In one of my first posts I mentioned that I bought scrap sterling and my son and I melted it and made our own ingots. A fellow member suggested a separate thread to discuss this would be in order,so I'll start. First of all, I am a rank amateur, but both my son and I are handy with tools and have a fascination with fire and melting things. We built a couple of foundries from instructions in the links that follow. For silver, we like the propane model the best. The charcoal model is cheap, easy and a blast to use, especially for aluminum. But you may also buy a ready made kiln to do the same job. You'll find links to sources below. But I digress. I think this is well within the skill range of most people so inclined. Just study and remember molten silver is hot enough to burn through the toughest leather boot and right through your foot. Caution is certainly the order of the day.
I'm going to let the experts do my talking for me. If anyone is seriously interested in melting silver, I strongly suggest joining the back yard metal casting forum. It's made up of really good people who love to share their expertise and their mistakes with the group. They love questions from newbies. I can assure you they do not spam or share your email address. Your privacy is sacrosanct. You'll find they're certainly our kind of people.
This is a wonderful overview and tutorial for all things molten metal. It's a good place to start. http://prometheus.vndv.com/index.html
This is where we bought the crucibles and some tools. Good people. http://www.freemansupply.com/index.htm
This is an eBay store that sells all sorts of goodies, the prices are higher, but the selection may be better for the hobbyist or small scale operator. It's a good site to get a feel for what's available and what you can actually accomplish. http://www.lmine.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=LMS&Product_Code=17361&Category_Code=budget_graphite
Ok, everyone, you're on your own. I'll look forward to how this thread progresses or doesn't.