Our Sustainability Journey: Precious Metal Recycling & Refining

We first published an article about our precious metal sourcing, refining and recycling process in 2020. Within our sustainability journey, we are constantly working with our entire team to find ways that we can improve our processes to be more sustainable. As part of that, we have made further improvements to our precious metal sourcing, refining and recycling processes within our workshop.

Melted precious metal gold ingot jeweller's hand jewellery workshop

For us, sustainability means continually questioning current practices and researching innovative solutions that reduce harm to the environment and support people in our Village Goldsmith Community. We have chosen three of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) developed by the United Nations to focus on throughout this journey: Good Health & Wellbeing; Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Responsible Consumption and Production. 

Our ongoing goal to improve our sustainability and sourcing practices has recently seen us make a change to the way precious metal is recycled and refined in our workshop. Previously, the jewellers deposited fine production scraps of precious metals and lemel (metal dust/filings) from the crafting process into a shared container. Every six months a jeweller would sort this, separating the lemel from the larger pieces of precious metal (offcuts not used in the final piece). The larger pieces of metal would then be cleaned and melted down in our workshop (separated by precious metal type beforehand) and reused in new pieces of jewellery. The lemel would be cleaned and then sent to an external refinery specialist to refine it to a pure state. 

Our goal is to clean, refine and recycle as much precious metal offcuts and lemel in-house as possible, and only send the metal we can’t refine ourselves to a specialist refinery. To achieve this, each jeweller is now responsible for their own metal and lemel, with a small container on their workbenches to house this until it comes time for refining and recycling. To make the refining process easier, jeweller’s separate the precious metal leftovers as they are crafted. The responsibility sitting with each jeweller makes the recycling process more visible to them, encouraging more awareness about the waste they produce during the crafting process. As our master jeweller Ben puts it: “You don’t want to be seen as the person wasting the most metal, both from a sustainability point of view as well as the lost value point of view – the best value we can get out of lost metal is if we can melt it and reuse it.” 

Jeweller melting gold platinum precious metal in jewellery workshop

We augment our precious metal refining and recycling process by using polishing machines which have built-in extraction systems. When polishing jewellery it’s common for gold and platinum lemel to make its way into the extraction system, this mix of lemel and compound can be sent to a specialist refinery company to save as much precious metal as possible. Not only do polishing machines with built-in extraction systems help to achieve our Responsible Production and Consumption goal, but also our Good Health and Wellbeing goal: the compounds used for polishing jewellery can be messy, so having a good extraction system in place makes for easier clean up. In addition to this, if there isn’t a good extraction system in place, it can be dangerous to a jeweller’s health. These machines protect the well-being of our craftspeople. By using polishing machines with built-in extraction systems we enhance our refining and recycling process, as well as protect the environment for our Village Goldsmith community. 

It’s important to us that the precious metal we use is as environmentally friendly as possible. Cleaning, refining and recycling as much precious metal as we're practically able to means we don’t need to tap into the earth’s resources unnecessarily, and gives it another chance at life by being crafted into new jewellery designs for our customers to love and treasure for years to come. 

The refinery companies we have chosen to work with refine and recycle as much precious metal sent to them by local jewellers as possible, using techniques that jewellers are often unable to undertake in their own workshops. By sourcing our precious metal this way, we can be reassured that when we do purchase ‘new’ precious metal to craft jewellery, it’s likely been recycled from existing metal, such as old jewellery, crafting offcuts, and lemel. And where this isn’t possible, they have gone to great lengths to secure the origin of their precious metal sources. 

This is one of the steps we are taking to be constantly improving our systems and processes, with the main goal of creating a more positive impact on the environment and our community. We look forward to sharing more of this sustainability journey with you. 

Now that you've read about our precious metal recycling and refining practices, feel free to read about the types of precious metals which we use in our workshop.

If you have any further questions about our material sourcing and/or crafting practices, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Alternatively, if you’re in Wellington we welcome you to pop in and watch our jewellery being crafted onsite. 

Jeweller's craftspeople in jewellery workshop The Village Goldsmith Wellington