Gold is, of course, a precious metal. But Welsh gold is considered the rarest gold in the world. Welsh gold has, in the past, been mined from just two distinct areas of Wales – and it was collected from just a few mines all of which were closed decades ago. As with anything rare, its scarcity has made Welsh gold highly sought after.
Welsh gold jewellery has a strong association with the British Royal family. Since her Majesty, The Queen Mother started the tradition on her wedding in 1963 to her husband Prince Albert, the future King, almost every member of British royalty has had their wedding ring made from Welsh gold
But Welsh gold’s royal connections go back further than this, as you will find out.
Where is Welsh Gold Mined?
Welsh gold has been mined from two areas of Wales – in South Wales around the valley of the River Cothi and from a few mines in an area of North Wales including parts of Snowdonia.
In South Wales, gold has been mined since Roman times and many artefacts, including coins and torcs have been discovered from this area. This includes a magnificent ‘Mold Cape’ from 74 AD, which was made from a single 560 kg gold ingot. This is now on view at the British Museum in London.
In North Wales, the biggest mines were the Gwynfynydd in Dolgellau and Clogau St Davids mine in Snowdonia.
Gwynfynydd mine, near Dolgellau, Gwynedd, was discovered in 1860 and produced 45,000 troy ounces of gold between the time of discovery and 1999 when it was finally closed.
Whist the mine opened in 1869 it wasn’t worked until 1884 and by 1888 two hundred people were employed at there. At the time it was owned by a man called William Pritchard Morgan, who was known at the time as the ‘Welsh Gold King’. He paid for two policemen to guard the mine.
In 1986, on her 60th birthday, Her Majesty the Queen was presented with a 1kg bar of Welsh Gold from the Gwynfynydd gold mine, for the purpose of being used in future royal wedding rings.
When gold is discovered it is often discovered near the surface or in streams (by famously ‘panning’ for gold). At Gwynfynydd mine, the gold was found in horizontal channels or veins (known as a lode) deep underground. The miners worked by candlelight and used machinery powered by water turbines.
Gywnfynydd still makes their Welsh gold jewellery in Wales from the gold reserves they have.
Clogau St David’s Gold Mine
The Clogau mine (pronounced “Clog-eye”), near Bontddu, North Wales was the most successful gold mine in North Wales. It was opened to extract copper and lead from veins in the rock. But gold was discovered in a lode of quartz and mining for gold began in 1860. Over the years quite large quantities of gold were discovered before the mine closed in 1911.
In 1989 William Roberts purchased the mine and he reopened it between 1992 until 1998 where enough gold was mined to supply the gold for the Clogau Gold of Wales Ltd jewellery range. It is William Roberts and his family who have developed the company to be a huge success they are today. They pride themselves in guaranteeing every piece of jewellery from the Clogau Gold range will contain an amount of rare Welsh gold.
Is Welsh Gold Still Mined Now?
Until recently, due to Health and Safety laws and restrictions around pollution, the cost of running the mines meant that it wasn’t financially viable to keep either the Gwynfynydd or the Clogau mines open.
Also, as the biggest and best gold mines were in Snowdonia, an area of National Park in North Wales, great care needs to be taken of the area and to ensure there is no resulting pollution into the rivers. This is closely monitored and controlled, making it too expensive to be viable.
Wage costs are higher in the UK than in other parts of the world where gold mining took place. All of this has to be taken into account in considering whether to open a mine again.
But in 2012 a report suggested that there may still be large deposits of gold in the hills around the Clogau St David’s mine which was thought to be worth investigating. Alba Mineral Resources began drilling from three drill holes along a 200-metre area.
Amazingly they found not insignificant quantities of gold in, what they think could be, a rich vein of gold within the rocks. They increased their number of drilling holes to 10 and predict that there could be as much as 500,000 ounces of gold in the rock in the area. In today’s money, this amounts to £700 million.
Clogau has since bought an area of land of approximately 80 acres of land around the Gwynfynydd mine.
Is Jewellery Still Made from Welsh Gold?
One of the most successful companies that make jewellery from Welsh gold – with every piece of jewellery created containing traces of pure Welsh gold – is Clogau Gold of Wales. As already previously mentioned, Clogau also owns the Clogau St Davids gold mine in Snowdonia, North Wales.
Many jewellers all over the UK now stock the Clogau Gold range of jewellery, (including us!).
Jewellery Styles Using Welsh Gold
Traditionally, Welsh jewellery featured the beloved Welsh emblems like lovespoons and daffodils. But new designs are regularly created, which helps to make the range highly prized and many of our customers have quite a collection of Clogau jewellery – often bought to mark a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary.
