First of all, nearly all jewelers carefully save scrap and send it in to be refined. Industry does this as well. With the price of silver, this is simple good sense. All this silver is refined and resold. Buying 100% recycled silver will not lead to more silver being recycled, simply because most of it already is. The difference between scrap bought and refined silver sold is newly mined silver. If more people buy 100% recycled, then the "ordinary" silver will have a higher percentage of newly mined. But the total mined won't change because of this.
While most people are aware of the environmental impact of metal mining, not everyone realizes that recycling old metal is hardly a walk in the park, as Hans Meevis describes in his blog. Refining silver is similar, although different acids are used. Yup - a lot of chemicals are used, a lot of byproducts and a lot of energy are used. And check out how much copper is necessary - that copper is mined as well. Even though it is a lot cheaper than gold or silver, getting the copper out of the ground is still very high impact.
|Fused pieces using scrap|
So what is a jeweler who wants to minimize environmental impact to do? In my view, the most responsible approach is to reduce metal waste as much as possible. This has become a mantra in my work. Like patterning for sewing, I fit all the metal pieces I need to cut so that the least waste is generate. I carefully save scraps, which can be used for a small bezel, a bail, a decoration or for making shot. The pieces that are too weirdly shaped, I save for fusing projects.
|The granules in this pendant were made from scraps of fine silver|
|These textures are created with filings that would, usually, be sent as scrap|