One of my great passions in life is sustainability. I have a deep and lasting connection with the earth and I try, in everything I do, to honour that connection.
So when I started my jewellery business, I wanted to make sure I was working in the most ethical, responsible, and sustainable way possible.
To be honest, before I started smithing myself, I didn’t even know recycled silver was a thing! Unlike the rest of the fashion industry, sustainable materials have been slow to reach the jewellery market.
The good news is, it’s becoming more and more popular, and it’s becoming easier than ever to find sustainable jewellery options!
Here’s everything you need to know the next time you pick out a pretty pair of earrings, or a chunky statement ring.
What is recycled silver?
Recycled silver is silver claimed from old jewellery, electronics, medical equipment, and cutlery. It’s melted down and refined into pure silver for use by silversmiths and other artisans in creating new works.
This silver is either sold in its pure form, or mixed with small amounts of copper to produce sterling silver.
Does recycled silver have the same quality as new silver?
Because silver is a noble, non-ferrous metal, it can be refined an infinite number of times without ever losing its quality. That means you get exactly the same product as a piece made from newly mined silver, without the intense environmental impact.1
Why is it better than new silver?
Silver is rarely mined by itself – in fact, only around 30% of new silver is sourced from silver mines. The rest is a byproduct of other mining industries, namely zinc, copper, lead and gold.
If you’ve ever driven past an open-cut mine, you probably already have a sense of the environmental destruction inherent with this method of collecting resources. Landscapes are destroyed, habitats lost, rivers poisoned, and soil contaminated. That’s to say nothing of the carbon emissions.
It’s not only the environmental impact we need to think about. In the case of lead and zinc mining, it’s not uncommon for workers and residents of surrounding areas to be affected by poor health due to heavy metals being released into the air and soil.2
In developing nations, where many mines are located, workers are often exploited and some of these mines employ child labourers to extract these resources from the earth.3
This is just scratching the surface, but it’s already plain to see that the mining industry is never a sustainable choice.
Recycled silver, and other recycled precious metals, circumvent that entire system.
By reusing silver that we already have, we can slow down the demand for newly mined resources.
How do I find recycled silver jewellery?
Since this is a new branch of the jewellery industry, there’s no official regulation or certification process. However, jewellers using recycled sterling silver should be able to offer you the name of their supplier.
Here at Halfmoon Craft, I use recycled sterling silver and recycled silver solder from CooksonGold and Albino Moutinho. These two suppliers sell silver which has been recycled and refined into pure or sterling silver.
I also source silver from Maquinouro, a supplier which recycles and reworks silver offcuts from otherwise unusable scrap.
They say knowledge is power, and now that you know some of the ins-and-outs of recycled silver, you have the power to make an informed decision next time you shop for jewellery.
Recycled sterling silver is better for the environment, better for human rights, and has exactly the same quality as new silver.
There’s really no reason not to choose recycled silver for your next jewellery piece!
2Impacts of lead/zinc mining and smelting on the environment and human health in China
3Children working in one of the world’s most dangerous mines in Bolivia
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