ETHICAL PRECIOUS METAL - WHERE WE ARE
The way the gold supply chain works is that every jeweller in the UK recycles their offcuts and scraps from their workshop back into a big pot in the refinery. The refiners work on a large scale so gold from new mining, gold from goldsmith's work benches and old pieces of gold jewellery are all melted up together and made into new sheets and bars. This is what we use as a starting point for our bespoke jewellery.
This means that a customer cannot know where their gold has come from and definitively whether it has been mined in an ethically sound way or not. So we are pursuing a two-pronged attack to tackle this:
- As the first independent UK Jewellers to have achieved full Responsible Jewellery Council Certification we are putting pressure on the commercial mines to clean up their act, and use the collective buying power of the UK jewellery industry, through this organisation, to force change to happen. We are also spending time lobbying our metal suppliers to start making available a tracked source of supply - in practice this means having one vat every so often that is certificated ethically sourced.
- We were one of the first twenty jewellers worldwide to launch fully certified Fairtrade gold with the Fairtrade Foundation, as an option to our customers for their bespoke jewellery. Since its launch in 2011 the availability of Fairtrade gold has increased and we are now able to source Fairtade gold in both 9 carat and 18 carat alloys and in all three colours: rose, yellow and white.
Another option to customers is to consider reusing old gold - family jewellery can be melted down here in our workshop and made into a new piece. This isn't a perfect process - its difficult to avoid tiny bubbles and you never get as much gold as you expect. It is occasionally more expensive than getting gold from the refiners because of the time involved, but it does mean that no new mining has taken place in the creation of the new piece of jewellery.
In response to our requests, our gold bullion suppliers have decided to offer newly formed recycled gold bullion which has been refined separately to their standard gold, and traced to ensure it is from 100% recycled sources. Customers can choose to use this metal if we are handmaking pieces in our workshop. Jewellery made using a casting process will usually be made in recycled metal as standard.
Platinum & Palladium
Platinum and palladium are beautiful but incredibly rare metals; apparently, if you put all the platinum in the world together in an Olympic sized swimming pool the depth wouldn't even cover your ankles! The properties that make them so desirable for jewellery also mean that they are energy intensive to mine and refine. Having said that, around half of the platinum and palladium mined worldwide is used in the automotive industry, particularly in catalytic converters, and they are widely used in the medical industry (for the production of drugs) so some people feel that this counter balances the energy used in extraction. Palladium is found in many of the same places as platinum and therefore often comes out of the ground when platinum is mined. It is widely believed that palladium is a more environmentally friendly choice because it’s not mined for its own sake.
It’s also worth mentioning that because they are so valuable, platinum and palladium are routinely recovered and recycled all over the world. In fact, it’s valuable enough that some cities actually refine their road sweepings to be able to recover any metal that has come from catalytic converters. There are ways we can make jewellery in recycled platinum or palladium depending on how an individual piece needs to be constructed.
It is often possible to reuse heirloom platinum jewellery, although unlike gold jewellery we can't just melt it down and reuse it in the workshop - it just doesn't work as well as gold. What we can do is reuse it in the same form, so for example an old platinum wedding ring could become the shank for a new ring. Alternatively, we can send old platinum jewellery to our casting company who can melt it down under vacuum and at high temperatures so that we can use it in a casting process.
Whilst there isn't currently any certified Fairtrade platinum or palladium, if a customer would like to use ethically sourced newly mined metal then we can sometimes work with fairly-traded metal instead.
Compared to the other metals, silver generally doesn't take much energy to mine and refine. As much as 75% of the world's silver production comes as a by-product from mining gold, copper, lead and zinc.
Silver has a low melting point and this makes it easier to refine and work with which also helps to save energy.
We are also able to source recycled silver bullion to create new pieces of jewellery without any new mining taking place.
Rhodium plating can be applied to the surface of a white gold ring or piece of jewellery to give it a brighter white colour. The plating wears off over time and needs re-applying regularly. The solution used in this plating process is harmful to the environment if not disposed of carefully, so we like to avoid it where we can. Unlike most jewellers, we show our customers the natural, warmer colours of white gold and they will usually chose to avoid plating- either they like the colour of the metal as it is or they will chose platinum or palladium instead.
Our designers will be happy to talk you through any of these options, simply get in touch.
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