What's wrong with recycled gold?

It sounds good right? It feels like making a difference. But does it? And how?

I use "recycled" gold, but I call it differently now. And I will explain why.

I read about "recycled jewelry" everywhere, but I hardly ever see an explanation added. What does that mean for the jewelry, what is different? Or even more sustainable?

Here a few things to consider:

#1 recycling - definition

This is what you find in the dictionary:

recycling /ˌriːˈsʌɪklɪŋ/ the action or process of converting waste into reusable material.

But gold does not turn to waste, once we decide to not wear a piece of jewelry anymore, nor would we throw it into the garbage bin. Gold has been reprocessed for centuries. Because of this discrepancy I find it misleading to call this gold "recycled". So thinks the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Responsible Jewellery Council , along with others, and suggest for it to be renamed to reprocessed gold. Unless, of course, it has been indeed waste before, containing less than 2% gold.

#2 lacking transparency

Even for me, a goldsmith working with this precious metal for 20 years, it is hard to understand where any gold, or gold sold as recycled, is coming from. I even called a big supplier of "recycled" gold and didn't get any more answers, but to please trust them. Gold is considered to be recycled if it has been transformed once after it's primary refining from virgin gold (WWF Report 2023, p.19). I think we all should know that this is a common procedure that hardly anyone is aware of.

#4 no changes

There is no impact on mining procedure:

"The extraction andprocessing of raw materials, transportation, and the operation of manufacturing
sites are all associated with significant environmental impacts. These include
air and water pollution, soil degradation, landmass movements and
deforestation. Enormous chemical inputs and land transformation are responsible
for the fragmentation and destruction of ecosystems and have considerable
negative effects on fresh water, forests, and wildlife. Moreover, the mining
and processing of raw materials can also be associated with human rights
violations, such as child and forced labour or land grabbing." (WWF 2018)

So, even if the gold in use was fully recycled, this would still be happening . "Recycled" gold makes only 33% of the world gold demand. (www.gold.org)

Also, nothing needed to change for the gold refineries and jewelers who have worked with reprocessed gold forever. Only it was given a new name.

#5 Circularity

With all of the above considered, I do agree with the concept of circularity in the jewelry sector. This is why I am still offering the, now called, reprocessed gold, certified by the Responsible Jewellery council.


My conclusion

Great idea, poorly executed.