Posts tagged jewellery
Aluminium as a sustainable material for jewellery

I first started using aluminium to make jewellery 2 years ago and it formed the basis for my graduate collection last year.  As a material aluminum was perfect for what I wanted to do, it was light, so I could make larger pieces than would be possible in any precious metals and it can be dyed, through the process of anodization, so I could make the large, colourful mushroom inspired peices I wanted to make.

I’ve been interested in the supply chain of precious metals for some years and was interested to know what, if any, advantages there were to using aluminum.

The history of aluminum as a material is fascinating and complicated, and,  like all commodities encapsulates themes of transnation importance, that still effect the lives of many today.

The ideal for me, was to go around collecting aluminum cans etc then melting them down into pre formed shape, with the help of Richard of the Much Hadham forge, to then be worked into jewellery.  Over the last year, since graduating, I have been working to try and make this viable, though have sadly come to the conclusion that it’s just not possible with my level of technology.


The process of anodization is a delicate one, impurities in the metal will effective conductivity often causing the process to fail.  Obviously when you’re picking up cans from the street, there's loads of impurities like dirt and the dyes and paints used to decorate the cans as well as the different aluminum alloys used by different manufacturers.  Given that the majority of aluminum ever mined is still in circulation, it’s definitely possible to refine the metal and create the alloys that are best suited to anodization for cosmetics purposes (in our case, jewellery) but that takes significant expertise and facilities. 

So what’s the alternative, is there such a thing as traceable, ethical aluminum?

Aluminium recycling process

It is true that aluminum is widely recycled. It only takes 5% of the energy to create aluminum from scrap than it does from bauxite, the ore that aluminium comes from, so a huge proportion of the aluminum we use today is recycled, it is estimated that over 80% of the aluminum ever mined is still in circulation.

Anodized aluminum Jewellery

Aluminum jewellery

Aluminum fine jewellery

Aluminium recycling process

Free wedding rings, marrying effective altrusim and the jewellery industry
Fairmined yellow gold wedding rings

I came across effective altruism in September as I was deciding what to write my dissertation about. In the end, I plucked for ‘Can it be proved that art encourages altruism’ (I concluded it could but in a somewhat unreliable way, you can read the dissertation here) and I used effective altruism,  or EA from here on in, as the philosophical backdrop for my piece.

Effective altruism is about using evidence and reason to figure out how to benefit others as much as possible, and taking action on that basis
— Centre for effective altrusim

Heavily influenced by the work of Peter Singer, an Australian moral philosopher, there’s loads of good info here, if like me you’re not a great reader, these videos on YouTube give a good backdrop and if your super keen you can go to one of their regular meetups, which I can recommend.

There’s a lot of debate within the jewellery industry as to what constitutes the most ‘ethical’ metals to use, and what exactly qualifies as ‘ethical jewellery’.  My opinion is that either Fairmined or Fairtrade metals (both of which we use and advocate for) are the best, by far, with recycled metals being only a slight improvement on mined and untraceable metals. Sadly, the term recycled is being used cynically, to lazily green wash a whole slew of questionable businesses and products and that those who use is genuinely don’t realize how little it does to change the really damaging issues that the jewellery industry is responsible for.   


However the inescapable conclusion from engaging with effective altruism is that non of these initiatives, Fairmined, Fairtrade or 100% recycled metals actually do any good when you compare the benefits that would be achieved by buying a non fairtrade gold ring and then donating the money to an effective cause.

Going one step further, you be doing almost infinitely more good by not buying a ring at all and donating the money you save to an effective cause.

Scrap silver that I will melt down and make a wedding ring out of.

Scrap silver that I will melt down and make a wedding ring out of.

This is where I come in.  

The positive effect of you donating the money you would spend on a pair of wedding rings, the average current UK spend being around £600 a pair *, is so great that I’d like to encourage anyone getting married to do so and I will make them a pair of custom rings, from silver, and deliver them in a presentation box, for free, provided a donation of £300 is made to anyone of the charities listed here is made. 

Gold mine in Tanzania

If this appeals to you, then please drop me a line with proof of the donation, your ring sizes and your address and I will get the rings to you within 4 weeks.  It would be nice if you could post pictures of the rings on social media, mentioning us and how much you love the rings (if you do of course)

Effective altruism and the ethics of the jewellery industry are both huge, complicated issues that I’m hoping to start a discussion about with this offer and this post.  The issues are inescapably intertwined and I would be interested to hear from people on all sides in the comments section.



 *We have worked this out independently based on figures from the consumer price index for July 2018, which can be found here  We have averaged all of the entries made for ‘solid 9ct gold ring’.