What makes Welsh gold so special?
Updated: Dec 11, 2022
You may have heard that there’s gold in them thar (Welsh) hills, but did you know that Welsh gold has adorned the ring finger of every royal bride since the Queen Mother’s wedding in 1923? What is it that makes only Welsh gold good enough for Britain’s monarchy?
I’ve just come back from my research trip around Britain, hunting down our native gemstones and precious metals for a forthcoming book. Along the way, my travels took me to the wondrous wilds of Wales in search of precious gold.
So why is Welsh gold so prized? It boils down to scarcity of course—Welsh gold is considered to be the rarest in the world. Wales’ last commercial goldmine has long since closed, and the company has eked out the remaining supplies by mixing its gold with other gold bullion ever since. The royal wedding rings, however, are pure—the most recent are probably made from a 1kg chunk of Welsh gold presented to the Queen in 1999 by the Clogau mine.
Welsh gold is often regarded as having a deeper, rosier colour than other gold. This is due to traces of copper in the mine ore—if separated from the copper traces, however, the pure gold would be the same gleaming yellow as gold from any other source.
This history of Welsh gold adornments goes all the way back to the Bronze age. If you want to see some serious bling, check out the 3,000-year-old ‘Mold Cape’ (now in the British Museum)—an intricately fashioned cape made from a single 560g ingot of Welsh gold. The Romans also mined gold during their occupation of South Wales, leaving behind many coins and pieces of gold jewellery upon abandoning Britain.
A historical photo of the miners at the gold mine
Two major seams of gold were rediscovered during the industrial revolution: one in the North and one in the South of the country and, at its height, the gold mining industry in Wales was producing nearly 20,000 ounces of gold per year—and that’s only what was officially recorded!
A historical photo of Mount Morgan gold mine near Dolgelly, North Wales.
A historical photo of the miners who worked at the Dolaucothi gold mine
A historical photo – inside the gold mine.
Today, mining has ceased due to exhaustion of the mines, though tourists can still pan for gold at the defunct mines. With no gold being mined, Welsh gold is incredibly expensive and gold from the famous mines can attract a price at auction of up to 30 times the value of standard gold!
Gold panning – note the final sentence – Good luck but remember, all that glitters is not gold…
The Dolaucothi gold mine, also known as the Ogofau Gold Mine – now a tourist attraction
So, is this the end of the story for Welsh gold? Not quite! In April 2019, Alba Mineral Resources discovered promising gold deposits in a 9km stretch of land to the east of the famous former Clogau (pronounced ‘clog-eye’) mine. Further exploration is taking place this year, and the company hopes to be able to restart the gold mining industry in the future.
Watch this space!