Recycled gold, also known as eco-friendly or reclaimed gold, is gold sourced from previously refined gold materials and then processed and refined back into pure gold. It can be obtained through a variety of sources, including old jewellery, electronic waste, and industrial byproducts.
At Ingle & Rhode, we believe that beauty and sustainability can go hand in hand. That's why we are proud to offer exquisite recycled gold jewellery and recycled gold and platinum rings that are both ethically sourced and environmentally friendly. As a pioneer of ethical jewellery, we were also one of the first signatories to the No Dirty Gold campaign and one of the first jewellers in the world to offer certified Fairtrade gold.
Let’s delve into the world of recycled gold, exploring its origins, benefits, and role in crafting exquisite pieces that not only captivate hearts but also protect our planet.
How is recycled gold made?
The process of recycling gold begins with the collection and sorting of gold-bearing materials. This can include scrap jewellery, electronic waste, and other sources of gold. Once the materials are collected, they are processed to remove other materials and then melted down and refined to remove any impurities, such as alloyed metals. The refining process produces pure gold (known as fine gold), which can then be reconstituted into new gold products.
Key benefits of recycled gold
As consumers become more conscious of the social and environmental impact of their choices, there is a growing demand for sustainable alternatives. By opting for jewellery made from recycled gold, consumers can support sustainable practices in the industry, promoting a circular economy and reducing the demand for newly mined gold, mitigating the ecological footprint and human exploitation often associated with extraction.
Avoiding the environmental impact of gold mining
Traditional gold mining processes can have significant environmental consequences, including deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. Moreover, mining contributes to the release of harmful chemicals such as mercury and cyanide into ecosystems. The negative consequences of gold mining extend beyond the mining sites, as nearby communities often suffer from displacement, loss of livelihoods, and health issues due to exposure to hazardous substances.
Avoiding conflict gold
Newly-mined gold can sometimes come from conflict zones, where its extraction and sale can contribute to violence and instability. Recycled gold is less likely to be associated with such conflicts.
Avoiding human exploitation in gold mining
Gold mining can be associated with various human rights abuses, including child labour, unsafe working conditions, and unfair pay. While recycled gold can also be associated with these issues (for example, if it's collected from e-waste in developing countries), the issues are generally less widespread.
Is recycled gold the same quality as newly mined gold?
One common misconception about recycled gold is that it is of lower quality compared to newly mined gold. However, this is completely untrue. Advancements in refining techniques have enabled the production of recycled gold with identical purity levels to mined gold. This means that recycled gold, once it has been refined, is identical to newly-mined gold.
How many times can gold be recycled?
Gold can theoretically be recycled an infinite number of times without degrading in quality. This is one of the reasons why gold has been a consistent store of value for thousands of years – it can be continually reused without losing its intrinsic properties.
However, while gold itself can be infinitely recycled, it's important to note that there can be losses during the recycling process. Small amounts of gold may be lost during the collection, melting, and refining stages, especially if the gold is mixed with other materials. These losses are typically small, but they can add up over repeated recycling processes.
In practical terms, most gold that's currently in use has been recycled at least once. The World Gold Council estimates that around 90% of the world's gold supply has been recycled.
Is recycled gold ethical?
Yes, recycled gold can be considered more ethical than most newly-mined gold for a few reasons:
1. Environmental impact: Gold mining can have significant environmental impacts, which are avoided by recycling gold.
2. Human rights: Unfortunately, child labour, unsafe working conditions, and unfair pay are widespread in the gold mining industry. Fortunately, this is not the case for the gold recycling industry.
3. Conflict: Gold mining occurs in a number of conflict zones where it can contribute to violence and instability. This is not the case for recycled gold.
However, it is worth noting that not all recycled gold is equally ethical. The recycling process itself can sometimes involve unsafe working conditions and environmental harm, particularly when it involves informal e-waste recycling in developing countries. And, while recycled gold is less likely to be associated with conflict than newly-mined gold, it can still sometimes have a murky history if it was originally mined in a conflict zone.
To ensure that you're buying ethical gold, whether it's recycled or newly mined, it's best to look for certifications from reputable organizations that audit gold's supply chains for environmental and social issues. One example is the Responsible Jewellery Council, which certifies both gold mines and recyclers for adherence to ethical practices.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that recycling gold only meets a fraction of the global demand for gold, so efforts to make gold mining more sustainable and ethical are also important. This is why Ingle & Rhode is proud to have been one of the first jewellers in the world licensed to offer certified Fairtrade gold as an equally ethical alternative to recycled gold.
Can recycled gold be hallmarked?
Yes, absolutely, and all of Ingle & Rhode’s recycled gold (and platinum) jewellery is hallmarked.
A hallmark is a mark or a set of symbols stamped on items made of precious metals, such as gold, silver, or platinum. These marks serve as a certification of the metal's purity or fineness, and they may also provide information about where and when the item was made. You can learn more by reading our guide to hallmarking.
When buying gold items, whether they're made from recycled gold or newly-mined gold, it's a good idea to look for a hallmark as a guarantee of the item's gold content. However, keep in mind that a hallmark doesn't provide information about whether the gold is recycled or newly mined or about the ethical and environmental practices used in its extraction and manufacturing. For that kind of information, you need to look for other types of certifications or assurances from your jeweller.
Is recycled gold better than non-recycled gold?
In terms of physical properties, recycled gold and non-recycled gold are essentially identical. Gold retains its properties regardless of whether it is newly mined or recycled.
However, from a sustainability and ethical perspective, recycled gold is often a more responsible choice unless newly-mined gold is coming from an ethical source such as certified Fairtrade gold mines.
Does recycled gold look any different to mined gold?
The straightforward answer is no since the physical properties of gold do not change as a result of recycling. This includes its visual appearance, which is identical to non-recycled gold.
Is recycled gold jewellery any less valuable?
Not at all. The value of gold jewellery is primarily determined by factors such as the gold's purity, weight, craftsmanship, design, and market demand. Recycled gold retains its intrinsic value as a precious metal, just like mined gold. In fact, some consumers may place a higher value on recycled gold jewellery due to its environmental and ethical benefits. Choosing recycled gold demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and responsible sourcing, which can be appealing to individuals who prioritise ethical considerations in their purchasing decisions.
Recycled gold is gold that has been extracted from previously used or scrap materials and then processed and refined back into its pure form. Its properties, quality, appearance and value are identical to newly mined gold but it offers some significant environmental and social benefits, which is driving growing consumer demand for recycled gold jewellery.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or have any questions about recycled gold jewellery, please get in touch and someone from the Ingle & Rhode team would be happy to help.