Recycled Metals in Fine Jewelry
You’ve probably seen the sign many times: “We buy gold!” or maybe, “Sell your gold here!”. But have you ever wondered once the buyer pays for your real gold jewelry what happens to it? The best gold pieces are often cleaned, repaired, and resold as vintage fine jewelry. Gold coins also frequently get resold as-is. But broken jewelry, scraps, and anything that isn’t worth very much money in its current form will often be sent for metal recycling. It’s purified, checked, and then oftentimes used once more to craft jewelry.
When it comes to fine jewelry, most of us don’t think about recycled metal. But there are many advantages to both recycling these materials and buying jewelry made from it. The most commonly recycled precious metals are gold and platinum, though you’ll also see silver, palladium, and rhodium reused this way.
Let’s look at the how and why of precious metal recycling.
What is recycled metal, and why does it matter?
Recycled metal is any type of metal that wasn’t mined prior to the current use. In other words, it’s been used a second time. For most of us, putting our aluminum drink cans and steel soup cans in the recycling bin is almost the extent of our knowledge. What happens later is a mystery, even if we buy things that say “can made from recycled aluminum.”
Recycling metal is the process of melting down existing metal, removing impurities, and making it into something new. For instance, steel cans might become razor blades and aluminum can turn into car parts or toys. Metal refiners can use any form of a given metal, from scraps and broken pieces, all the way to a toy nobody wants anymore. And because metal doesn’t change its properties much when melted down, a new manufacturer can convert those recycled ingots into almost anything.
Popularity of Recycled Metals
These days, people talk about sustainability a lot. Although recycling used to be a primarily industrial concern, the use of recycled gold is rising. In fact, experts estimate that 28% of available gold globally is recycled. In addition, the vast majority of recycled gold was extracted from jewelry.
For decades, the jewelry industry was hesitant to use this material for 18k gold or 14k gold jewelry. There were concerns such as the durability of this material, especially if it was simply melted down and didn’t have the alloy metals removed. However, 24 carat gold jewelry made from recycled gold is increasingly popular, especially since even freshly-mined gold has to be refined for purity.
Nowadays, you can get almost any kind of gold or platinum jewelry made from recycled precious metals. White gold rings and platinum rings are popular, especially set with diamonds for an engagement ring. Both can, and with increasing frequency do, contain recycled metals. In fact, for an especially eco-friendly and ethical engagement, you can even get your ring with lab-created diamonds.
Don’t need an engagement ring? You can still enjoy the advantages of recycled gold made into just about anything, including white gold chains, pins, pendants, earrings, and any other white gold, yellow gold or rose gold jewelry.
Recycled Precious Metals
Let’s break down the recycled options a bit:
· Yellow gold is the natural color of this metal when it comes out of the ground, and it’s mixed with copper and silver. The proportion of copper and silver determines the gold’s purity, or karat.
· Rose gold is the same natural gold, but to get the rose gold color refiners and jewelers add copper. They’ll add a different amount of copper to get different karat purities and rose gold color.
· White gold has other metals mixed in, including silver, nickel, zinc, and copper. Because of the nickel content, it’s best to ensure that you aren’t allergic to nickel before you buy anything made with white gold. In addition, you can expect white gold to yellow over time, and it may need to be replated with rhodium occasionally.
· Platinum is sold 95% pure, often mixed with iridium or another “white” metal. It is more durable and expensive than most gold jewelry, but it’s also hypoallergenic. If you really love the white gold color but can’t wear it, this is a good option.
Recycled Metal Durability
Both new and recycled gold and platinum have the same properties, which means they can be used in jewelry the same way that you’d use freshly-mined metals. When you choose recycled metals for your jewelry, the considerations are similar.
· You need to choose between 14k and 18k gold. The difference is that, no matter which gold color you’re using, there’s more alloy metals (in the same proportions) in 14k than in 18k. When choosing between them, bear in mind that 14k is harder than 18k. If the piece of jewelry is something you’ll wear every day, this can be a concern.
· Any kind of recycled metal is great for environmentally-conscious wearers. However, it’s suitable for anyone because there’s no discernable difference between it and “new” gold or platinum.
· Most gold jewelry is durable, except for 24k. Platinum is the most durable fine metal, and platinum jewelry gets passed down through generations.
· Caring for gold jewelry is easy. First, be sure you have a proper jewelry box or place it in its original box when you aren’t wearing it. This will keep the jewelry from getting scratched. Second, if you need to clean it, use some jewelry cleaner or a bowl of soapy water. Let the jewelry soak if needed. You can use a soft bristled toothbrush to dislodge any dirt.
As you can see, gold and platinum are beautiful, durable metals. Your choice of gold color are a matter of taste, unless you are sensitive to nickel. In that case, choosing sterling silver or platinum may be a good idea-or switch to a different gold color. Either way, your recycled metal jewelry options are almost unlimited.
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Recycled precious metals are environmentally friendly
Lastly, recycled precious metals are more environmentally friendly than newly mined ones. It’s well-known that mining contributes to soil erosion, pollution, habitat destruction, and other environmental hazards. Almost as bad, mining can be dangerous and causes injury to many miners a year.
There’s no question that recycling anything requires energy. At a minimum, refiners need to break the metals into pieces and melt them down. They’ll also remove impurities to ensure a quality finished product. However, this is much less taxing on our environment than mining.
In addition, recycled gold and platinum are often cheaper. While not every jeweler does this, many charge less for their recycled gold creations. That’s because recycled gold is cheaper to buy and convert into new jewelry. Lower environmental costs and cheaper prices make recycled gold and platinum a win-win-win: for the environment, the consumer, and even the jeweler.
Jewelry from recycled precious metals is worth trying.
- Can metal jewelry be recycled?
YES! In fact, jewelry recycling is popular and highly profitable. Plus, it’s good for the environment.
- What does recycled jewelry mean?
It means that the metals used weren’t mined immediately before use. Instead, the jewelry was made from metals that were taken from other objects, like old jewelry.
- What is the most sustainable metal for jewelry?
Anything that’s recycled. You can choose gold, platinum, or even silver that has been used a second time (or more).
- What is recycled precious metal?
It’s precious metal that was used for something else, like old jewelry, dental fillings or crowns, and even computer parts. Then, it’s been separated from other materials and melted down.