What is recycled silver and gold  - are they any different?

The recycled silver and gold I use in my jewellery is of exactly the same purity, colour and has the same properties as any other gold or sterling silver available on the market, whether newly mined, partially recycled or 100% recycled. The heavier pieces I make are sent for hallmarking at Goldsmith Company Assay Office on Gutter Lane, London in just the same way as new-mined silver and gold.

What is sterling silver? 

Pure silver (often called fine silver) is too soft to make durable jewellery or functional objects. So jewellers use sterling silver which is 92.5% pure silver, mixed with other metals, usually copper to give it strength, hence the marking you often see stamped on silver items and jewellery - '925'

Recycled gold : I work in recycled 18k, 14k, 9k yellow, white and rose golds. For details about commissioning a recycled gold wedding or engagement ring from me, click here.

Coatings : Everything I make is solid silver or gold. There are no coatings or plating on any of jewellery, apart from the oxidisation patina on silver pieces described as 'oxidised' - this finish is achieved by heating the piece so it blackens, or a gentle chemical reaction once the piece is made. My white gold jewellery is left with its natural colour - I do not Rhodium plate my white gold jewellery, as this heavily toxic process does not fit with the environmental policies of Glasswing Jewellery.

Other recycled precious metals : recycled palladium and argentium may also be available by request.

Hallmarking: All Glasswing silver jewellery can be hallmarked by request, however it is only the heavier pieces that legally require hallmarking in the UK. It is struck with the traditional UK standard marks, as well as my personal stamp, which allows your jewellery to be identified as having been made by me.

For the range of Glasswing recycled silver wedding rings, click here.

Here are some FAQ's  that may be useful - they are adapted from a section of the website of Hoover and Strong, the eco-friendly metal supplier from whom I source some of my metals and gems.

1. Is buying recycled jewellery just the same as buying second hand jewellery?
No. Recycled jewelry is made from precious metals that have been recycled from various sources such as vintage jewellery, metal scrap from individual jewellery makers and large scale jewellery manufacturing, the photographic industry, electronics and so on.

2. Are recycled metals as good/pure as newly mined metals?
Totally!  When a metal is mined from the earth, the metal ore is chemically processed to purify the metal content to very high levels - typically 99.99%. Instead of digging the earth for ore, recycled metals are generated using scrap precious metals from various sources which are purified, through a refining process, to the same high level as mined gold. The "refined" pure metals from both the mine and the recycled source are of identical purity!

3. So where do new metals come from?
Newly mined or virgin metals are typically mined from the earth. It takes literally tons of rock to yield just a few grams of pure gold.

4. How can I tell if a metal is recycled?
You can only tell if a metal is recycled if the supplier of the metal has supplied recognised independent certification stating this.

5. How can I trust a retailer who claims that their jewellery is made from recycled metals?
Ask the retailer to tell you about their supply chain, and to show you proof of third party certification for recycling which verifies that the metals supplier has been audited by a recognised certification company. (This is available on request). Anyone can say they are using recycled metals, but few can prove it. 

6. Does it matter what type of process is used to refine and recycle metals?
Yes. You need to be safe and secure in the knowledge that the metal that makes up your jewelry has been refined using environmentally safe practices. This will be part of the third party certification.

7. What is a "recycled diamond"?
A recycled diamond is one that has been previously used in a piece of jewellery, removed/ or 'recovered', re-polished, properly graded and mounted in your new piece of jewellery.

8. Why bother with recycled metals? What good will it do?

Recycled metals are very important indeed. If we continue to use fresh mined metals, we are paying an enormous environmental price. By using recycled metals, the "environmental bill" has already been paid.

9. Is precious metal mining always bad for the environment?
Precious metal mining requires digging huge holes up to mile wide in the earth, displacing animals and plants, and destroying natural habitats. Most mines also use deadly chemicals in the mining process, which impact even wider areas of plants, animal habitats. They also impact worker's health and the whole local communities' quality of life. Mines scar the landscape, and their impact can last for decades, even indefinitely.
There are a few mines that have made positive strides on some levels to improve the impact they have, and worker's conditions, particularly those involved in the supply of FAIRMINED metals,  but only certified "recycled precious metal" can be guaranteed to have the least negative impact on the environment.  It is a matter open to debate which is the more ethical choice between recycled and fairmined. I tend to use recycled metals, FAIRTRADE gemstones, and recycled diamonds. I also offer FAIRTRADE metals and some reclaimed gems if I can source some that are of acceptable quality.

10. Are recycled diamonds worth less than mined diamonds?

No! Just as the motto says "A Diamond is Forever"©. A recycled diamond is every bit as precious as a freshly mined diamond. ou could argue it is far more precious as you can be assured recycled diamond is not coming to you from sources tied to drugs, exploitation or funding/supporting terrorism.  The recycled diamonds I use are sourced from a reputable supplier, and come with a certificate from the GIA - the uncertified ones also have information about their grading.