Working with recycled precious metals is an important part of our process at Bario-Neal. We focus on sourcing the most environmentally and socially responsible metals and stones possible. One hundred percent recycled precious metals are the best option currently available, as they don’t require additional mining.
Our recycled silver, gold, palladium, and platinum come from two primary sources: Abington Reldan Metals, a refinery about 40 minutes from our Philadelphia shop, and Hoover and Strong, a refinery in Richmond, Virginia. These refineries take in scraps of precious metals, dust and filings from jewelers’ workshops, old or unwanted jewelry, silverware, silver from photo processing, as well as metals from electronic devices. The refineries collect, sort, melt, and refine these materials into forms that jewelers like Bario-Neal can use again, such as casting grain, sheet metal, and wire.
Our refineries aren’t only committed to producing 100% recycled metals, they are also invested in the environmental and health impacts of their facilities. We’ve visited both refineries, and we’re impressed with their advances in reducing waste and energy use. Hoover and Strong has been in business since 1912, and their recycled metals are third-party certified to ensure the recycled content. They maintain four large fume scrubbers to reduce emissions that cause air pollution. Hoover and Strong also uses the Miller Process (http://bario-neal.com/bn/blog/?p=12) to refine gold, which reduces acid use by 85%. Abington Reldan Metals is a LEED Silver certified facility, and they’ve been operating for over 30 years. They also use waste heat from the refining process to heat the manufacturing plant and for domestic hot water, as well as for the sludge drying and water evaporation process. This heat recovery has reduced their energy consumption by about 20-25%. Both facilities maintain a closed loop for water, meaning there is zero discharge and all the waste-water is treated and re-used in the refinery.
Gold content in computer boards
A question we often hear when discussing recycled precious metals is “Doesn’t all gold get recycled?” The answer is yes, and no. Most gold on the market contains about 30-40% recycled content. That means 60-70% of the material is newly mined each year. It also means that the mine source of the 60-70% new material is untraceable, so we can’t learn more about the environmental and labor practices at the mine site. Mining is the most destructive industry out there, and precious metals that do not require additional mining are an incredibly valuable resource with far less of an impact on our environment.
The entire volume of gold that exists ‘above ground’ –that is, already mined and in the form of jewelry, bullion, electronics, etc. –is about equivalent to a 67 foot cube of solid 24 karat gold (or a six story building). About 90% of all gold ever mined is still with us, not landfilled or lost. That’s the beauty of a material that can be continually recycled and reused. Recycled gold is of the same quality as newly-mined gold. It’s still just as malleable and workable.
Smelting at Hoover and Strong
Scrubbers at Hoover and Strong
Bario-Neal jewelry in silver, gold, palladium and platinum is made with 100% recycled metals. Because responsible sourcing is a work in progress, not every metal element we work with is 100% recycled. These exceptions include many of our chains and clasps, as well as findings like earring backs. Wherever possible, we use vintage alternatives when recycled chains, clasps, and findings are not available. We are also working with our suppliers to develop a source for 100% recycled brass. The brass jewelry in our boutique collections do contain a high recycled content, but the percentage of recycled material varies.
Bario-Neal is also able to recycle customers’ old or heirloom precious metals. Using a process called small batch refining, we can use your exact heirloom or old metals to create a new piece from Bario-Neal. Or, we can weigh and test your old metals and add these to the larger pool of recycled metals we use, giving you a credit towards your purchase.
There are exciting new initiatives in the industry for responsibly sourced metals, most notably Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold. Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold is the result of a collaboration between the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) and the Alliance for Responsible Mining. Artisanal miners fulfill a set of stringent standards for responsible mining, and collect a premium from purchasers for the gold. That premium is then reinvested democratically in the mining community. Fairtrade and Fairmined gold is a promising new resource that can provide a positive impact in artisanal mining communities, and we hope to begin working with it in the coming months.
For more information:
Abington Reldan Metals: http://www.armetals.com/
Hoover & Strong: http://www.hooverandstrong.com/
Third-Party Certification systems for recycled metals: http://www.scscertified.com/products/manufacturer.php?a=United+Precious+Metal+Refining%2C+Inc.
Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold: http://fairgold.org/#about