Thursday, September 13, 2012

Using Recycled Silver

We have a special treat for you today! Megan Martin, a jewelry design genius, and a friend of mine (so I may be biased, but that doesn't make her any less talented...), agreed to talk about why she uses recycled argentium silver to create her pieces:

Why do I use recycled precious metals in my jewelry?  First, let me say I do my best to have a small environmental impact in all aspects of my business, not just the metals I use.  I try to minimize paper waste, recycle what I can't reuse and use packaging and supplies created with recycled content.  Because I work in a home studio with my three children underfoot, it is important to me that the processes and materials I use are as safe for my family as possible. 

 I have chosen to work in a sterling silver alloy with the trade name of Argentium for several reasons:
  • the developer requires the silver used to come from reclaimed sources
  • it is firescale resistant and can be fused (like fine silver) meaning minimal use of flux and the harsh chemicals needed to clean the flux from silver after torching.
  • Argentium sterling silver can be heat treated in the oven to increase the hardness and tarnish resistance of finished work so fewer chemicals will need to be used to keep it clean in the future.

Using recycled metals isn't just good for me and my family - when I began my path as a jewelry artisan the No Dirty Gold  movement was being established.

Acid drainage in containment pond at base of Summitville Superfund site
Acid drainage in containment pond at base of Summitville Superfund site. Photo credit: Environmental Protection Agency

Precious metals mining can have a negative impact on area water quality, the workers and the environment.  According to the EPA, in 2005, precious metals mining was responsible for more than a quarter of all reported toxic releases in the US including 92% of arsenic releases, 84% of mercury releases, and 83% of lead releases. In contrast, my chosen precious metals refiner, Hoover and Strong (H&S) is fully committed to recycling and protecting the environment in every way possible. They have been independently certified as using 100% reclaimed precious metals.  In addition, the processes they use to refine the metals reduce the amount of waste generated and result in no risk of waste water being released into the environment. 

If you are anything like me, no matter how carefully you measure and cut, scrap metal is unavoidable – H&S and other refiners will take all those bits and pieces as well as old silverware, coins, dental scraps and broken jewelry and refine them into sheet, wire and other mill products. When you return your scrap for recycling, you'll receive a credit towards your next order or with some refineries you can choose a cash settlement.  I've chosen to use H&S for their reputation and certifications, but according to their websites, precious metals dealer Thunderbird Supply caries a line of Earth Silver, Rio Grande offers a Sustainable line, and   Monsterslayer advertizes in popular jewelry magazines that they sell 'green' silver (I could find no specifics on their website.)  

Even if you haven't generated enough scraps to send in for refining, you can creatively recycle your precious metal.  I use lengths of wire from other projects to create ball end head pins and decorative accents. In my Constellations necklace, fine gauge wire scraps were carefully melted to create the weblike texture of the pendant.  

Recycled Argentium sterling silver,
rough pink sapphire and keishi pearls. Handforged, Fused, Oxidized, and

Have some fun melting down your own metal scraps into organic shapes for use in your jewelry – it's good for the environment and your bank account!

For more info on using recycled metals in your work visit:

You can find Megan at her Etsy shops:

You can also find her on Facebook:


  1. Thank you for the interesting and thoughtful article!

  2. What a great article! I see no earthly reason not to use recycled silver! Megan's work is beautiful and a testament to the fact that the metal can be as beautiful the second time around. :-)


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