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Can coloured gemstones be recycled?


Former White Pine head Tim Phillips on re-using old gemstones.

Former head of European development at diamond recycling company White Pine Diamonds and Professional Jeweller Hot 100 Trailblazer Tim Phillips explains the issues facing coloured gemstone recycling.

At White Pine we acquire considerable quantities of small, coloured gemstones mixed in with the diamond melee we buy. As a result we have in our possession hundreds of thousands of carats of mixed stones, CZs and coloured glass. We would love to find a profitable way to recycle them, but unfortunately this is never going to be easy.

Not only do most coloured stones – even the big three – fetch considerably less than similarly-sized diamonds, they are also much softer and more prone to damage. This means that the coloured stones we acquire are frequently chipped and scratched as a result of being removed from a piece of jewellery, and have also been burred by rubbing up against other harder stones.

Another problem is that once you have extracted gemstones from the other semi-precious and faux stones that come with them, there is the thorny matter of gemstone treatments which are increasingly ubiquitous and make it expensive and difficult for us to ensure that the stones are actually the real thing. It is thus not currently viable for large companies like White Pine to undertake the time consuming processes required to sort, check and re-polish coloured stones for resale.

However on a small, artisanal scale, coloured stones will continue to be reused in jewellery manufacture as an environmentally sound alternative to the use of freshly-mined goods. Larger coloured stones will continue to maintain their value on an individual basis, but the more commercial-end of the coloured-gemstone market, particularly for small stones, has low recycling potential at the moment.

This column was taken from the October issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.


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