jewelry-recycling.jpg From unwanted family heirlooms to last year’s Mardi Gras beads, most people have some jewelry they no longer want hanging around the house. One thing is certain: Recycling old necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, pins, watches and other types of jewelry is not as easy as putting it in the curbside recycling bin. Some jewelry, of course, will fetch a high value and can be sold. But, what do you do with costume jewelry or other low-value items? Recycling options are limited, so plan on finding creative ways to reuse unwanted pieces.

How to recycle gold, silver and platinum jewelry

Not only can gold, silver and platinum be recycled, but you can also make money doing it. These precious metals have an extremely high market value. (At press time, gold is valued at $1,300/ounce, silver at $21/ounce and platinum at $1,500/ounce.) Each can be melted down and turned back into jewelry or used in computer circuit boards and many other items. Most communities of any size have stores will big signs that say “We Buy Gold!” But, how do you know they are not ripping you off by offering a below-market price for your items? This article from ABC News has great tips for making sure you get the most for your jewelry. Suggestions include separating 14-, 18- and 24-karat gold items to make sure the dealer pays you the correct price for each (instead of the lowest possible price for everything) and checking to see if trendy designer jewelry has a value beyond the price of the metal.

How to recycle jewelry with gemstones

What if you have a necklace with real emeralds, or earrings encrusted with sapphires? These items will also fetch a good price, and, if you send them to someone who will remanufacture them or sell them as is, you know the gemstones will go to someone else who will love them. Check with antique stores or secondhand jewelry stores in your community to see if they are interested in your items. If the item has been appraised and you know how much it is worth, you can consider selling jewelry yourself through an online resource like Craigslist or eBay. You can also look online for companies that purchase jewelry or sell it on consignment. Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry in San Francisco is one example. You can send them digital pictures and any information about your items (color, clarity, cut and carats) to get an estimate.

Donate jewelry to charity

Most local thrifts stores will happily take jewelry off your hands, especially if it has a high value. Since charitable donations are tax deductible, making a gift to a nonprofit can be a good deal for you, especially if your piece is broken or might not fetch a high price at an antique store or other retailer. Make sure you get a donation receipt from the charity, and check with your tax advisor for advice on how to value the item. There are a few charities that do not have thrift stores that accept jewelry and watches, which they sell to fund their charitable activities. New Eyes, which helps people in America and overseas get eyeglasses, is one example.

How to recycle costume jewelry

Costume jewelry is jewelry with little or no value (beyond sentiment, of course). When you are ready to get rid of it, see if you can pass it on to friends looking to add to their collections or kids who enjoy playing dress-up. Thrift stores can often sell jewelry of any quality and will take even low-value items off your hands. Stores that specialize in selling secondhand craft supplies may also be interested in costume jewelry. Jewelry can be repurposed in thousands of ways. Here are a couple ideas for using old jewelry to create new pieces:
  • Cut apart old beaded necklaces and restring them in new combinations
  • Attach the dangly parts of fancy earrings to necklaces
  • Wrap necklaces around your wrist for an instant armful of bracelets
Here are ideas for turning jewelry into different items:
  • Stitch old brooches and earrings onto purses and jewelry trees
  • Glue pendants to antique bottles or hairpins
  • Use rhinestone necklaces as curtain ties

Buy recycled, too!

Extracting precious metals is extremely hard on humans and the environment. No Dirty Gold, a program of environmental group Earthworks, describes gold mining as “one of the most destructive industries in the world.” Among the many problems associated with gold mining: water and soil polluted with mercury and cyanide, natural areas dug up in the search for the precious metal, native people displaced from their land and workers forced to labor under horrendous conditions. Silver, platinum and gemstone mines are no better. These environmental and human hardships are another reason to get your jewelry into the hands of someone who can reuse it. When making future jewelry purchases, consider buying recycled as well. Brilliant Earth and Greenkarat are a couple examples of companies that use 100% recycled precious metals in their products.