Recycling of precious metals to create jewelry has taken a step into the limelight with the announcement by jeweler Pandora that it soon will use only recycled silver and gold in its jewelry. Other jewelers may be following suit as consumers are looking for products that they consider more friendly to the environment.

Pandora Achieves Goal

The Danish jeweler Pandora announced last month that it will be using only 100 percent recycled silver and gold in all its jewelry by the second half of 2024. The company, the world’s largest jewelry brand, is reaching its goal about a year ahead of schedule. In 2020, Pandora announced their complete transition to recycled silver and gold would be complete by 2025. The company said in its announcement that it estimates about 58,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided each year with this move. This is because recycling the metal requires significantly less energy than refining new gold and silver from newly mined ore. Pandora’s CEO stated that younger consumers who are the brand’s target audience prefer brands they believe are more sustainable and ethical. At the same time, using only recycled gold and silver will not decrease the value of the jewelry because these precious metals can be repeatedly recycled without any degradation of their properties.

Other Jewelers Commit to 100 Percent Recycled Gold and Silver

Pandora is not the only brand highlighting its use of recycled metal. Several smaller jewelry brands distinguish themselves by their commitment to using sustainable materials, as that has become a priority for some customers.  Such brands include Mejuri, Aurate, Brilliant Earth and Catbird, among many others. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, independent jeweler, Siebke Hoyt, stresses on its website that every piece of their custom-made jewelry is made of 100 percent recycled and re-refined precious metals. The jeweler cites environmental concerns as the reason behind their commitment, explaining that it requires tons of ore to produce enough gold for one ring.

Pandora is a member of the Responsible Jewelry Council, which sets sustainability standards for the industry on a variety of issues, ranging from labor practices to the use of toxins and emissions. To achieve their goal, Pandora said all their suppliers had to switch their operations to only source materials that are certified recycled, according to the Responsible Jewelry Council’s Chain of Custody. This required many of them to use new processes and equipment to ensure complete segregation of mined versus recycled metals across the entire supply chain including sorting, melting, and manufacturing. 

Focus on Silver

In 2019 Pandora sold 96 million pieces of jewelry, requiring 750,000 pounds of silver, more than any other company in the industry, according to the environmental news website GreenBiz. Although the company also uses palladium, copper, gold, and man-made stones, silver is more than half of all purchased product materials measured by weight. The company currently uses 340 tons of silver each year and just one ton of gold, according to The Wall Street Journal

The transition to recycled silver is more challenging than that to gold, industry experts say, because less silver is recycled. According to Recycling Today, less than 20 percent of the world’s silver supply currently comes from recycled sources. Discarded silverware, manufacturing scrap, old jewelry and electronics provided the biggest source of silver for recyclers. Because silver is significantly less valuable than gold, there is less incentive to hunt for silver scrap. To meet the challenge, Pandora is working with metal recyclers to secure direct supplies of recycled silver, according to the Journal. These recyclers report facing the challenge of separating raw materials because silver is often blended with other metals like copper and zinc.

Another example of brand shifts made to adapt to consumer tastes, Pandora is now using only man-made diamonds and stones in its pieces, moving away from mined gem stones. They are joined by other jewelry brands stating that the consumer interest in more sustainable materials will continue to drive them to incorporate more recycled metals. This makes jewelry another industry added to the growing list of those calling attention to the importance of metal recycling.   

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