I wrote about the possibility of reusing and recycling your unwanted fine jewellery previously in this journal. In this post, let us go a little into detail and talk about one of the elements – the metal itself.
How can the principles of circularity come from your own jewellery box? Surely, we all have old pieces of jewellery lurking around — possibly long gone out of trend or having lost their sentimental value, yet not discarded due to their material value. These do not have to be damaged but equally unworn due to being impractical or just not quite “me” for everyday wear.
So, one of your earrings got lost or broken? What if the other one could be turned into something else? In a professional’s hands a lot of precious metal jewellery can be melted down and further shaped into a new piece of jewellery.
Did you know, precious metals like gold, silver and platinum can be recycled over and over again, without losing on their quality?
Let’s start with gold.
It is long and well known for its ability to be melted down: a goldsmith will use a torch to heat the gold in a small crucible before pouring it into a steel block filled with oil. Once the newly melted, the gold is ready to take a new shape. The metal can then be either cast into a form or the cooled down solid piece of gold can be milled out and worked using jewellers tools to achieve the desired design.
Sometimes, when gold is melted down at the jewellers bench it might bring a few very thin, pin-prick bubbles on the surface of the final piece of jewellery, these would probably be invisible to the naked eye. It is quite a normal thing to happen when re-using the metal — and it will only imply that the piece is handcrafted, and is made from a recycled material.
With gold, since it is less prone to lose on the initial quantity — it does not burn down if you’re providing most or even part of the material — it could be cheaper than buying an equivalent new piece off the shelf. Plus, you’ll have something that’s handmade and uniquely yours.
The economic side of recycling gold comes in when working with 18 carat pieces. A melt loss in gold alloys is not unusual as the likes of 9ct, 14ct or even 18ct contain other elements, like copper, zinc or nickel, and, dependent on the grade and purity, may oxidize, burn off or end up in the slag, with minor losses to be seen. If it is pure gold, the 24-carat gold, practically none is likely to be lost during the melting process. But do bear in mind, 24-carat gold is too soft to use in a lot of complex jewellery.
Silver could be also a good metal for re-using at a jeweller’s bench.
While the initial cost of silver is relatively low, compared to that of platinum or gold, and the labour cost to melt down a small amount of silver is higher than buying a new piece of metal, you can still have your unwanted silver pieces re-used — to retain the sentimental value of your jewellery at home. It is especially relevant with inherited pieces, when you can still keep the warm memories alive, just in a new shape.
Among other factors to bear in mind is the original design of your unwanted jewellery piece that you wish to have recycled or reshaped. Simple pieces, like wedding bands, will melt very well, while melting down more complex designs could end up with some tiny air bubbles or small impurities. While some people enjoy things that are not factory-perfect, for example YU STEPANEL pieces are all about embracing the tiny imperfections that come with hand-crafted jewellery, you might want to consider this factor.
Thus, you can see that reusing and recycling your unwanted fine jewellery makes sense and does contribute to your considerate lifestyle: fewer goods are created, less waste is produced and out of the discarded items that are likely to collect dust at the bottom of a drawer, something beautiful and new is born.
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Keep an eye, and we’ll continue on this in a story to follow x