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Eco-conscious and Ethical metalsmithing - precious metals.

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

As an ethical and environmentally conscious jeweller you want you work to have the lowest negative impact possible. There are lots of ways of making sure your workshop practice is as gentle as possible for the planet we live on and the people we share it with.


Metal mining is notoriously toxic and exploitative and it can be difficult to trace the origin of the precious metal ore from mine to manufacture to maker.

How can you make sure the metals you are making with have a lower environmental and ethical cost?


Recycle and reclaim in your workshop

One way to lower your environmental impact is to reclaim and reuse precious metal jewellery. This could be buying second hand, damaged or unwearable gold or silver jewellery and melting it down. It could be buying scrap from other jewellers or being careful with reclaiming your own scrap and reusing it.


Advantages

  • can be an economical way to buy precious metals

  • you have control over your metal choices and making process

  • reusing unwearable or out of style jewellery can keep a sentimental connection with previously unworn pieces

  • appreciation - the value of the metal now is far higher than when the pieces were originally purchased


Disadvantages

  • metals can have fake hallmarks so may not be pure or the metal they claim to be. Have your pieces checked at the assay office or use a chemical testing kit to help identify the composition and purity of the metal.

  • melting and casting requires special equipment, knowledge and workshop space

  • melting metals can release poisonous fumes you must have adequate ventilation and PPE

  • jewellery may have coatings or chemicals which can interfere with the melting and casting process


Buy from reputable companies

We always and only recommend buying your bullion from recognised and reputable firms. Different dealers will specialise in different stock and styles but a good company will have information on it's website about metal sourcing, a supply chain policy, corporate social responsibility, human rights and recycling.


We really love that Cookson Gold offer recycled sterling silver in nearly all it's bullion options and is working on offering it as more ready made items too.


The high value of precious metals means it is more traceable than base metals and that once, made and bought pieces are worn and treasured for years instead of discarded and contributing to landfill. A beautiful piece of handmade silver or gold jewellery is the antithesis of fast fashion so as a maker if you follow these guides when you are making you will give your work the best chance to be as ethical as possible.


  1. Buy recycled or fair-trade metal from a recognised bullion dealer

  2. Reclaim and reuse all your scrap and lemel

  3. Reuse and recycle old metal (if you have a safe workshop space to do so)

  4. Create beautiful, timeless pieces that people will treasure and pass on



Reduce the amount of metal used

By creating designs which are timeless and well made you are creating pieces which will last a lifetime or more. This means fewer pieces are produced, reducing the amount of resources being used for making jewellery. Ensuring your work is designed and made to last as long as possible means you are helping reduce the amount of metal mined and the amount of energy used to recycle or reclaim.


Repair or reuse

Repairing or upcycling existing pieces of jewellery instead of creating new ones uses less energy, less resources and less materials. Giving an old piece a new lease of life, instead of disposing of it or recycling it keeps a piece in circulation for longer, extending its life and making it more ethical and less environmentally impactful.

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