What is Recycled Gold & Why is it Problematic?

July 24, 2020

What is Recycled Gold & Why is it Problematic?

Is recycled gold eco friendly for jewelry?

When you hear the word "recycled" or "recyclable" it probably conjures up a feeling of helping be a part of a solution. I remember when I was a kid and I would lecture my family on the importance of sorting our trash and making a dedicated recycling bin in our kitchen. I felt like I was really accomplishing something by helping my family recycle

Because recycling campaigns are now common knowledge and 60% of the world is concerned about climate change we probably all associate the R word with something positive and eco-friendly. So it makes total sense that when talking about ethical and sustainable jewelry and we hear the words "Recycled Gold" we automatically think recycled=good and we don't need to research it further. But I am here to tell you today that recycled gold no matter if it is certified or not, is not what you think is. Recycled gold isn't actually helping gold mining issues as much as you think it does.

1. Recycled gold won’t ever decrease the demand for gold mining.

Recycled gold cannot be compared to other recycled materials like plastic where  it is essentially valueless and in enormous oversupply. The demand for gold far outweighs the supply because of gold's obvious value. As long as gold is deemed valuable humans will be extracting gold out of the earth until the end of time whether we do it the right way or the wrong way.


2. One third of the world's total supply of gold is recycled.

Whereas only 9% of plastics are recycled. It’s important to try and recycle as much plastic as possible because we have an oversupply issue clogging our eco systems. We have limited supply of gold and a very high demand so we cannot use the circular economy principles just yet. Gold is also unique in that it is easily recyclable unlike plastics that can only be recycled a couple of times. Jewelers and refiners since the beginning of goldsmithing have recycled pure gold because it can be remelted infinitely. Because gold is also currency and an investment item there is a significant amount of the world's above ground supply just sitting in banks and safes. This investment supply isn't going to ever be recycled at a significant volume to make more gold available for jewelry and possibly decrease gold mining demand. 


3. Recycled gold is not traceable.

Recycled gold is not possible to trace, it can be only be certified recycled. Recycled gold could have been extracted 12 months ago or 12 years ago, or 120 years ago, there is no way to tell. This is an issue because the likelihood that the recycled gold was recently extracted in a way that harmed people and the planet is very high. We have to consider the traumas of the gold mining industry and that these atrocities have lasting repercussions for many generations. Recycling gold does not bring any restitution to these communities or heal any trauma that is still being dealt with. 


4. Recycled gold is not actually ethical, if anything it is neutral.

It is misleading to view recycled gold as actively ethical or eco-friendly given the market demand of gold and the volume of current day gold mining with no end in sight. Recycling gold takes more of a neutral approach to the horrible gold mining issues instead of addressing them or providing a real solution. Yes of course it’s not actively hurting people or actively polluting the planet. But unfortunately recycling gold is not playing a big role in solving the issues in the jewelry industry. Recycling gold is important don't get me wrong, but it is just is an innate part of the jewelry process and an added bonus if you will to the usability durability of the material. Jewelers create very little waste in their studios, sweeping up every last particle and dust of precious gold to return to refiners or remelt into jewelry. The question I always ask: "Who is going to knowingly throw away gold? Nobody!" To name recycling gold as something honorable is misleading and can be seen as sweeping under the rug all the real urgent issues that this industry needs to address and demand solutions for. 

fairmined gold mine

 fairmined gold nugget

Today's solution to ethical and eco-friendly gold is Fairmined Gold.

We believe that investing in Fairmined gold is the way forward and that every gram counts towards starting to mend the horrors gold mining has caused communities all over the world. Fairmined gold ensures miners are treated fairly and also promotes a positive environmental legacy. At Valley Rose Studio we use Fairmined gold for all our castings and chains and any other findings are made with recycled gold when possible. To learn more about Fairmined gold click here.

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Sizing & Care

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Print and download this chart to find your ring size. Make sure you use exactly 8.5"x11" letter paper. You can use a string or a piece of paper and wrap around your finger or nuckle to measure the circumference and match to your size.

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