Know Your Silver?

Here at OCK we are very interested in sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly practices. We share a space with a yarn shop focusing on the same things in textiles. It is one of the reasons we work with so many local and independent artists. We know that these businesses are ethical because we work directly with them, supporting local jobs and economies.

One of our newest editions to the OCK family is Wild Fawn, a London based jeweller working with ethical silver. But what on earth is ethical silver?! Having chatted with Emma and done some research of our own, we are happy to report back.

These circle studs are part of the newest pieces that we’ve received from Wild Fawn.

Mining in general is an incredibly harmful and toxic industry. The process of extracting resources from the earth for human use goes back centuries and has a history of environmental destruction, bad labour practices and general dodgy dealings. As we found in our research, information is very difficult to come by, so it is hard to know even now what the true status of the industry is, or even where exactly a lot of the silver comes from. We have come away with more questions than answers, but we believe that raising these questions is what makes us all better consumers.

We did manage to find out a few interesting things though. Most silver (approx. 75%) is used in the production of computer electronics and other industrial items, which has made public pressure difficult. This is in contrast to gold where only 20% goes to non-jewellery uses. This means that it has responded well to campaigns for better regulation and industry change. Did you know that 70% of new silver production is a result of mining other minerals like copper, zinc and gold? The other 30% comes from dedicated silver mines. This is a tricky idea ethically. Some say this byproduct silver is more ethical as it came out of the ground anyway and may as well be used, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was mined in the first place.

One of the best things about silver is its longevity. Since it doesn’t degrade it can be re-used. Silver is easily melted down and turned into something else. Recycled silver therefore is very environmentally friendly if the initial mining process is taken out of the equation. The demand for recycled or ethical silver from the jewellery industry is un-surprisingly high. As Emma put it when she was telling us how she buys the silver that she uses in her jewellery, why wouldn’t you? It is more expensive to buy wholesale, but you can always melt and recycle your own.

Wild Fawn’s recycled silver jewellery includes a line of earrings and necklaces are simple and classic designs, which makes them perfect to wear everyday. Not to mention that the recycled silver makes you feel good about it too! We particularly love the more unusual design of these hammered studs that snake up the ear. Another aspect of silver that we have been learning about from Roderick of Rodology is hallmarking. This is a process where pieces of silver are given a certain set of official marks to prove their authenticity and purity. Any silver items that weigh more than 7.78g (a fifty pence piece weighs 8 grams) must legally be hallmarked by an Assay office. The oldest such office is The Goldsmith’s Company, which has been providing the service since 1327!

We have pieces in again from Daniel Darby, including this Silver Anvil Pendant. The hallmarks on this piece are on the bottom of the anvil.

Silver Anvil Pendant

Last on the list is sterling silver? We use the term the all the time in our product descriptions as a mark of quality, but what does it signify? Sterling silver is in fact an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by mass of silver and 7.5% by mass of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.

So there we are! Thanks so much to Emma of Wild Fawn and Rod of Rodology for talking to us about recycled silver and hallmarking and bringing it to our attention. We are sure to keep an eye out for more information to share with you.