The Benefits of Recycled Gold
Gold jewellery is a timeless gift, but gold itself is a limited resource. Rather than purchasing jewellery made of newly mined gold, consider buying pieces made from recycled gold. Mining gold is financially costly as well as environmentally costly.
Fortunately, there is plenty of recycled gold available as we look to help the environment by making our designs using recycled gold.
Sourcing Recycled Gold
Recycled gold comes from several sources. Jewellery and coins are easy sources. Recycled gold can also come from electronics sources like televisions, mobile phones, and other household electronic devices. Dentists can also recycle gold from fillings and other procedures. Older vehicles with catalytic converters and electronics with circuit boards also have recyclable gold.
Processing Recycled Gold
Gold from industrial and electronic applications needs to be processed before it can be used to make jewellery. Usually, recyclers have to remove gold from housings and pass it through a chemical-stripping procedure. Some gold is melted down, cooled, and grinded. Fortunately, the chemicals used to recycle gold become inert through the process.
When recycling gold from jewellery or coins, the process involves evaluating the quality with an acid kit or spectrometer. Recyclers sort it by quality, then melt it in a crucible at an extremely high temperature. Then, the gold is poured into a bar shape and smelted again to burn off more impurities.
The advantage of using recycled gold is that the quality does not degrade. Gold’s purity remains the same as the day it was mined. Recycling gold involves fewer chemicals and environmental destruction than mining new gold from the ground. Gold does not oxidize or corrode, unlike other metals. These special characteristics caused the precious metal to retain its value no matter how long ago it was removed from the ground.
Why Avoid New Gold?
Industrial miners use cyanide. This chemical contaminates the soil and pollutes the environment. Cyanide goes into drinking water; if water is untreated, cyanide levels can be toxic to the skin. When cyanide gets into the soil, the soil is damaged for extensive periods of time.
Mining gold requires moving a significant amount of earth. For example, to get 3 grams of gold for a ring, miners need to excavate six tonnes of soil. That soil is exposed to cyanide to get the gold. Plenty of unused and perfectly usable gold also exists in city dumps.
Miners use cyanide to remove gold from the ore. They use heap leaching or vat leaching. Heap leaching involves spraying cyanide over crushed ore. In vat leaching, the cyanide is mixed with ore in a tank. The cyanide is more controlled in vat leaching, but the process still creates waste which can become problematic if not handled properly.
Along with putting harmful chemicals into the ground, gold mining also involves digging large pits or shafts with heavy machinery that consumes fossil fuels. To get enough gold for a wedding band, miners need to produce around 20 tons of toxic waste. They also need to move large amounts of earth, disrupting ecosystems and animal homes. Using recycled gold slows these harmful practices.
Urban Mining for Precious Gold
Rather than continuing to harm the environment, those with unused gold sitting around in jewellery boxes, safes, and electronics could turn in their gold and slow the need for harmful mining to continue.
Much of the unused gold is in big cities. Rather than mining in the earth for new precious metals, urban miners can source metals - like gold - from offices, apartments, and basements. Urban mining does not involve using chemicals to extract gold from buildings and dumps. Instead, the process involves looking for it in old electronics, vehicles, jewellery boxes, and safe deposit boxes.
As personal electronics like smartphones are only used for a year or two, those devices are literal gold mines. Any smartphones or computers that end ups in landfills are treasure troves for those who want to go digging for them. People in big cities need incentives to bring the old electronics and unused gold jewellery to recycling centers so harmful mining practices become unnecessary and eventually obsolete.
Jewellers Using Recycled Gold
At Vinny&Charles, we are working hard to become environmentally ethical and sustainable. We’re turning to recycled gold because of the unethical mining practices. To avoid adding more cyanide and mercury into the ground, we have the goal to only use recycled gold, as after processing it is just as good as gold that has yet to be mined. In actuality, recycled gold is better than unmined gold, because the recycled gold is already out of the ground.
According to the United States Geological Survey, approximately 244,000 metric tons of gold is circulating around the globe. Of those tons, only 3% would meet the needs of the jewellery industry. Fortunately, gold can be recycled over and over and still be just as good as it was the day it was mined. So, recycled gold is a sustainable commodity, as it never decreases in value.
By reusing gold, the environment can be protected from additional harm. Not all gold in circulation is recyclable, because it is being used or worn. But, there is plenty of unused gold that should be recycled, as it would help the environment. Because gold is valuable, families tend to keep heirlooms. So at this time, new gold is still needed because recycled gold is only filling about 30% of demand for new jewellery. Therefore, miners still need to dig for new gold.
When you buy recycled gold, you can trust that you are helping the environment. Of course, the gold had to be removed at some point in history, but new gold did not have to be mined to make your jewellery. Much like conflict-free diamonds, recycled gold protects the planet and it helps workers who might be mistreated in unsafe working conditions.
Repurposing and recycling gold benefits the artisans who make new jewellery. The ethics of recycled gold benefits communities both big and small. When you support artisans who work with recycled gold, you show your support for sustainability and you reduce the need for new mining to happen.