How can I buy sustainable and eco-friendly gold?

The difficulty with certifying gold jewelry as environmental friendly is that most gold is refined at large plants that do not distinguish between sources. This operational process makes it very difficult for jewelry retailers to determine where the gold was mined or what practices were used.

However, many jewelry companies and gold refineries are implementing voluntary policies to improve their gold sourcing operations. EARTHWORKS and Oxfam America have launched a No Dirty Gold campaign, which asks companies to sign a Golden Rule pledge. Multiple jewelers and gold refinery companies have signed the pledge, including those listed here:


The Golden Rule pledge states that companies will honor heightened environmental standards in their mining operations, including:

  • Not dumping mine waste into water sources
  • Not locating mining operations in fragile ecosystems\
  • Not contaminating the areas surrounding mines with toxic chemicals

The Golden Rule pledge also contains a number of human rights standards, including working with the communities located near mining sites and establishing safe and humane working conditions for laborers. [1]

What about Recycled Gold?

Although the original source of recycled gold may have been produced through toxic mining practices, buying recycled gold decreases the demand for additional gold extraction. Recycled gold does not mean re-sold or used jewelry, but rather new jewelry which has been made from gold melted down from scrap metal, dental materials and unwanted jewelry.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) provides third-party certification for sustainability and environmental practices of jewelers, manufacturers and metal refiners. The Certified Responsible Source for Precious Metals certification demonstrates that a company is using recycled sources for precious metals and is meeting additional environmental criteria. [2]


Several jewelry manufacturers have earned the Certified Responsible Source designation, including:

  • United Precious Metal Refining, Inc, a precious metal refinery and also produces master alloys, de-oxidized sterling silver, solder and wire products. www.unitedpmr.com
  • Ohio Precious Metals, LLC, which refines gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. OPM sources materials from from the jewelry, pawn, coin, photographic, electronics, secondary refining/collecting, and banking industries. www.opm-llc.com
  • Metalor USA Refining Corp, an international Swiss-based company in the field of precious metals and advanced materials.www.metalor.com

Although customers cannot buy directly from wholesale manufacturers, you can request items made by these manufacturers when shopping at a jewelry retailer.

What standards exist for gold mining?

 Several non-governmental and trade organizations are developing standards and best practices to reform the gold mining and refining industry.

 The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA): Is an organization comprised of mining companies, jewelers, NGOs and community groups that works to form a set of standards and a verification systems at large-scale minesites. The standards include environmental, social and human rights benchmarks. IRMA, which was launched 2006 is a voluntary system with independent verification.

Is there a process for certifying artisanal/small-scale mined gold?

Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) is an international organization which seeks to establish transparent and legitimate standards for artisanal/small-scale mining operations. ARM first drafted Standard Zero for Fair Trade Artisanal Gold and Associated Silver and Platinum in 2006. [3] ARM is using this standard to improve the processes of existing ASM operations. By providing a market for certified gold, the ARM will provide an incentive for small scale miners to adopt the practices out lined in the Standard Zero. The ARM standards follow those set out in the ISEAL Code of Good Practice.

More information about the standards are found here:




[1] Golden Rules: Making the Case for Responsible Mining,” EARTHWORKS, Oxfam America, 2007; www.nodirtygold.org

[2] Scientific Certification Systems: Certified Responsible Source for Precious Metals http://www.scscertified.com/gbc/responsible_source.php

[3] Cristina Echavarria,  “Getting to Fair Trade Gold . . . and Jewelry,” Association for Responsible Mining. http://www.madisondialogue.org/papers.html