How to Make the Right Ethical Choice for Your Gold Engagement Ring

How to Make the Right Ethical Choice for Your Gold Engagement Ring

Written by Harriet Kelsall on 22 August 2023

Many companies are making noise about recycled jewellery, shouting about how their dealing with recycled gold is “saving the planet”. This isn’t quite correct and we want to challenge, to raise awareness and educate anyone who is interested in lifting the lid on ethical claims. 

And so we open up a current hot topic-the ethical mining of gold VS recycled gold.  

You might ask, what is up for debate and how will that impact my decisions when making the best ethical choice for my jewellery?

We as consumers are used to supporting recycled paper and plastics, because recycling consumer waste is a good idea. But that’s not what is happening with the recycled gold being sold to jewellers, most of which is not consumer waste, but industrial waste. This opens the door to potential greenwashing, also known as twisting the truth to benefit from it.

To clarify: yes, recycled gold is definitely better than inhumane, unregulated industrial scale mining, which pollutes the atmosphere and surrounding areas and treats their workers worse than people treat our animals. However, to claim recycling is ‘saving the planet’ is exaggerated, and misleading. Imagine it as planting 200 trees and saying we’ve fixed the world’s carbon footprint issue. It’s all helpful of course, which we are huge advocates for, but what we struggle with, is how it is being presented. It leads people to believe that 1) it is reducing new mining and 2) only consumer-waste gold is being put back in the system.

So, we’ll break down the facts: 

  • Fewer mines? Unfortunately not. Gold it isn’t just used in jewellery but also many other industries- medical, automotive and electronic, so mining will occur. And, currently, demand is huge.
  • Large scale consumer waste gold is not a thing. It doesn’t get thrown away. Recycling isn’t “saving” every day gold from going into landfill or out into the ocean, like with plastic.

In fact, reusing gold is, and has always been, the status quo of jewellery production. One of gold’s fascinating attributes is that it is easily melted down and refined, looking as good as new. Recycling is an obvious option- it’s a straightforward process that makes financial sense- hence being done for centuries.

Recycling gold at the bench is the least a jeweller can do rather than affiliating with new large scale mines for new gold.

When delving a bit further beneath the recycling journey, there’s no defining audit system impeding those dodgy, industrial scale mines selling to disreputable dealers, who transform the gold and resell it. Through a loop hole, the jewellery, and offcuts (like casting waste), become part of the legitimate system. With the assumption of recycling being consumer waste, they get rid of their tainted gold and get the chance rebrand it as “recycled”. Companies then using this recycled gold are then shouting about it, as though it is all they need to do in order to tick an ethical box. 

So, for those of you who still have ethical questions whirring in your mind, did you know there are alternative options?

One of the very best choices we love is recycling or repurposing your own heirloom gold. Not only are you stopping once-loved pieces sitting neglected in a drawer, you are combining all the memories of the old into something new.  Imagine having Nanna’s jewellery box, taking the pendant she wore every day and moulding it to her traditional gold wedding band. We would hardly change their integrity, but would have created a new piece to cherish forever. It is such a wholesome process and we love hearing the stories of where original pieces have come from and helping you refresh them into something dazzling again.

Alternatively, when it comes to using new gold we take our ethical options seriously, which leads us to why we are proud to be among the first UK jewellers licensed to use Fairtrade gold.

One of our biggest company values is making sure no humans suffer in our supply chain. And if you share those values, you too will see the importance of choosing Fairtrade Gold. We have a whole article explaining why Fairtrade is our top option, but the SparkNotes are:

Fairtrade Gold has a premium, of which goes directly to the miners and their community. They are small scale mines that are thoroughly regulated, the people and the environment are highly valued and looked after. When you choose Fairtrade Gold, you support a community to get electricity, running water, an education and adequate training in mining and other agricultural fields.

We know everyone is different, personal beliefs and motivations don’t always align with what happens in reality. If you really want to make steps to support the environment and for whatever personal reason Fairtrade and heirloom gold are not in reach, recycled is of course our next best choice. For your own peace of mind we want you to understand the depth of the terminology and ensure you pick what is best for your bespoke journey.

With that in mind, we take steps to not associate with the filtering of untraceable gold.  We trust our suppliers are doing the best they can to keep recycled gold ethical, purchasing only from reputable companies who aim to sell gold taken from jeweller’s benches, old jewellery and various other sources.

If you are still on the fence, let our resonating message be this:

  • It is the large scale mines that are damaging the planet and mistreating humans.
  • Recycled gold is the status quo and is the right step to make a difference but there is a bigger picture to be aware of.
  • Some larger companies are riding on the coat tails of the consumer’s understanding of the term “recycling”. It’s deceptive and you are within your right to question the origin.

To us, bespoke means truly bespoke and we pride ourselves on giving you open, honest answers that support your choices, making your design journey work for you.