When shopping for jewellery, you might find that sustainability is in the forefront of your mind more now than ever before. It feels increasingly as if the onus of the environmental impact of our purchases falls more and more on the consumer. If sustainability is important to you, then you will have come across the term “recycled gold” in your search for jewellery. But what is recycled gold? And is it actually a more sustainable choice?
Any consumer product has an impact on the environment. It is up to us as consumers and retailers to ensure that this impact is as low as possible. In brief, we use recycled gold for all of our wedding rings. This is because we consider it the bare minimum in ethical bullion sourcing. Recycled gold also has the benefit of being less costly than newly mined gold. We choose to pass that lower cost on to our customers.
Read on to discover the methods used to make recycled gold, as well as the positive environmental impact of avoiding newly mined metal.
Put simply, recycled gold is real gold that has been repurposed from other sources. This could be old jewellery, consumer products, waste products, unused metal, and any other items made from gold. These materials are melted down and refined back to their purest form, before being further refined into different karats of gold. After refining, the recycled gold is ready to be made back into jewellery again.
This is not a modern process. Jewellers have repurposed gold for years in various ways. Due to the rarity of the material, and gold’s ability to be refined again and again without losing purity, this has always been standard practice.
The process of making recycled gold is fairly simple. The scrap gold is sorted by karat purity, and then melted down. From here the gold can either be formed into bars based on karat, or further refined to form pure gold.
Pure gold is refined by smelting the impurities from the gold alloy until only 24 karat gold remains. There are several ways to do this. One method is to simply burn off any impurities, while another method requires the addition of a flux to the gold. This reacts with the impurities and causes them to separate from the gold.
Another way to separate pure gold from an alloy is to use acid. The gold is soaked in a bath of nitric and hydrochloric acid for between 1 and 24 hours. Then, the acid is neutralised with the addition of an acid with a higher pH. The now neutralised gold solution is then added to a mixture of borax and water which causes the gold to precipitate out of the solution. The liquid is poured away, leaving the brown precipitate which can be melted down into recognisable recycled gold.
Recycled gold can come from many sources! Some refineries even use dental gold, however this requires further stages in the refining process to remove any organic or non-metal elements.
There are so many benefits to using recycled gold. The key benefit is that it reduces the need for newly mined gold. Gold mining is extremely tough on the environment. It can also be associated with human rights issues. Reducing the demand for newly mined material means the industry can remain sustainable for longer.
Gold can be recycled again and again without losing value or purity. This means that unwanted, unfashionable, or broken jewellery can get a new lease of life as many times as you want! Recycled gold is also less costly than mined gold as there is no margin necessary to cover mining practices.
Most of the world’s gold resources have already been mined. In order to sustain a thriving gold industry, it is imperative that we use the gold we already have rather than continue unearthing more.