By Jessie Moore|
February 18, 2022|
3 min read
Forever known for the bling it brings, gold has been sought-after for millennia. But what’s the situation with gold and how sustainable and ethical it is? The good news is that the jewellery industry has always been ahead of the game with gold recycling, and in the last decade eco-aware accessory lovers are becoming increasingly aware of the sustainability values of the rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets they purchase. In many ways, it’s one of the easiest jewellery metals to pick and check out the sustainability credentials.
Gold is one of the most consistently recycled materials, with only 2% of all the gold mined since its discovery currently unaccounted for. When you compare this with other natural resources, this level of insight is really quite remarkable. In the past, gold was recycled due to its high economic value. But in more recent times as we become more aware of the devastating impact that gold mining has on the environment, we are demanding more sustainable choices when buying jewellery.
If you’d like to discover more about gold recycling methods or are looking to purchase recycled gold jewellery, we’ve created a handy guide to tell you everything you need to know about gold recycling.
What is recycled gold?
Recycled gold can come from many sources, but the most common is from jewellery that is no longer worn or used, which is then melted down and turned into brand new, sustainable pieces of beautiful jewellery. This circular economy isn’t new to the gold industry. It may have been driven by economic profit, but it’s been ahead of the game in many ways.
It’s not just gold used in jewellery that can be repurposed. Gold can also be extracted and recycled from old gold dental fillings, coins and even the devices we use every day. At the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, the precious metal from over 72,000 tonnes of waste electronics donated from people across Japan was repurposed into the winner’s medals in the ultimate gold recycling challenge. This is a feel-good story which shows what is possible in terms of gold recycling.
Because gold is a naturally renewable metal, it can be melted down time after time without any degradation, reducing the need to search for new sources of primary gold, often undertaken in vulnerable locations across the globe. Compare this to many other recyclable materials, and it’s quite encouraging.
The gold recycling process
To recycle old gold jewellery, first all gemstones are carefully removed from their settings, before the gold is assessed and graded by karat, with twenty-four karats representing the highest quality gold.
The next step is to melt the metal at an extremely high temperature – over 1000 degrees Celsius – and then pour the liquid gold into moulds known as ingots. From these small bars of gold, new and amazing jewellery pieces are created to adorn the fingers, wrists and necks of the next generation of jewellery lovers. It’s actually a mesmerising process to watch and if you have some spare minutes, hunt down some YouTube videos to inspire you!
Gold vs recycled gold
We are often asked if pure gold is more valuable than recycled gold – and the answer is a resounding ‘no’. You are comparing like with like and there is no difference between the two in this regard.
Gold retains its value and purity whether it is freshly mined or used, which means that secondary-sourced gold is of an identical value and quality to pure gold, making it the only choice for the eco-conscious jewellery buyer.
Is recycled gold a more ethical choice?
Generally, yes. Pure gold is obtained through often damaging mining practices which have a negative impact on the communities where the mining takes place, leaving destruction and pollution in its wake. Giant scars on the landscape which have caused environmental damage to the area are a nasty side effect of gold mining.
Adding to this, unethical mines are not uncommon, with some employing unsafe working practices or exploiting child labour. There is definitely a less shiny side to gold mining. Of course, there is no guarantee that recycled gold was originally mined ethically, as the gold in the ring on your finger may have been mined hundreds of years previously. But by choosing recycled gold jewellery, buyers can feel confident that no additional harm was caused in the making of a new item.
The good news is that the UK jewellery industry is leading the way in the use of secondary gold, with over 80% of all gold used in jewellery deriving from recycled sources. This is very reassuring for eco-conscious consumers.
Many of us will have jewellery items that have been handed down through the family and have incredible sentimental value. But as fashions and trends change, they are no longer worn. Recycling the jewellery into a modern accessory is an ethical way to ensure loved items can continue to be worn and not hidden in a jewellery box.
Trusted recycled gold jewellery
If you’re ready to browse for your next piece of jewellery and want to make sure it’s a sustainable choice, our recycled gold jewellery pieces are as beautiful as they are environmentally conscious and ethically sound.
We’ve hand-picked a host of talented jewellery makers who are enthusiastic about creating a more circular industry by using melted down gold to create stunning and unique accessories. You can still get wonderful pieces, without any background concerns.
Check out London-based goldsmith Lily Flo, who is a pioneer in the creation of recycled gold jewellery, with each delicate item hand-made with care and respect for our planet. Another trusted and ethical jewellery maker to watch out for is Kate Wainwright, who crafts, hammers and solders recycled gold into unique pieces of fine jewellery from a workshop at her West Sussex home.
Find your next favourite jewellery piece in our luxury recycled gold jewellery collection or treat someone special to a beautiful, sustainable accessory that can be worn and loved for a lifetime.