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November 02, 2022

Going for gold: Why recycled gold is the way forward for jewellery

Becky Waldron

Who doesn't want gorgeous jewellery? The question is a no brainer but how can we reconcile our lust for luxury in a world that needs us to buy less not more?

The truth is, the way we go about the luxuries we love is becoming a problem, contributing towards varying environmental crises.

But, there is a solution. We don’t have to stop buying the things we love, we just have to go about it a bit savvier, and recycled gold is a good example of this swap.

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Where does recycled gold come from?

At least 90% of recycled gold comes from pre-existing jewellery, according to the World Gold Council. With the last 10% coming from redundant technology gadgets, and other gold-bearing consumer products that are no longer in use.

To repurpose this gold, it needs to go through a refining process (which we’ll talk about in a minute). These items are often sold to gold melting companies when the products are no longer in use, or no longer wanted.

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When gold is being recycled, the process may vary depending on what the intended end-use of the gold is.

First of all, gold must be sorted by its purity – this is how many carats it is. The gold will then be melted down, at around 1000° C, to reach its purest form. Any impurities found will be melted off during the ‘smelting’ process – the process of extracting a metal from its ore.

Once gold is in a liquid form, it’s in a good state to be modelled into whatever its intended purpose will be, i.e. jewellery, parts for electronics or for dental use.

Is recycled gold more ethical?

A simple way to answer this question would be yes. But, let’s delve into some of the reasons why recycled gold is more ethical than ‘regular’ gold.

At the root of it all is the initial process of gold mining: it’s incredibly harmful.

It’s not only damaging to the environment, but hurts the workers and local communities involved.

What are the problems with gold mining?

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Firstly, in order to get gold, you need to discover it. Gold is found in the Earth’s mantle, not on the surface, and therefore requires an intrusive excavation process to extract.

Many large open-pit mines exist because of gold mining. As you can probably imagine, creating these deep and vast mines destroys everything in its path. Not only is it harmful to any kind of wildlife in these areas, but the solid waste produced by these processes is unfathomably huge and extremely toxic. It releases:

  • over 200 million pounds of arsenic

  • over 4 million pounds of mercury

  • over 200 hundred million pounds of lead

(Source: Earthworks)

Not to mention the emissions from these processes, which are probably some of the most harmful emissions possible, including hydrogen cyanide.

Alongside an exhaustive list of environmentally damaging properties, gold mining is also unethical as it has negative impacts on various peoples and communities.

When a metal mine is first established, people can get displaced from their land or home. Mining leases can be granted with no warning, and eviction forced on natives without any choice. However, even if they did have the choice, we can see from the environmental effects of gold mining that staying would result in a very poor quality of life.

In some parts of the world, parts of Africa for example, mining becomes militarised, making it a dangerous activity with many risks associated for those who oppose it.

According to a report by Oxfam and Earthworks Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities and the Environment, human rights violations are an established pattern found in many – if not all – mining communities.

Does recycled gold lose its quality?

For those more concerned about whether recycling gold means that the quality of their jewellery piece will be compromised, we can tell you that it won’t!

No matter how many times gold is recycled, going through the same melting and smelting process time and time again, it will never lose its value or purity. So, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Why buy recycled gold jewellery?

Hopefully, by reading about some of the unpleasant side effects of gold mining, you can get a better understanding of why it needs to be reduced and ultimately abandoned.

Choosing recycled gold over non-recycled gold is a no brainer, really.

  • It has less of an impact on the environment: In an era where we need to look after our planet more than ever before, making choices that take less of a toll on the environment is becoming more of a necessity.

  • Less chance of harm to others: There are some unpleasant patterns and practices that go on in the gold mining industry. Recycled gold does not play a role in harming communities and indigenous peoples.

  • Contributes to a circular economy: A circular economy is where resources are recycled and reused, with no (or at least minimal) waste, and no need to extract raw materials. This is the ideal economic model that might be able to help our society in fighting various economic and environmental crises that we are seeing.

Want to know more about the circular economy? Read our blog here.

Sustainable and ethical jewellery – Making choices that matter


People hold a lot of power in the choices they make, especially when it comes to where they spend their money. We’re lucky that we’re approaching a time where more choices are available to us, choices that are more sustainable, environmentally friendly and cause no harm to the people that are involved.

Recycled gold is by no means less valuable, less gorgeous or less authentic than gold extracted straight from the ground. It’s just gone through a few more processes.

If you want an engagement ring made from recycled gold, or ethical earrings, or maybe a sustainable pendant, then take a look at our TIMELESS jewellery collection today.

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