Is recycled gold the best choice? - W.R. Metalarts

Is recycled gold the best choice?

Recycled Gold vs. Newly Mined Gold

You might have seen lots of jewelers (including us!) sharing that their work is made in 100% recycled metal. But what does this really mean? We hear it all the time: "reduce, reuse, recycle" so shouldn't recycled gold be the best option? Isn't it best to use existing gold that has already been mined rather than harm the planet to extract more? Read on to find out how a lot of "recycled" gold isn't really the gold standard in ethical sourcing...
Earth to Hand Solitaires on 5 hands, holding each other with green and grey background


But recycled is baseline a good thing...right?

Recycled gold may sound like it’s the most responsible option available; however, it really is the bare minimum for jewelers who care about the human and environmental impact of their trade. 

The truth is that, because gold is so valuable - it has always been recycled! No one is going to throw away gold like they might with aluminum, paper, or other recyclable materials because it is infinitely reusable! Gold’s worth is not diminished by time or use. So it has always been recycled and much of the gold in circulation in the market today has been used many times before being used in your jewelry. And even if 100% of jewelers committed to only using recycled gold, the global demand for gold would stay the same!

Most of the gold you could purchase is more than likely to be recycled gold even if it is not marketed as such. Only 2% of all gold ever mined is unaccounted for in the world and according to the USGS, "about 244,000 metric tons of gold has been discovered to date," which includes, "187,000 metric tons historically produced plus current underground reserves of 57,000 metric tons." To put that in perspective "all of the gold discovered thus far would fit in a cube that is 28 meters wide on every side."

So, that leaves us wondering...if recycled gold is mostly the default standard of gold, then why is it presented like it is a conscious ethical choice companies are making?

When we first started out as a business we thought recycled was the best way to go. Only after joining other metalsmithing communities, like Ethical Metalsmiths, did we begin to unpack the truth behind gold sourcing.

By only using recycled gold, jewelers (like ourselves) tend to separate themselves from “dirty,” problematic mining processes. But recycled gold was mined at some point and, with clever marketing loopholes, that “recycled” gold may actually have been mined quite recently!

What can I do about it? How do I make an ethical choice in my jewelry purchase?

Choosing recycled gold definitely isn't a bad thing - it just might not be the strong ethical stance you have been told it is. There are plenty of great options out there to make sure your jewelry aligns with your values. You can use heirloom gold to create new pieces and remove yourself from the gold supply chain altogether or you can choose something like Fairmined gold for your work of art.

Fairmined gold is certifiably sourced from small-scale mining organizations that are actively embracing responsible business, social, and environmental practices. It is newly-mined gold that directly supports local mining communities. The mining organizations and workers benefit from a guaranteed fair price plus a premium for the gold they provide, and the buyer benefits from full traceability and assurance that their precious metal is responsibly mined.

With Fairmined gold, the entire journey of the metal is documented and certified: from the moment the gold is extracted from the ground to when it ends its journey in your piece! This guarantees the positive impact that your purchase makes on the communities that sourced your metal.

Fairmined gold purchases also contribute to the preservation of natural resources and the positive development of miners and their families - creating ripple effects of impact that influence more and more miners to get certified and more brands in the market to support and provide Fairmined gold.

Up to this point, we have been choosing to only use recycled gold in our work. We are now introducing our own Fairmined initiative because we want to do more to support the small-scale miners directly. By utilizing the purchasing power of the jewelry industry to improve the mining industry, we will have a greater positive impact on mining communities and our planet than ‘opting out’ of the issue.

Ethical, transparent sourcing is at the core of our business, so we’re working to level up from the status quo. Investing in Fairmined Gold is deeply aligned with our values, which is why we’re thrilled to announce our Fairmined Collections! 

How is Fairmined gold certified? 

Fairmined Gold is certified through a rigorous third-party investigation and audit system run through The Alliance for Responsible Mining. This system ensures that the mining organizations meet the highest standards for responsible mining when sourcing their gold.

Who started the Fairmined gold initiative? 

The Alliance for Responsible Mining developed the Fairmined Standard, which prioritizes positive social impacts and responsible environmental practices in small-scale gold mining. 

Who does Fairmined gold support?

By choosing Fairmined gold, you support small-scale mining organizations instead of large corporations (who control most of the recycled gold market). Your choice of Fairmined directly contributes to the workers sourcing your gold getting a fair price for their hard work as well as an additional premium to invest in the improvement of their operations, support of their communities, and stewardship of the environment.

Artisanal and small-scale mining is responsible for 20% of the world’s gold extraction, yet employs 90% of the workers involved in gold-extraction - nearly 20 million miners working in 80 countries around the world that often face hazardous working conditions including significant mercury exposure to themselves and their communities in addition to not being fairly compensated for their work.

Seven Earth to Hand Solitaire rings in Fairmined 14k Yellow Gold on white background

Is W.R. Metalarts Fairmined certified?

Yes we are! We still sell recycled gold as not all of our pieces can be made in Fairmined gold at this time, and we always like to provide our clients with every option for their projects. Now that we are licensed to offer Fairmined gold we are so excited to offer it as an option for your projects! 

Why is Fairmined gold more expensive? 

Fairmined Gold is slightly more expensive than recycled gold as it takes more time, energy, and coordination to source. It also guarantees fair wages to the workers who sourced it whereas other gold was sourced by miners paid criminally low wages.

Paying a premium for Fairmined Gold ensures that we are knowledgeable and proud of the full story of our materials! We want to invest in the communities that are providing the raw materials we need to create unique fine jewelry that will be treasured for generations.

We are committed to transforming the jewelry industry, including the precious metals sectors. Businesses have a responsibility to use their purchasing power to incentivize responsible and sustainable mining practices. Financially supporting this movement will bring about significant, long-term structural change. Your purchase matters and you can make a direct and measurable impact on small-scale mining communities world-wide by choosing Fairmined for your piece!

Sources and Resources:

What is Fairmined? 
The Alliance for Responsible Mining promotes responsible gold sourcing 
Is recycled gold an ethical choice? - ARM 
Ethical Gold: Fairmined vs. Recycled Gold 


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