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Why Welsh Gold is the Ultimate Blend of Craft and Heritage


wedding rings on the ground
Image by Irina Semibratova from Pixabay

Introduction


In the mythical and stunning landscape of Wales lies buried treasure: Welsh gold. 


Mined over millennia and coveted by royalty, today it is crafted by skilled artisans into pieces intertwined with Welsh heritage and landscapes.


All this makes for jewellery with a truly unique story.


The history of Welsh gold


The Romans


Welsh gold objects on display
Romano-British jewellery from Dolaucothi in the British Museum. Photo by Jononmac46 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Gold was mined in Wales as far back as the Bronze Age. When the Romans came, they liked what they saw and conquered the landscape, establishing mines and ramping up gold production.


Roman workings at Dolaucothi mine
Roman workings at Dolaucothi mine. Photo by Nilfanion is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Over the centuries, mining developed and three main sites emerged - the Gwynfynydd Gold Mine, near Ganllwyd, the Clogau Gold Mine near Bontddu, and in South Wales, a small area in the valley of the River Cothi at Dolaucothi, known to have been mined by the Romans.


The Romans began mining Dolaucothi Between 70AD and 80AD. They created large open-cast mines and tunnels, changing the landscape massively.


Roman workings at Dolaucothi
Roman workings at Dolaucothi mine. Photo by Nilfanion is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

You can even see some of the original 2,000 year-old pick marks, and the channels and water tanks used to wash away the topsoil and clean the crushed ore.






The Victorians


The Romans eventually left Wales, and gold mining ended with them.


Next, it was the turn of the Victorians to rediscover Welsh gold. Things really got going around the turn of the century. Gold was also booming elsewhere by this point, including South Africa and the Klondike area.


However, profits were hard to come by, and most gold mining ended in the early 20th century.


Welsh gold today


After a brief spell of mining in the 1980s and 1990s, a small amount of gold stocks remain, which are carefully preserved and cherished.


While commercial mining may have ended, it’s still possible to pan for gold yourself! This can be panned from the rivers around Dolgellau, notably the Wem and the Mawdach.



How has Welsh gold been used through history?


Roman uses


The Romans used Welsh gold for a variety of items. It was used to craft jewellery such as torcs – ceremonial bands worn around the neck by early Welsh princes and nobility.


Royal connections


welsh gold ingot
1kg of gold from Gwynfynydd Gold Mine presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1986. Photo by Geni is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The royal connection goes back to 1911 when regalia for Prince Edward’s investiture as Prince of Wales contained pure Welsh gold.


An amount of this gold was gifted to the Royal Family in 1911. Since then, many wedding rings have been fashioned out of this single piece. The first instance was for the Queen Mother in 1923. Then came the rings for Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, Princess Margaret in 1960, Princess Anne in 1973, and Princess Diana in 1981.


King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort also have rings made from Welsh gold, as well as Catherine, Princess of Wales and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.


In 1986, a 1KG ingot of pure Welsh gold was gifted to Queen Elizabeth II.





Modern usage


Today, Welsh gold is often used in jewellery designed for special occasions like weddings and anniversaries. Crafted into rings, necklaces, and other adornments, it blends tradition with luxury.


Additionally, it is appreciated by collectors, with limited edition coins and medallions being particularly popular. Some also see an investment opportunity due to its historical value and scarcity.


Tourism is also associated with Welsh gold, with visitors to Wales often seeking out items as souvenirs.


While not as prevalent in everyday items today, Welsh gold's enduring appeal lies in its beauty, tradition, and unique place in Welsh culture.


Is Welsh gold different to other gold?


There is no chemical difference between gold mined in Wales and gold found elsewhere in the world. However, gold mined in Wales carries a tangible link to the mythical lands from which it has emerged, which increases its desirability.


Welsh gold is often associated with a rose colouring. This is likely due to copper located next to the gold in many mines. Copper is also introduced to designs marketed as Welsh gold as a stylistic choice.


Market value and rarity


The main defining factor of Welsh gold is that due to mining restrictions, only a small amount remains in existence today. This adds to the intense mystique surrounding it, and ties it intrinsically to Wales’ stunning and storied landscape.


In 2017 10 lots of Clogau gold sold for £44,000, way above their £9,000 initial valuation. This is roughly 30 times more than the equivalent price of standard world gold.


Many new pieces of jewellery listed as featuring Welsh gold contain just a small amount. This is owing to the scarcity of supply as no commercial mining now takes place.


Why should I buy Welsh gold?


The irresistible link to Wales is a key factor in the valuation. In front of this backdrop, there are also some key ways in which the Welsh connection distinguishes Welsh gold.


Craftsmanship


There are many skilled artisans working with this gold. Pieces are meticulously designed and hand-crafted to the customer’s wishes.


Many designs are often influenced by the mythical and visually stunning landscapes of Wales, as well as Arthurian legends, dragons and Celtic motifs.


However, skilled jewellers also cater to modern aesthetics, aiming for timeless elegance to cater for a range of tastes and preferences.


From mine to jeweller: it’s all local


Many jewellers working with Welsh gold are based in Wales itself. This means that it’s often just a stone’s throw from the mine to the jeweller’s workshop, and onto a customer’s finger.


Buying Welsh gold supports local businesses using their local resources, rather than huge global conglomerates with long supply chains.


Conclusion


Welsh gold is a rare and cherished treasure emerging from the stunning landscapes of Wales.


The craftsmanship associated with it is exemplified by skilled artisans who meticulously design and handcraft jewellery inspired by Wales' mythical landscapes and cultural heritage.


Moreover, buying it supports local businesses and promotes sustainability by utilising local resources and reducing global supply chains.


In essence, Welsh gold represents not just a precious metal, but a connection to Wales' storied past and a commitment to preserving its legacy for generations to come.



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