Let’s look at some facts. Gold and silver have multiple uses, including various technology and mechanical parts. Recycled gold covers only 25% of its annual application worldwide, for example. The other 75% is covered by mining. (Source: World Gold Council)
Gold is being mined because there is a demand that recycled gold alone will not cover.
Also, the point of recycling a particular material is to prevent it from being discarded into the landfills and polluting our environment. Gold and silver are not plastic. People don’t just throw them out like that single-use Frappuccino cup. I mean, if you know someone who does, can you point me to their trash can, pretty please?
So, recycling gold and silver is not something that deserves extra points, like recycling hazardous or environmentally-polluting materials does. Because isn’t that what everybody does with any item containing precious metal they no longer want? That’s right, you either sell it to somebody to use or sell it to somebody to melt.
If environment and ethics are important to you (I hope they are!), then look for jewelers that use responsibly or ethically sourced metals and stones (the terms are used interchangeably). Responsibly sourced means either properly recycled (i.e. put through refinery process, before being re-mixed into alloys) or obtained in a mine with minimum environmental impact, no child labor, with high safety standards, good working conditions, and decent pay for the workers.
I believe that everything we use in our work should be fully traceable. Don’t be shy and ask questions. If someone cannot provide that information to you, it is a red flag.