Utah's Kennecott mines silver, gold for Tiffany & Co.

Published: Monday, March 12 2012 11:55 p.m. MDT

Silver and gold bars at Kennecott Utah Copper Corp.

Courtesy of Kennecott

SALT LAKE CITY — The name Tiffany & Co. means first-class, New York City high society in jewelry circles.

But customers buying gold or silver from the world-renown jeweler are likely buying Utah's best, too.

The prestigious New York-based jeweler is opening its first store in Utah later this month at City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. What many people may not know is that the majority of the popular precious metals used to make rings, bracelets, earrings, and other high-end items at Tiffany are extracted from the Bingham Canyon Mine in western Salt Lake County.

"We produce about 3 (million) to 5 million ounces of silver a year and 300,000 to 500,000 ounces of gold," said Vania Grandi, vice president of marketing for the Precious Metals Copper Group at Rio Tinto — parent company of Kennecott Utah Copper Corp.

Tiffany purchased about half of all of the silver mined at Bingham last year and around 5 percent of gold mined at the facility, she added.

Currently, the price of silver is around $34 per ounce, while gold is approximately $1,700 an ounce.

Grandi said the relationship between the two companies, which began more than 10 years ago, developed out of their common values.

Tiffany buys from Kennecott partly because it wants to be able to reassure customers that its precious metals do not come from countries that have exploitative labor practices or have poor environmental regulation, she said.

"Both Tiffany and Kennecott are (also) committed to sustainable development and mining responsibly," Grandi said. Almost all of Tiffany-made jewelry was produced using Utah-mined silver or gold, she noted.

Interestingly, what ends up as beautiful, artistic jewelry starts out as a waste byproduct from copper mining.

"We mine for copper and as we take it through the various processes … at the very end what drops to the bottom is called "slime" that actually looks like a muddy sludge," she explained. "That's where the gold and silver is."

Who knew, right? After further processing, nearly pure gold and silver are extracted and made into bullion bars.

"We produce 400-ounce gold bars and 1,000-ounce silver bars, and those are then shipped to Tiffany," Grandi said.

Rio Tinto also provided the diamonds to many of the participants at this year's Academy Awards ceremony, according to spokesman Justin Jones.

"For the same reason Tiffany uses (our gold and silver), the actors, actresses and others who were wearing the 'bling' were wearing diamonds from Rio Tinto because of the sustainability practices," he said.

Grand noted that Rio Tinto's "fully integrated" mining systems allow the company to complete every step in-house from extraction to refining to bullion. The commodities are so well-processed that Kennecott's silver and gold both meet the highest international standard of "four nines" — or 99.99 percent purity, she said.

So when you think of getting your sweetheart some swanky gift from Tiffany, you can also consider that it was probably "home-grown."

"It's not often you can buy a piece of jewelry and know that it came from your own backyard," Grandi said. 

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS