Whether it’s a family heirloom or a gem from a vintage boutique, we find out more about how to upcycle an old piece of jewellery.
Where once recycled items were met with snobbery, nowadays repurposing old material is in vogue and thanks to a growing awareness of sustainability issues, a booming business. It makes sense: fewer goods are created, less waste is produced and out of the discarded, something beautiful and new is born.
Brand new designs from old materials
And so it makes sense that the world of jewellery is turning its attention to recycled products. As well as plumping for brands that craft brand new designs from old materials they’ve carefully sourced, recycled jewellery also offers the option to make something new from items that have since been banished to the outer drawers of the jewellery box.
Old fashioned heirloom pieces that have gathered a coating of dust, not-quite-right earrings and lovingly handed down jewels that slightly miss the mark can all be given a new lease of life with a careful bit of recycling. Gold bands can be melted, stones can be set in other pieces and whole new incarnations can be formed.
More and more designers are happy to whip up bespoke pieces using old materials that would otherwise go to waste. Take a bit of time to plan carefully and there will be designers out there who can melt down old metals and make something beautiful and unrecognisable from the old piece - if you want it.
Upcycle your old pieces in the luxury market
Even better is that there are plenty of options to source recycled jewellery or upcycle your old pieces in the luxury market too. One of the leading sustainable jewellers in this field is Arabel Lebrusan. With branches in London and Brighton, Arabel was one of the first UK based jewellers to become Fairtrade gold licensees.
Firmly believing that beautiful jewellery doesn’t have to wreak havoc on the environment, she believes recycled materials offer great creativity for both the designer and customer, as well as chiming with her brand’s ethos of sustainability and transparency.
As always she believes that the best approach is to take the opportunity to question your jeweller about whether recycled metals or stones are used in their designs and if so, if they can trace the materials so you can ensure the highest levels of ethical production have been adhered to. At Arabel’s brand, all metals are traceable and in line with her sustainable approach to jewellery production. It’s common sense, thinks Arabel.
Recycling and luxury
“I believe there is enough metal above ground, we don’t need to keep mining for new metal and destroying the earth,” she says. “The concept is very simple; let’s just re-use the wealth that we already have. We don’t need to make more holes in the ground, which comes with its own environmental impact. It’s a win-win situation.”
Recycling and luxury might not seem like natural bedfellows but Arabel believes there’s no need for pre-loved materials to mean a scrimping on quality. “When we buy fine metals that come from recycled sources, the metal is exactly the same as newly mined,” she explains. “So there is literally no compromise to be made.”
That said, some people may be sceptical about whether recycled materials look as good as their new counterparts, especially where it comes to special pieces such as engagement and wedding rings. But there’s no need to worry. “Maybe in other industries it could be the case where a recycled material has less quality or retains fewer properties than a brand new one,” she explains.
“This might be case with plastic, where you could only recycle it a handful of times and every time some properties get lost in the process. “But in the jewellery industry we have this wonderful process called refining metal, where we can take any precious metal and make it pure again, removing all dirt and other alloys, bringing it back to its full purity.
“Metals have been re-use throughout the centuries thanks to this process. Recycled precious metals look exactly as good and shiny as newly mined one.” So there you have it, armed with a bit of information and the right designer, recycled jewellery could prove a stylish solution to sustainable jewellery.
Words: Keeley Bolger