Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry is committed to using fine recycled materials when possible and when it is requested. Per this commitment, Barbara Michelle Jacobs is happy to work with preowned and vintage stones, including recycled diamonds.
Unlike, say, a recycled plastic bottle, a recycled diamond doesn’t take the form of something completely different after the recycling process. In fact, a recycled diamond is usually indistinguishable from a new, polished diamond. The only thing that may give away a recycled diamond is if the recycled diamond has a dated cut that’s no longer fashionable. If this is the case, there is a chance the diamond can be recut to suit modern tastes. (However, cutting a diamond may alter its value.)
How are diamonds recycled?
A recycled diamond simply refers to a diamond that has been sold back to the gemstone trade and has re-entered the diamond supply. When a loved one passes away, leaving behind jewelry (that no family member desires), or someone simply wishes to sell a piece of diamond jewelry, the diamond items are sold to jewelry buyer.
If a piece is intact and has maintained good quality over the years, the piece may be sold as an antique or preowned piece. If the piece would not be valuable as a whole, its parts will be assessed for potential value.
The precious metal can be melted down (and also recycled), and the stones can be sold separately. Diamonds may be removed from surrounding metal using aqua regia, an acid removal process that harmlessly removes the stones.
Small recycled diamonds (one-fifth of a carat or smaller) are traded in parcels of melee diamonds and may be purchased by jewelers or other gemstone traders. Larger diamonds are appraised by a diamond laboratory (like the Gemological Institute of America—GIA) and sold individually.
Recycled diamonds in the diamond industry
Around the turn of the century, the recycled diamond industry experienced notable growth, and the industry is predicted to continue growing. Given that many current mines are reaching the end of their productive lives and relative few new mines are being created, it may be assumed that the diamond jewelry industry may come to rely more on the recycled diamond industry. As of 2014, the recycled diamond industry provided 10% of the global supply of diamonds and was valued at $1.2 billion (USD).
Are there any diamonds that cannot be recycled?
Diamonds that cannot be recycled include those that are used to grind or polish other diamonds; these wear down over time and eventually become dust.
Photos: Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry
The appeal of jewelry created with found objects is immediate: found-object jewelry is incredibly unique—and often a piece is one of a kind—plus, it’s exciting to imagine the backstories behind the upcycled objects featured in the jewelry. Here, we feature three talented jewelers who take inspiration from found objects.
Riberyon, designed by Jacques-Elie Ribeyron, features pieces inspired by hardware and industrial objects as well as the art of John Chamberlain, an American sculptor who created pieces with the scrap metal of old automobiles.
The New York Times describes the latest collection as “a deconstructed take on familiar, everyday objects.” The F/W 16 collection includes hardware-store plumbing clamps reinterpreted as 18k-gold and rhodium screw bracelets and helmet bags remade with into clutches with industrial mesh.
This creative collection is intended for both men and women, and no piece is denoted for a particular gender: “I do not want to dictate that one piece is for boys and the other for a girl,” Ribeyron says. “I really feel people should wear what they are comfortable with, and I appreciate the diversity it creates.”
Ribeyron’s process is largely defined by speed. The former product-designer-turned-jeweler finds that the ability to quickly design a piece of jewelry keeps him from getting bored: “With product design, the function is important, but it can block many ideas. The good thing about fashion is it’s very quick; it’s not like designing a table or couch. It’s good not to overthink things. Now it’s about developing things very fast.”
Alice Sprintzen Studio
Alice Sprintzen of Alice Sprintzen Studio creates beautiful statement necklaces with found objects from everyday life. The Long Island-based artist espouses an eco-friendly stance on jewelry-making: “Jewelry is, by implication, pro-reuse and anti-consumption. It elevates ordinary materials to diamond status—at least, that's the challenge,” she told Jewelry Span.
The special history of repurposed items offers unique value to her pieces: “Found materials have often ignored qualities and a past life that can be brought to light when they are juxtaposed with other materials and used in a new context,” she explains.
Sprintzen initially got into the art of creating jewelry from found objects when she placed a small domino in a stone setting. From that point on, any object was fair game. Now, the artist’s friends bring her small baggies of bits and pieces they’ve found, and she creates one-of-a-kind jewelry with them, giving the found materials a new life.
To learn more about Sprintzen’s process, check out her book: The Jeweler’s Art: A Multimedia Approach.
Studio 410—Susan Richards
Susan Richards of Studio 410 creates jewelry with found objects including old silver spoons, beach stones, and vintage beads, often sourcing her materials from second-hand shops and even the beaches of Hawaii where she found some very old barbed wire.
Like Sprintzen, Richards is inspired by finding new uses for common objects: “As long as I can remember, I have always loved to take objects and turn them into something other than what they were intended for.”
When creating designs with silver, Richards often oxidizes the material to enhance details of the design.
Photos: Ribeyron, Alice Sprintzen Studio, Susan Richards