How is Gold Recycled?

Posted on August 13, 2014 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

In an effort to minimize the environmental impact of our jewelry, Barbara Michelle Jacobs uses only recycled gold, palladium, silver, and platinum.  Recycling precious metal is a win-win. For one, it side steps the ecological risk involved in mining new metal—and two, recycled (and refined) metal is as good as new.

Middlemen purchase unwanted gold jewelry from the public then send it on to refiners  

Plus, it’s fascinating to think about the possible history of your recycled gold. Recycling gold is nothing new. In ancient times, conquering civilizations melted and reused pillaged gold. Indeed, we may all own a little piece of Cleopatra’s gold. 

Cleopatra, recycled gold, elizabeth taylor

It's possible: your favorite ring may contain a trace of Cleopatra's gold--or Elizabeth Taylor's for that matter! 

In modern developed nations, the process of recycling gold isn’t so dramatic. You’re probably familiar with those ads inviting you to trade in your old, unwanted gold jewelry for cash. Recycled gold gets its start at these Cash for Gold companies. 

After purchasing consumers' scrap gold*, they sell it to a refiner where it is processed and sold to jewelry manufacturers, electronic companies, etc. Eventually, the now recycled gold makes it way back to consumers and the cycle continues.

*Scrap or “recovered” gold may refer to any gold that’s preowned or recycled. Scrap gold may be in any condition (dirty, broken, perfectly shiny, etc.) As long as gold can be extracted from the piece, it’s still of value. About 41% of gold supply is recycled, the bulk of it coming from jewelry. 

Learn how gold is recycled to make gorgeous, just-like-new pieces. 
Citrine Ring Accented with Butterflies made with 18k recycled gold.

Can I send you my unwanted gold? 

Unfortunately, we can’t accept unrefined gold. The refining process is a critical step in ensuring the quality of a metal piece. Any gold under 24 karats has been alloyed with another metal, rendering it less pure. Combined alloys don’t mix well when melted down and can cause unpredictable porosity pits and cracking, leaving the finished piece fragile.

Refining, however, removes impurities and provides jewelers with a more reliable medium. Depending on their projects, jewelers may buy gold in various forms from the refiner: casting grain, wire, sheet, or tubing.

All of the gold we use comes only from post consumer products. We purchase most of our gold from United Precious Metal Refining, an EICC certified “Conflict-Free” Smelter. While some refiners mix newly mined metals with recycled metals, UPMR produces 100% recycled silver and gold, as certified by SCS Global Services.

golden twig bangles, recycled gold

All of the gold, palladium, silver, and platinum at Barbara Michelle Jacobs is recycled.

Golden Twig Bangles made with 18k recycled gold. 

If you’re interested in buying or selling scrap gold, Ebay offers a helpful guide to get started. Here is more information on finding a reputable buyer for your scrap gold. 

The value of your scrap gold depends on its purity, which you can determine by its karat. 24 karat gold is the purest, while 14 karat gold, the most common karat in gold electronic pieces is only about 58.3% pure gold. Interestingly, the value of gold tends to rise when the economy is slumping, something to consider as you poke around the gold market.  This chart provides an overview of gold's value per ounce over the past several years. As you'll see, the price has gone down since 2012, when it was valued at $1657.50/oz., an all time high.  

Despite the fluctuation of gold’s value, one thing hasn’t changed since Cleopatra’s time: gold is gold. Once it’s mined from the ground, it’s with us forever and will most likely continue to be cherished (to one extent or another) for a long, long time, making recycled gold a wise, progressive (and beautiful!) choice. 

 Jewelry sold for cash
Stones are removed, sorted and sold to brokers who re-sell them. Gold is melted and refined before being made into something new.

Photo Credit: We Buy Gold -TheeErin via Compfight cc, Elizabeth Taylor-James Vaughan via Flickr, Barbara Michelle Jacobs 

Posted in eco-friendly, gold, Informational, jewelry



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