Saturday, March 20, 2010

99.9% reclaimed precious metal

Huge emerald-cut gemstone (rock crystal, rose de france, whiskey quartz and green-gold quartz @ approximately 17 carats each) cocktail rings.

We’re very excited to be launching the bezel series for our ready-to-wear line for various reasons. We’ll be sharing them in bits and pieces over the next few weeks, and hope that you enjoy this journey with us.

The primary reason for the excitement is that it’s the first collection where we’ve managed to utilise 99.9% reclaimed sterling silver. Previously, we were only up to 50% because of logistical issues but after talks with the refinery company, we had managed to negotiate for our silver pieces to be done entirely in recycled sterling silver.

The mining of precious metals and the environmental damage it causes has only recently come to light. Thus, as part of the label’s commitment to sustainability, we’re raising awareness of this issue and doing as much as we can to offer ecologically-conscious choices for lovers of fine jewellery.

Myth One: Reclaimed sterling silver is inferior to virgin-mined sterling silver.
Negotiations were not easy and it was a little triumph for us to be able to accomplish this, especially in an industry where anything “recycled” is traditionally considered a dirty word. The common perception of recycled sterling silver is that it’s somewhat inferior to virgin-mined precious metal. The truth is, all mined metals come into existence contaminated and will have to undergo massive refining anyway. The refining methods will differ, depending on what’s been “contaminated” with but the overall process of getting the metal to its finished state is largely similar.

In the case of our reclaimed sterling silver, the process goes something like this: the scrap silver is melted down and then it undergoes a highly technical process of de-contaminating the metal. The unwanted products (anything that’s not silver) gets separated from the pure silver (99.9% concentration). Following that, it gets alloyed with other metals, diluting the silver concentration to 92.5%.

Contrast this with virgin-mined metal – it also has to undergo a refining process for it to attain a 99.9% purity. Following which, it is alloyed with other metals to dilute the concentration to 92.5%.

Initially, the refiners were a little hesitant to cast recycled metal, believing it to cause porosity issues. With nudging and trial and error and little tweaks to the process along the way, we found that not to be the case.

Myth Two: Reclaimed sterling silver is more expensive.
No, this is untrue. In fact, the refiners often make money from buying scrap silver because they buy it at a discount off the spot price. Money goes into the refining process but some profit is left over. The final price that the manufacturers pay for the reclaimed sterling silver is the same as virgin-mined metals.

If you’d like to find out more, come on down to “The Sustainability Event” on 27 Mar 10. The pieces will be available there and also at various stockists, including Cate.

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