The Royal Connection
On 13th July 1911, Prince Edward was invested as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in Snowdonia, North Wales. His regalia – which included a coronet, a rod, a ring and a sword – was made with gold which incorporated Welsh gold. In 1969, the current King, Charles wore the same regalia during his official investiture as Prince of Wales.
Welsh Gold Wedding Rings
After Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – the future Queen’s Mother and wife of the future King George VI – had her wedding ring fashioned from pure Welsh gold for her wedding in 1923, it became a tradition that almost all royal wedding rings were made from Welsh gold.
The Queen’s wedding ring was made from the gold from the Clogau St David’s mine.
As we have already mentioned, a 1 kg bar of Welsh gold from the Gwynfynydd mine was presented to the Queen for use in future royal wedding rings.
This romantic tradition of using gold in the royal wedding rings has meant, many people the world over have also coveted a Welsh Gold wedding ring.
The British Royal Wedding Rings
Members of the Royal family who have had their wedding bands made in Welsh gold include:
The Queen Mother and Prince George (the future King George VI)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip
Princess Margaret and The Earl of Snowden
Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips (1973)
Prince Charles and Princess Diana (1981) (both rings)
Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall (1995)(both rings)
Prince William and Catherine Middleton (2011)
Prince Harry and Megan Markle (2018)
Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank(2018)
Welsh Gold vs Regular Gold
Welsh gold is the same as regular gold, gold is gold where ever it comes from … only Welsh gold is found in the beautiful hills and mountains of Wales. This makes it extremely rare as a relatively small amount of gold was extracted from the Welsh gold mines before they were shut down.
Being an area of outstanding natural beauty, and therefore protected, it’s not an area that will mined extensively in the future either. This makes the remaining reserves are very precious indeed.
Is Welsh Gold Rose Gold?
Many people believe that the colour of Welsh gold is red or rose gold. This is not true. Pure gold will be the same golden colour, wherever it is mined from in the world.
But gold is alloyed (mixed) with other metals to give it strength and make it more workable when used in jewellery. Because the rocks in Wales often also contained deposits of copper near where the gold appeared, copper was regularly used as an alloy with the Welsh gold – hence giving it a reddish, rose gold colour.
How to Idenify Welsh Gold
Welsh gold will carry the usual 375, 575 or 750 stamp of carat purity from one of the assay offices in the UK. It will also carry the makers or sponsors mark. With Clogau Gold this is CG.
Clogau Gold stamp all their pieces of jewellery with the dragon symbol. Indeed the regalia worn at the investments of the Prince of Wales carry the Dragon symbol.
The Gwynfynydd mine also used the Welsh Maiden symbol, which was recognised as being made of authentic Welsh gold. The Welsh Maiden mark is now only used on Welsh gold unblended with other golds. Therefore it is a highly sought after symbol.
In Conclusion: A Glimpse into the Legacy of Welsh Gold
In the enchanting realm of precious metals, none gleams quite as exquisitely as Welsh gold. Revered for its rarity, this unique treasure hails from the secluded and beautiful landscapes of Wales, where history and allure intertwine.
Mined from the heart of South Wales and the grandeur of Snowdonia in the North, Welsh gold exudes a mystique born from its limited supply. Once extracted from just a handful of mines and closing their gates decades ago just adds to the mystery and romanticism.
The scarcity of Welsh gold bestows upon it an air of exclusivity that collectors and connoisseurs find irresistible. Its shimmering journey is intertwined with the British Royal family’s legacy, with the tradition of crafting wedding rings from this cherished gold.
Although the echoes of pickaxes have faded from the mines’ chambers, the resonance of Welsh gold lives on through revered jewellery makers like Clogau Gold of Wales. Their artistry has transformed this precious metal into exquisite pieces, each bearing traces of the revered Welsh gold. The range of designs, from traditional motifs to contemporary creations, reflects the profound connection between history and innovation.
Among the hallmarks that honour its legacy, the Welsh Maiden symbol gleams, a mark of authenticity that adorns unblended Welsh gold. This emblem, which once graced the Gwynfynydd mine, holds an aura of unattainable prestige, speaking to the devotion and passion that have always surrounded this treasure.
We do hope that the sun hasn’t set for good on the mines that once yielded these radiant riches. With the tantalising hint that there may be an abundance of gold within the hills of Snowdonia still.
Welsh gold is a testament to the inexorable bond between nature’s beauty, human craftsmanship, and the enduring allure of an exceedingly rare treasure.
The British Museum