“Going green.” The phrase is everywhere, and its meaning has become a bit muddled and less precise than maybe we’d like. The concern, however, around protecting the resources that we all depend on in our jewelry businesses is a growing one and deserves attention. Taking the time to look for and use sustainable materials wherever possible is a social pact we make with future generations—to ensure that we are responsible stewards of the vast, but not unlimited, resources around us and that we work to meet present needs without compromising future needs.
You may already know that, at Rio Grande, a great many of our precious metal products, particularly fabrication metals such as sheet, strip, and wire are made from recycled or reclaimed (and therefore “sustainable”) materials. These products, as well as any findings made from these products, are noted in our catalog (by green stock numbers) and online (by a sustainable icon) to make it easier for you to spot them. And many of our other products are also likely made primarily or exclusively with recycled metal, we just haven’t yet established this with certainty.
But, did you know that many of the base metal mill products offered by Rio are also sustainable, made from reclaimed and recycled material? It’s true, and we couldn’t be happier to be able to share that news with other jewelry-makers who care, as we do, about this issue.
According to our supplier, all brass mills strive to use as much scrap in their production as possible. Typically, this ranges from 60% to 85% of the alloy mix and can be as much as 100%, depending on the alloy and scrap available at any given time. Not only does this help protect the environment, but the cost of scrap (as compared to virgin cathode or ingot) can be an added benefit, depending on the condition and processing expenses. This preference for re-using scrap is the norm for manufacturing brass, bronze, and nickel silver sheet. Interestingly, in manufacturing copper (C110) sheet, mills are far less often able to use reclaimed material as there are higher chemical standards of purity that they must meet; plus, copper scrap is in high demand around the world and harder to come by.
It is also interesting to know that, while some reclaimed material may be used in manufacturing wire, wire manufacturers tend to charge their melts with refined, rather than recycled, base metal to prevent inclusions and other defects. In the drawing processes, the metal must stand up to a significantly more vigorous level of working than sheet.
Because the quantity of scrap available varies so widely, we can’t reasonably mark these materials in our usual way as consistently sustainable. Still, it is great to know that, with base metals as well as with precious metals, we can feel good about doing just a little bit more to be responsible stewards of our resources in our industry.
Did you know this about the base metals you use? Will this knowledge influence how you choose metals? Drop us a comment and let us know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you!