Conscious consumers are increasingly buying into brands that are passionate about protecting the earth, such as local brand AuTerra, which handcrafts gold and silver jewellery recycled from electronic waste.
“We believe that while some metal mining may always be necessary, ultimately our most important extraction operations should be taking place in scrapyards and recycling centres rather than sensitive ecological areas and ancestral lands,” says founder Ashley Heather, who “stumbled into jewellery making quite by accident”.
“Mining just 10 grams of gold displaces 4 800kg of earth. But gold isn’t only to be found underground. In fact, a significant proportion of the world’s gold supply is already above ground and much of it in a very surprising place — our landfills. Electronic products or component devices often make use of small amounts of gold and silver due to the metals’ electrical conductivity. The average computer, for example, has about a fifth of a gram of gold in it,” explains Heather.
“Recycling e-waste came about as a result of a great deal of research, accompanied by some very serendipitous connections. As the fastest-growing municipal waste stream in the world, e-waste is an issue that desperately needs addressing. Most e-waste contains both gold and silver — a jeweller’s dream,” she says.
The refining process is intricate and lengthy. Circuit boards are fed through a shredder to separate the mixed metals from other materials. The metal mass may be a combination of copper, gold, silver, and a few other metals. The precious metals are then separated into solutions before being melted again in the final stage to ensure a pure, high-quality material, which is crafted into AuTerra jewellery.