At Lebrusan Studio, we’re advocates for the circularity model; for minimising waste, pollution and consumption of natural resources by regenerating materials that are already in circulation. Jewellery deals in naturally resistant materials like gold, platinum and diamonds, whose toughness lends itself readily to repeated recycling or refurbishment with little degradation in quality. From our perspective, offering recycled gold and platinum across our engagement ring and wedding band collections is a no-brainer.
Repurposing old jewellery is not only beneficial from an environmental perspective; in many instances, it enables us to celebrate legacy and ensure that memories and sentiments may be passed on from one generation to the next. We’re often asked to recycle our clients’ platinum and gold heirlooms to create brand new pieces of jewellery; a process we take great satisfaction from. As with any worthwhile endeavour, however, recycling precious metal is not without its challenges - particularly when dealing in platinum. Today, we’re answering the question of why platinum is generally a little trickier to recycle than gold.
Gold is significantly more abundant than platinum in the Earth’s crust; in fact, there’s thought to be 33% more gold down there than platinum. From a jeweller’s perspective, this abundance – thus availability and affordability – makes recycling your gold a little cheaper than recycling your platinum.
For the few who are ready to part ways with their old jewellery forever, we take it, sell it on for recycling, then refund that scrap metal value from the final price of their new jewellery. This means that the original metal isn’t directly incorporated into the new jewellery, but does ensure that it doesn’t go to waste, re-entering the pool of recycled metals for another chance at life elsewhere instead of collecting dust.
For those keen to directly incorporate the metal of their old jewellery into their new commission for sentimental reasons, however, we have it melted down. What many don’t know is that melted platinum and gold doesn’t tend to go very far – so unless the original jewellery yields a significant volume of metal, it’s necessary to bulk out the alloy with more. At this stage, it’s easier and cheaper to introduce further gold than platinum.
Both gold and platinum belong to the periodic table’s transition metal group, a group of elements that are usually very shiny, conduct heat and electricity well, and have the ability to change charges, making them useful in many chemical reactions. However, in spite of co-habiting the same element group and sharing similar crystal structures, platinum has a stronger metallic bonding than gold. This results in stronger forces between atoms, requiring higher temperature to break the bonds and transition from solid to liquid. Whilst platinum melts at 1,768 °C, gold melts at around 1,064 °C – making gold much easier to break down and process.
Gold is highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation, making it easy to recover and recycle. Platinum, although relatively ‘stable’ (i.e. charged with enough binding energy to hold the nucleus together), it is more reactive with certain chemicals than gold, so can be more challenging to handle during the recycling process.
It’s worth mentioning here that ‘stable’, in the context of periodic elements, does not equate to ‘resilient’. Both platinum and gold score respectably on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, making them solid contenders for jewellery worn every day for years on end.
The range of industrial applications for gold is diverse, including electronics, dentistry and aerospace. Meanwhile, platinum plays a crucial role in more specific industrial applications, including petroleum refining and catalytic converters, crucial car parts used to convert harmful emissions into less harmful substances. These converters contain a combination of platinum, palladium and rhodium, and separating these metals is a complex process which requires specialised techniques.
Although gold is somewhat easier to recycle up to 100% recycled purity, that doesn’t mean to say that your old platinum is off-limits for recycling. From an environmental perspective, recycling metal in any capacity – whether reintroducing it to the pool as a scrap metal or repurposing it directly as a new piece of jewellery – is significantly more resourceful and sustainable than sourcing a newly mined alternative. We can successfully recycle platinum up to 100% recycled purity, with our recycled platinum never containing less than 90% pure recycled platinum. We encourage you to trust in the process, let the whizzes work their magic, and celebrate the metal that’s already above-ground!
Do you have an old treasure that’s lost its lustre? Offer it a second wind with ourbespoke remodelling service.