Around 85% of Sellis of Cambridge jewellery is made from re-cycled Silver. This is somewhat time-consuming and hot work but it is well worth it, not only in terms of the small but not insignificant impact on our carbon footprint, it is quite simply cost effective.

Silver can be recycled over and over without degrading the silver. This is because silver and other precious metals, are non-ferrous which means they don’t lose their chemical properties through the process of recycling. In other words, if you have a necklace made of .925 sterling silver (see my blog article ‘Is It Real?‘) once it is melted down and recycled you will still have 925 sterling silver ready to create another piece of jewellery.

Recycling silver on an industrial scale involves collection of scrap, which may include silver, extraction of silver components, processing followed by sorting, melting, purifying and ultimately cooling into a hardened state in the form of bars. However, on a small workshop scale this is simpler, faster, more cost effective and ultimately even more environmentally friendly. While large industrial recycling plants are still better than mining precious metals from the earth, they are still large industrial operations.  

‘Workshop recycling’ is possible with a simple hand-held torch, a crucible (a ceramic dish used to hold the silver while heat is applied) and an ingot mould. Indeed, this is how I started recycling my scrap silver. With this very basic equipment, only very small amounts of silver could be melted down at once and recycling just a few grams of scrap into useable sheet or wire could take a number of hours. Although it is possible to melt down silver with a hand-held blow torch, an oxy-acetalene torch will provide greater intensity of heat and thereby the ability to melt down greater quantities of silver.  

Having invested in some crucial equipment I am now able to recycle about 1kg of silver in the time it previously took to recycle about 50g. By far, using an electric rolling mill (I use a Durston TUI C130 single combination mill) makes all the difference. Believe me, hand rolling a silver ingot 5mm thick into a 0.5mm thick sheet takes an awful lot of time and physical effort!

With the right tools and a bit of experience, recycling silver is not only sustainable and satisfying (there is something quite mesmerising about liquid silver!) it also allows a jewellery designer to be more flexible with trying new techniques and designs - the pressure is off when I know that if it doesn’t quite work out, I can simply melt down the piece and start again. Recycling in this way eliminates the financial worry of replacing used materials.

On another level, recycling doesn’t have to mean melting down scrap silver. Old broken jewellery or unwanted items can be melted down and re-fashioned into something bespoke. This is a good way to use inherited or sentimental pieces. Why not create a bespoke piece that you will love? Not  only will you have a design you want to wear, it is made from the gold and or silver from an old piece of jewellery that has meaning but, for whatever reason, was never worn.

I find it enormously satisfying to sit at my workbench, rummage through my scrap drawer and come up with a ring or a pendant made simply from end pieces of wire or bits and pieces surplus to the original project. Here is a sterling silver and 9 carat gold ring I made purely from ‘scrap’ metal.