We exclusively use recycled metals in all of our handmade jewellery
All of the recycled metal used in our custom jewellery is sourced from environmentally responsible refiners who process jewellers waste, old jewellery and industrial by-products to create ‘new’ metal for jewellery use. This metal looks and performs the same way as freshly mined platinum, palladium and gold – but with none of the associated environmental cost.
Platinum — what’s the big deal?
Platinum is the prestige jewellery metal — for practical and economic reasons. On a practical level, platinum is tougher than gold, which make it ideal for setting valuable diamonds and gemstones. Stones are much less likely to come loose and be lost from a properly made platinum setting. On an economic level, platinum is more difficult for jewellers to work, so that adds to the cost. But more significantly, platinum costs more than gold — and there are good reasons for that.
Even though platinum is more plentiful than gold in the Earth’s crust, it’s a lot more difficult to extract. Not only is most platinum found in low-density particle form (which means processing tonnes and tonnes of ore to extract enough for just one ring) it’s also typically deep underground. Some of the world’s major deposits are more than a kilometre down. The chemical processes required to refine platinum are more difficult too, taking up to six months to complete.
Palladium? What’s this?
Palladium is a noble white metal that shares many characteristics, such as strength and durability with platinum, but without the high price tag. Palladium offers a more radiant white than (unplated) white gold with no rhodium plating required. With a weight similar to fine silver, it has a lower specific gravity, therefore is notably lighter than platinum. This means that not only do you pay less per gram, but you also need less metal for your jewellery piece. Palladium is a great alternative to platinum as, like platinum, being inert, it should not cause skin irritation – if that is something that is of concern. For more information about palladium, look here.
Please note. Whilst platinum and palladium are beautiful and durable white metals, they can scratch. All precious metals scratch, and how badly, depends on how you care for your rings. It is important to realise this and take care when putting your hands in abrasive substances such as soil or sand. Gloveless gardening and precious jewellery just do not match.
Gold — your options
When it comes to gold, you have a few different options. In Australia — and many parts of the world — the standard for jewellery is either 9 carat or 18 carat. 24 carat gold is considered ‘pure’. In the US and Asia, 14 carat is a popular choice. The difference between 9, 14 and 18 carat is the amount of alloys that have been added. 18 carat gold has fewer alloys and is ‘softer’ than 9 carat. This makes it easier to work — but, more importantly, there’s a noticeable difference in colour. 18 carat yellow gold is markedly more ‘yellow’ and brighter than 9 carat yellow gold, 14 carat is somewhere in between. We most commonly make rings using 18 carat gold.
For colour, you basically have three choices — yellow, white and rose gold.
No doubt you’re familiar with yellow gold (above image)
Rose gold has a reddish, pinkish colour.
Generally, white and yellow gold are the most popular choices for rings — and white gold is probably more ‘in fashion’ at the moment. As for cost, white gold is marginally more expensive than yellow gold — currently about $6 a gram more.
Our white gold is nickel free and has a high (12%) palladium content. Palladium is a luxury alloy which gives a much whiter gold doesn’t pose the same allergy issues as other alloys. Our white gold is a beautiful metal for jewellers to work with.
This image shows white gold that has been rhodium plated. Not everyone chooses to do this, as it is a higher maintenance option.
This image shows unplated white gold – it is slightly greyer (more like silver), but still a lovely metal that takes an excellent polish.
What about silver?
Even though a lot of jewellery is made of silver, when it comes to fine handmade jewellery, silver isn’t really a good choice from a financial perspective. First of all, silver is a lot cheaper than gold or platinum. Where you might pay $90 — $100 for a gram of gold, you’ll pay only $6 – $10 for a gram of silver.
This means that hand-finished silver jewellery doesn’t value up very high, so basically it isn’t very worthwhile when gold is almost as easy to work with. You’ll find that a manufacturing jeweller cannot make a silver ring for anything even close to the price you’d pay for a mass produced item. To get something hand made in silver you’ll pay up to ten times more than a similar retail item (in gold & platinum, the gap narrows considerably).
In fact, for rings over, say, $2,500 – $3,000, it is typically cheaper to have one hand made than to buy the same thing off the shelf – deep discounts aside. Of course, another big downside with silver is that it tarnishes easily and needs to be polished on a very regular basis (you can rhodium plate it, but that’s relatively expensive given the value of the metal). Having said all this, we do offer the option of choosing silver. However, are unable to discount the manufacturing charges as the labour required is the same whether working with silver or gold.
Why we recycle precious metals
This may or may not be important to you, but at EJA we’re very concerned about the amount of environmental damage mining for gold, silver and platinum does.
Not only is mining for precious metals a very destructive process — anywhere up to twenty tonnes of ore has to be processed to produce enough gold or platinum for just one ring — but also the extraction process requires the use of some very toxic chemicals. Whilst most mining companies go to great expense to avoid accidents, they still happen. And, there are many reports of disastrous spills and leakages all around the globe (cyanide is the main offender, though process by-products like mercury and lead also cause significant problems. Google ‘gold mining’ and you’ll see what we mean). So, we choose to use more responsible metals because we don’t want to contribute to the problem.
EJA uses responsibly recycled precious metals. Most jewellery-grade recycled precious metals come from broken and old jewellery, and from waste and off-cuts from manufacturing jewellers as well as post consumer discards like computer components. Importantly, recycled precious metals are exactly the same as their mined counterparts — and they cost no more. In other words, you get the same quality and pay the same price for recycled metal as you do for mined metals, so there’s no downside for you and plenty of upside for the environment.
Which is right for your partner?
When it comes to choosing a precious metal for your partner, it comes down to the dominant colour she generally favours. If she wears a lot of yellow jewellery, go for yellow gold. If her jewellery is mostly ‘white’, go for either white gold, palladium or platinum (if your budget allows). If she favours rose gold — there’s your answer. On a fashion level, as we mentioned above, white metals are very much ‘in’ at the moment. Another thing to consider is the colour of the stones to be set in the ring.
Whilst diamonds look great in either white or yellow settings, on a yellow gold ring they’re often placed in a white gold setting to enhance the brightness. Red stones, like rubies and garnets, are enhanced by a yellow/orange background, so a yellow gold setting can be a more desirable. Either way, just remember, with gold in particular, it’s quite easy to have the band in one colour and the setting in another. You’ll often see yellow gold bands with white gold (or platinum) settings, and vice versa. Or, to mix it up, you could choose a two tone band with a mix of metals like this stunning diamond Celtic band.