Principle on Recycled Precious Metals and Comment on Media Reports
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This page describes
Atelier Laibach's opinion on the influence of greenwashing emanating
from the jewellery industry.
To remind customers
of one of the main principles of Laibach's pioneering ethos in
Kerstin Laibach uses only
recycled precious metals and not new-mined.
For ethical, economic
and secure reasons, Laibach does not stock gold and acquires from
the recycling refiner only the amount necessary for an individual
piece or bespoke order.
is the difference between recycled gold and new-mined gold?
Absolutely nothing. Gold is gold,
whether it is directly fresh-mined or old / used gold that has
been endlessly recycled (refined).
For example, rainwater is rainwater; however many times it evaporates
from a puddle, turns into a cloud and rains down again it's always
So, recycled pure gold is identical to fresh-mined pure gold when
it ends up in your jewellery.
The closest you can get to calling a form of gold "ethical"
or "environmentally friendly" is recycled gold. Even
then, it's the action of recycling which is ethical ... not the
However, recycled gold is the only sound choice for the environmentally
conscious jewellery buyer. There is also no difference between
new-mined platinum, new mined silver and their recycled counterparts.
The word "recycled"
can have negative connotations to some jewellery customers who
may think the quality of recycled gold made into jewellery is
inferior to fresh-mined gold. This is not the case at all as the
information above explains.
the Gold Rush
(excerpt from Looking-Glass)
Ethical jewellery craft
should, you would think, be defined by the responsible use of
recycled precious metals, which clearly means sustainable, and
not by promoting the continual extraction of raw materials and
the subsequent environmental disruption it causes.
To describe any form
of new-mined gold in jewellery as ethical and green is contradictory
and misleading, and perhaps the most blatant example of greenwashing
Gold mining by nature
is not an environmentally sustainable practice and therefore not
ecologically ethical. This also applies to "fair-trade or
"fair-mined" gold which is mined and therefore should
also not be termed as "green" either. Mining disrupts
and destroys essential life-sustaining, interdependent ecosystems
by displacing previously untouched environments containing fragile
flora and fauna, right down to the micro-biological level. Mining
is detrimental to the ecology of our planet, and there is no form
of raw extraction for the jewellery industry that can genuinely
claim to the contrary.
As from 2011, Fair-trade's new undertaking has increased the demand
for mined gold as many "ethical" jewellers (and even
standard jewellers), who were originally only sourcing ecologically-sustainable
recycled gold have jumped on the lucrative fair-trade bandwagon
and are now clamoring for Fair-mined gold instead. (The
surge in demand for such gold is considerably more than what is
available.) Subsequently, the amount of gold that is mined is
set to rise dramatically ... a major drawback for earth's ecology
and for those environmental organisations whose aim is to protect
Recycling gold is an environmentally
friendly practice. It can comfortably be termed as an ethical
process because disruption to our fragile, natural environments
has effectively been eliminated from the procedure of refining
pure gold for use in the jewellery industry. It is sustainable.
Mining gold is a practice which destroys or displaces the long-established
natural ecology of the areas where it is extracted, and therefore
offers no environmental benefit.
re-printed with permission from Looking-Glass ... New Ethical
Response to the UK Channel 4 Documentary "Dispatches... The
Real Price of Gold".
Laibach Atelier felt
the general context of the programme was well balanced. We were
pleased to note that (for once) any "trend" biasing
towards Fairtrade and their excursion into the gold industry was
not apparent and subsequently put more in context within the general
picture regarding the overall impact of gold-mining. This meant
the programme more clearly defined points of what consumers might
understand about the positives and negatives of the gold supply
to the jewellery industry. However, one fatal error regarding
the availability of recycled gold knocked sideways the public's
understanding of what they might find as as the crucial ethical
choice in their jewellery shop. The programme said that recycled
gold was scarce and not easily available. This could not be further
from the truth and it is most odd why the programme suggested
otherwise; we can only imagine that Dispatches programme researchers
were misinformed from an external source. We hope that Channel
4 will notify viewers of this mistake sometime in the near future.
Recycled gold is readily available from many refiners. In fact,
refiners have more recycled gold available than ever because so
much old gold has been sold by the public to gold buyers which
is then sent to refiners, many of who only refine post consumer
gold, teeth fillings etc. Laibach's own refiner even states that
they are buying in more old gold than they are selling. The Channel
4 forum page has subsequently
been full of comments believing that recycled gold is not readily
available. One comment wrongly claimed that recycling gold was
highly polluting and then went on to (bizarrely) suggest that
jewellers should mine their own gold. Recycling refiners, by law,
have to maintain a strict code of control on any emissions created
from the refining process. The truth is that reputable refiners
are now so technically advanced in safely processing precious
metals, that any form of emissions that may be produced are negligible, and absolutely nothing in comparison to the
devastation created by mining. In fact, to be passed as approx
99.99% pure (24ct) and thereafter hallmarked for use as bullion
or for the jewllery industry, all gold ... old and
new-mined gold has to be refined to certify its purity ... including
fairtrade mined gold.
is the difference between recycled gold and new-mined gold?