The Royal Mint, the government-owned mint which has produced coins for the United Kingdom since 886 AD, has released a sustainable jewelry collection created using gold recovered from electronic waste. Designed by award-winning British designer Dominic Jones, each piece in the sleek unisex collection features a visual marker of its gram weight alongside the hallmark, in a new take on the concept of wearable assets.
886 by the Royal Mint includes chains, cuffs, rings and earrings available in solid 18 and 9 karat gold, Britannia silver and sterling silver. The Royal Mint is partnering with cutting-edge Canadian clean tech firm Excir to recover gold from discarded laptops and smartphones, ensuring that all yellow gold used in the collection has been salvaged from e-waste on-site at its manufacturing plant in Wales. The team are now working on extracting more silver from used electronics, as the company aims to position itself as a leader in sustainable precious metals, according to Chief Growth Officer, Sean Millard.
“A focus on sustainability sits at the heart of our business,” he says. “We’re investing in operations, people, supply chains and communities, always with our customers in mind.” The Royal Mint is currently working towards Net Zero targets, uses 100% renewable electricity and is building its own Local Energy Centre, alongside an existing wind turbine, to increase renewable energy production. Alongside coinage for circulation in the United Kingdom, the company is best known for illustrated commemorative coins marking milestones in British history – most recently, a collection of coins and gold bullion to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – and is committed to sustainable packaging and responsibly sourced metals.
The Royal Mint has been producing coins since the time of Alfred the Great, the first British monarch to issue silver pennies for his kingdom, bearing his own portrait, stamped ‘Londonia’ to indicate where they had been made. As newly appointed Creative Director for Royal Mint Collections, Dominic Jones felt the weight of history when he was asked to create a lifestyle brand for the oldest company in the UK: “it feels like an incredible honor, albeit a slightly daunting mantle to take on […] it’s a particularly exceptional circumstance,” he says. “I spent a lot of time trying to decode and distill the reason why The Royal Mint existed in the first place and turning those into core design codes to kick off from. The idea of it being a trusted supplier of precious metals as well being an illustrative storyteller of history through portraiture [on coins] were two ideas that I really took as the inception point.”
The resulting collection feels modern and fresh, a beautifully minimalist tribute to history that showcases the highly polished beauty of the metals themselves. Bracelets and rings are available in varying thicknesses, but the stand-out pieces are all about chunky volume and wear-with-everything appeal, as gently squared hoop earrings and wide-band rings feature alongside easy studs and the simplest of solid gold cufflinks. “These pieces are for someone who loves design, with an eye for detail; someone who is passionate but understated. This is jewelry for the wearer, not the viewer,” says Dominic.
The collection also represents an investment in British craftsmanship at the Royal Mint’s manufacturing center in Llantrisant in Wales, where craftsmen leverage ancient coin-making techniques to create jewelry with a pleasing weight and luster. A recruitment and training drive is also underway to ensure that by 2023, 75% of production will be in-house, a welcome investment in British manufacturing at a time when the country has been struggling with the many and varied challenges presented by its departure from the EU.
Appealing to a contemporary luxury consumer and developing British skills are key for this new strand of the consumer business that has already seen the Royal Mint diversify from currency and return to profit. “The jewelry manufacturing industry in the UK has been in steady decline over the past 30 years,” says Sean. “[In five years time, Royal Mint Collections] will employ 121 people full-time, making it one of the largest jewelry manufacturers by headcount in the country.” The company is also developing a jewelry training and apprenticeship program with the goal of being able “to enable [other brands] to benefit from the advantages of provenance and sustainability that are increasingly important to customers.” A fitting objective for new division that represents a step into the future for the oldest luxury brand in the world.