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Recycled Gold vs Fairtrade Gold. What is the difference and which to choose?

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

Consumers are waking up to the need for more sustainable choices, and the impact that their purchases have on both the environment, and the people involved in the production of the products they buy. Some jewellers are taking steps towards more sustainable methods of manufacture and traceable supply chains, to offer customers more eco-friendly and ethical options when investing in fine jewellery.

What is the difference between Fairtrade Gold and Recycled Gold?

What is Fairtrade Gold?

You may be familiar with the Fairtrade logo found on certain products in your local supermarket, like bananas and coffee. But did you know that gold can also be Fairtrade certified? Fairtrade Gold is an independent ethical certification system for gold. It is a strategy that aims to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty through fairer trade. According to Fairtrade International ''Fairtrade Gold is sourced exclusively from certified mines working to the highest standards of protection for both people and the environment. Their gold is physically traced all the way to a finished piece of jewellery.'' Fairtrade Gold really makes a difference to the lives of miners, their families and communities. Purchasing Fairtrade Gold means that the small-scale and artisanal miners were paid a fair price, offering them financial security. As part of the Fairtrade scheme, miners also receive an extra amount of money to invest in building the future of their families and their communities; through education, clean water and better healthcare. Fairtrade gold is slightly more expensive than recycled gold, but your purchase is an opportunity to make someone's life a little better. It’s a chance for miners to switch from using mercury to less toxic mining practices. It’s a chance for education that will help improve lives, and it is an investment worth feeling really good about.

What is Recycled Gold?

Recycled gold refers to gold that has been recycled from existing gold objects. This 'scrap' metal can be from old jewellery, dental work, computer components and various other sources. The 'recycling' process means that the gold is melted down and refined until it reaches its purest form.

Recycling gold reduces the negative impact that mining has on the environment and as an added bonus it can often be more cost-effective. Although this option is considered eco-friendly, the supply chain of recycled gold is not fully traceable and therefore, you could land up buying recycled 'dirty gold' without knowing it. That said, there is still an argument for buying recycled gold as an eco-friendly option. Some artisan jewellers, including Anne-Michelle Jewellery, offer in-house recycling services, where you can have your old jewellery melted down and a new piece of jewellery created using the old metal. Perhaps you have a family heirloom that holds great sentimental value, but just isn't your style? Wouldn't it be lovely to reimagine it into something new that you can wear and cherish for forever? With this form of recycling one can at least be sure of the gold's most recent origin, and maintain its sentimental value. But bearing in mind that the gold in your jewellery may have been recycled for centuries - do you really know its story?

10 Facts about Gold

  • 90% of miners are artisanal and small-scale.

  • Global sales of gold are worth $140 billion per year.

  • 60% of the gold used annually comes from newly mined sources.

  • Only roughly half the amount of gold that is mined, is made into jewellery.

  • Gold mining is one of the world's most dangerous jobs.

  • It is rarer to find a one-ounce nugget of gold than a five-carat diamond.

  • All of the gold ever mined could fit into a 21 cubic metre crate.

  • 100 million people worldwide depend on artisanal and small-scale mining for survival.

  • In 2009, 2,575 tonnes of gold were extracted from the earth, which accounts for 60% of the world’s total gold supply (1,759 tonnes were used to make jewellery).

  • It takes a tremendous amount of rock to yield just specks of gold - anywhere from 2 tons to 91 tons of rock to produce just 1 ounce of gold.

Recycled gold, diamond and sapphire ring designed by Anne-Michelle Jewellery.
A recycled white and yellow gold engagement ring.

Is there a difference in the quality of Fairtrade Gold and Recycled gold?

No. Despite the connotations that the word 'recycled' may conjure up - the quality of gold doesn't change, it is only the method of procurement that differs. Gold is a renewable resource, meaning that it can be melted down, refined and recycled again and again, without ever losing its purity or value.

In conclusion, which should you choose?

Choosing which of these two options to go for, when buying a new piece of jewellery, is really down to personal choice. Recycled gold is often considered kinder to the environment because no new earth is mined in its production, but it does nothing to support the socio-economic crisis that mining communities face worldwide. Fairtrade Gold is kinder to the people and communities responsible for mining and selling this precious metal. Both choices trump the use of 'dirty' gold and large-scale mining.

Anne-Michelle Jewellery is one of the UK's registered Fairtrade Gold Jewellers. Look out for our new collection of Fairtrade Gold jewellery, manufactured with 100% traceable, and ethical gold.

To find out more about Fairtrade and Recycled Gold, or to book a free online design consultation for your next piece of jewellery - visit



Shanna Guilfoyle
Shanna Guilfoyle
Sep 14, 2021

Great article! I personally won't wear gold because of the impact of mining to the environment and the communities involved. It is such great news to hear of a talented jeweler such as yourself taking steps to be apart of a change for the good.


Kathryn Dooley
Kathryn Dooley
Sep 13, 2021

This is a really interesting, thought provoking and inspiring read. I had no idea there was such a difference. I will definitely be focussing on the choice in the future.

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