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Is Recycled Gold Ethical?

As green-minded products have been gaining in popularity over the last decade, you may have heard the characteristic of “recycled gold” heavily marketed and promoted by companies in their quest to be more ethical or sustainable. The term recycling implies that by reusing a material, you are preventing it from entering a landfill and you are also reducing the need to it to be produced in the future.

The truth is: gold has always been recycled. Recycling gold is not new - nor is it necessarily “green.” As one might imagine, no one is throwing gold in the trash (or at least not in any amount known to have a negative environmental impact), and if they are - it is surely by mistake!   

The environmental issues don’t arise with gold being “thrown away” - but with the mining and labor practices employed to acquire the gold to begin with. If we weren’t continuing to mine for gold, this very well may not be the case. It’s also confusing verbiage for any customer who doesn’t understand what recycled gold actually means (and that it really doesn’t have an immediate impact). In fact, it’s greenwashing.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when an organization spends more time and money on marketing itself as environmentally friendly than on actually minimizing its environmental impact. It's a deceptive marketing gimmick intended to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.

Don't get me wrong, I used to proudly claim that I was also using recycled metals.  I don't think that most jewelers are doing it with malintent.  They honestly just don't know.  It all comes down to education and until I started really diving deep, I was also unaware of how misleading this concept was.  I am grateful for the group of like-minded individuals that I have found as a member of Ethical Metalsmiths.  I am still on this journey of discovery and so grateful to have a community in which I can continue to grow and share.

If you are interested in making an impact with your purchase, what type of gold should you look for?

It is paramount to understand the origin of the gold. Was it mined responsibly and ethically? If a customer does not have access to this information - they truly don’t know whether the gold is ethical. 

A good place to start is with Fairmined® gold from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining organizations. “ASM organizations certified with the Fairmined standard comply with environmental requirements that eliminate mercury and other chemicals from their operations or reduce its usage to a bare minimum carefully treated that don’t pollute water bodies nor represent a threat to the miner’s health.” 

Additionally, if jewelers create pieces using this type of certified gold, they are supporting ASM organizations who are committed to better labor practices, environmental practices, and those that give back to their communities.

Here’s how Fail Jewelry is working with ethical gold… 

Starting in the fall of 2022, Fail Jewelry will be transitioning to Fairmined® gold in 90% of its fine jewelry offerings. As ethics and sustainability are core values of my company, I am looking forward to using best practices and the best suppliers available to me in these areas, so that I may offer them to my clients. 

As knowing the origin of the gold and the practices of the mine are of utmost importance for truly sustainable and ethical gold, Fairmined’s certification process offers peace of mind when it comes to knowledge of the origins of the gold being purchased. 

If ethical and sustainable gold is important to you as a customer for a custom piece, let’s talk

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