If you’d like to go straight to our list of jewellers using recycled metals you can jump ahead. But you may be intrigued to know that some of the silver, gold or copper in those earrings or necklace you have your eye on might once have been part of your smartphone, TV or even hairdryer.
That’s because the electrical gadgets that power modern life contain valuable metals such as aluminium, copper and zinc – even gold and silver.
Take silver – its brilliant conductivity, durability and light weight make it a natural choice to be used in everything from printed circuit boards to switches on countless electronic devices. Televisions, phones, microwave ovens, toys and computer keyboards, room lighting, you name it. ‘If it has an on/off button,’ says the Silver Institute, ‘it’s likely that silver is inside.’
Granted, there’s only a tiny amount of silver, gold, copper etc in one phone, laptop, or hairdryer. But collectively we’re using – and discarding – millions of such gadgets. So the volume of metals really starts to add up.
And the thing about metals is that they’re relatively easy to recycle. Readily separated from other materials, such as plastics, metals can be returned more or less to the purity they had when they were originally refined. This means they can be used again and again.
That’s good news because reusing metals reduces pressure to dig new ore from the Earth. If you just took the unwanted cables lying around in UK homes and recycled the copper in them, it could save 140,000 tonnes of rock from being blasted out of the ground. Enough to fill a dozen Olympic swimming pools.
Reducing the need for mining will also avoid soil erosion, air and water pollution, and damage to landscapes and biodiversity. And it will help curb those climate-changing emissions created when we mine and process metal ores.
So there are plenty of reasons to opt for recycled metals. Which brings us back to the fact that, together, the unused electrical appliances and gadgets languishing in homes across the UK are a proper mine of recycled metals – and one whose potential is largely untapped.
That’s where you step in.
First, by recycling your electricals. When we’ve finished with those headphones, chargers or electric toothbrushes, if we pass on or recycle them rather than shove them in a cupboard or chuck them in the rubbish bin, we’re effectively reducing pressure to mine for virgin ore. Find your nearest electrical recycling point using our handy locator [link].
Second, choose products made from recycled metals. And so to jewellery. If you’re wondering whether buying recycled will really make a difference, consider this: the jewellery industry accounts for nearly a sixth (16.5%) of global silver demand.
Not only is silver the most conductive metal, it is also highly prized for its beauty and workability. So it makes sense that at least one major supplier to jewellery-makers, Cookson Gold, offers metals from recycled electronics and electricals.
In fact if you start digging you soon realise that jewellers have long used recycled materials in their craft. It’s just that they don’t necessarily shout about it – something fashion guru Harold Tillman thinks should change.
But to save you having to do much digging, we’ve compiled a list of jewellers using recycled metals that have caught our eye. It’s not exhaustive but if you’re looking for a special piece this year, our list isn’t a bad place to start.
Aquila are introducing a new recycled sterling silver pledge, starting with recycled metal in their chunky sterling silver hoops and silver hammered hoops. They say their aim in the near future is for all of their metals to be recycled.
CompletedWorks say all their gold jewellery is made from either recycled or Fairtrade gold, and a ‘significant proportion’ of their silver is from recycled or reclaimed silver. Using recycled silver, they say, reduces CO2 emissions by two thirds compared to mined silver, helps curb consumption of natural resources, and eases the environmental impact of mining – including contamination of ground water with mercury and cyanide.
Loveness Lee are confident that choosing their recycled silver pieces doesn’t mean compromising on quality. ‘The only difference’, they say, ‘is that you’re helping us protect our planet.’ The company’s ultimate aim is to use recycled silver across all its collections.
Lylie’s use salvaged gold and silver, recycled from e-waste, dental uses and their own exchange scheme. Lylie’s made a special series for the model and campaigner Lily Cole, working with our Five Gold Rings campaign to raise awareness of this hidden treasure in unwanted electronics.
Kirsten Manzi is the only other jeweller we’ve come across who specifically refers to scrap electricals as a source of their recycled metal (although this doesn’t mean many others aren’t using it). Manzi says all her pieces are made using 100% certified, traceable and audited recycled silver and gold wherever possible. ‘There is no new metal added to 100% post-consumer recycled metal, so no first-hand mining has taken place,’ she says.
Orelia recently launched their first recycled collection, prompted, they say, by time spent outdoors during lockdown. The Inspired by Nature collection uses 100% recycled silver base metal certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council.
The well-known jewellers have made a commitment to using only recycled silver and gold in their products by 2025. By doing so Pandora expect to save the equivalent of 37,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, which they reckon is more than the emissions from the electricity used by 6,000 homes in a year.
Sondr London say their pieces are made from recycled silver and gold-plated bronze or brass.
Laura Vann’s V range is ‘made to last both in terms of a timeless aesthetic and sustainable origin; using recycled silver’. Their Keep Collection, meanwhile, emphasises use of recycled materials and an ethos of countering fast fashion with jewels that have longevity designed in.
Monica Vinader claim that by using only 100% recycled gold vermeil (a form of plating) and sterling silver they will have avoided more than 2,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions by the end of 2021.
Sken told us that they source most of their recycled precious metals from Cookson Gold. As is common among jewellers working in metal, Sken also reuse their own scraps, melting them down, rolling them out into sheet or wire and working with them again.