Pandora, known for its affordable sterling-silver charm bracelets, is the world’s largest jewelry company by volume: The Danish chain sells more than 100 million pieces annually. This week, it announced that it is now sourcing only 100-percent-recycled silver and gold for its collections.
The move was touted as an important step by a massive company to reduce its environmental footprint. “We wanted to lead by example,” Pandora’s chief executive, Alexander Lacik, said in an interview. “If we can make positive contributions to society through our use of recycled gold and silver, it means anyone can do it.”
By working with metals that have already been mined, Pandora won’t be digging deeper in search of new materials, allowing the company to substantially reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Mining requires more energy and resources than recycling and is a leading source of mercury pollution. In a 2020 news release announcing its shift to recycled metals, Pandora cited statistics from the World Gold Council and other entities showing that the process of recycling gold reduces emissions by about 99 percent compared to mining it, while recycling silver reduces carbon emissions by about 66 percent compared to mining it.
Other brands, like Prada and Monica Vinader, have also started using recycled metals. But some industry observers warn that those materials can seem more virtuous than they may really be.
Like “sustainability,” the word “recycled” can mean different things to different people. That interpretation gap can prove problematic, said Tiffany Stevens, the chief executive of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, an organization in New York City that focuses on ethics and policy advocacy in the industry.