Isn't it illegal to deface, alter or mutilate U.S. currency?
We're asked this question almost every day, and it is a very reasonable concern.
And for what we do - make jewelry out of coins - the answer is simply no, it is not illegal.
Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States. This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. As a matter of policy, the Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.
The key word is fraudulent.
When you take a 25 cent piece and try to pass it off as a Sacajawea Dollar, that's fraud. When you take a Buffalo Nickel, and scratch out one of its legs and try to sell it as a rare collectible, that's also fraud.
But when you melt a silver dollar and sell it for its silver value, or you use heat and pressure to turn a coin into a ring, that's genuine and legal.
We hope this addresses your concerns. But in case it doesn't, consider two more items.
First, you know those penny stretcher machines found at tourist attractions? If altering coins was illegal, these machines wouldn't exist.
Second, there are a number of famous, beautiful pieces of coin jewelry in the Smithsonian Institute.
We would not want to run afoul of the law and have checked with our lawyers who assure us we are not committing any offenses. Hopefully, this puts your mind and ease and we invite you to take a look at some of the beautiful rings we offer in our American Pride, Find Your Tribe, and World collections!