Were I in a competitive business (as death is) I would have recovered the evaporate and changed the bricks every few months as they quickly become gold ore. But in death we don’t want to contemplate the business of closure any more than we want to know how sausage is made.
Not that gold is the only valuable metal. Artificial knees, hips, and surgical screws are recoverable. (Leon Toffel, a precious metals refiner in England, felt his reputation had been damaged by a BBC link on this site. He admits one dealing with a crematorium in 30 years, therefore, I have deleted the link. Anyone seeking information on this topic is free to Google keywords) Iron melts at 3040°F, gold at 1945°F, and titanium at 3040°F. I would have a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines on staff at my recovery operation. Carlos
Precious metal ‘sold’ after cremation
By Phil Kemp
Jonathan Maitland show, BBC Radio 5 Live
A national scandal
A case in Germany has led to the conviction of six crematorium workers for desecrating graves.
“It was a very big story – it was even treated like a national scandal,” said Tobias Rudolph, who is a defence lawyer on the case.
In some crematoria, metals left behind after cremation are put into bins, ready for recycling.
In just two years, the six workers at a crematorium in Nuremberg earned more than £100,000 by selling gold teeth to a local jeweller.
Under German law, they could not be charged with theft because the gold was not said to belong to anyone after the process of cremation.
For some, the story raised painful associations with the holocaust.
“It was treated like a taboo topic and of course especially in Nuremberg – which was a famous city in the Second World War – the people are very sensitive to these kinds of topic.”
Around a half of all crematoria in Britain are now participating in a recycling scheme, promoted by the trade body, the Institute for Cemetery and Crematorium Management.
Any metal that remains after the cremation, is sorted into wheelie bins and collected twice a year. A machine called a cremulator grinds down any residual bone and separates metal remains for disposal. Proceeds from the recycling are donated to charity, with more than £100,000 having been paid since the scheme’s inception.
The Institute said it “would call on all cremation authorities and their senior managers to monitor the disposal of metals resulting from cremation.
“Ideally, and hopefully, all UK crematoria will eventually join the scheme thereby giving an accountable route for all metals recovered from cremation with the full knowledge that they have given the bereaved full information and have gained their individual consent.”
This story will be broadcast on the Jonathan Maitland show on BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday 15 March 2009 at 1900 GMT. Download the free podcast.