As we rush down the path to becoming a cashless society, many businesses have been forced to change their practices or reorient themselves entirely. For the Royal Mint, the organization responsible for making the coins that many of us wear so rarely, diversification has been imperative.
In response, the limited liability company (whose sole shareholder is HM Treasury) is today launching its first “luxury lifestyle brand”. Specializing in jewelry and homewares, 886 The Royal Mint aims to be a new source of revenue that will preserve the skills of Mint artisans and create new opportunities for them.
Spearheading the initiative as creative director is London-based jeweler Dominic Jones. Her eponymous brand, launched in 2008 and shut down in 2014, specializing in punky gold fangs, claws, spines and teeth, was worn by everyone from Beyoncé to David Bowie, Snoop Dogg, Harry Styles, Rihanna, Florence Welch and FKA . twigs. A surprisingly rock’n’roll choice for a company whose main client is the Treasury.
“They were very interested in how I would approach it,” says Jones, who was given free rein to design the Mint’s first foray into bling. He spent time doing research at the Royal Mint Museum at Llantrisant in Wales (the Royal Mint headquarters moved there in the 1970s). “I wanted to give the brand the same intent and purpose that the Royal Mint had when it first started. So the defining idea for jewelry was the concept that they would be this physical holder of value through the material. Just as the Royal Mint was created to provide a reliable supplier of coins whose value is held by precious metals, Jones set out to create his version of the “functional gold bar”.
The unisex collection includes chains, earrings, bracelets, studs and cuffs crafted from solid 18k gold, solid 9k gold, solid Britannia and sterling silver. Around 70% of this is produced in-house in Llantrisant, with the rest made elsewhere in the UK. “They were specific that it should be almost entirely made in the UK,” says Jones, “and that in itself led to its positioning as a luxury brand because you can’t compete with the jewelry brands on the market. intermediary producing in China if you manufacture in the UK.
886, named after the year the Royal Mint was founded, will focus on timeless jewelry that lasts a lifetime (literally, every piece is guaranteed for life). Jones was inspired by friends who asked him where to get simple investment pieces: “I say this in jest, but as a multi-award winning designer who has designed some really wacky things that have been worn by stars from pop and celebrities, the questions I get the most from my friends are: “Where can I buy a really simple gold chain?” and “where can I buy a really nice pair of gold hoop earrings? ‘ “Rather than keep sending his friends hunting at Grays Antiques Market, Jones wanted to solve the problem with ‘beautifully designed yet understated staples, which will look just as chic 30 years from now as they do today’.
As a world first, the gold coins in the collection will be made entirely from recycled consumer electronics waste. “Consumer e-waste is a huge problem,” Jones says. “Most are shipped overseas, burned and buried in landfills. A huge volume of very expensive materials are kept there, but people have not been able to get them out.
The Mint has partnered with the Canadian company Excir, whose patented chemical formula recovers more than 99% of the gold contained in used electronic devices. An average cell phone contains 0.04g of gold and there is 0.1g in a laptop, which means it took 40 laptops to make the 9ct (4g) huggie hoops. “It’s a very big solution to the problem,” Jones says.
Not only is it eco-friendly, but the Mint bling is, well, minted like a coin. Unlike most jewelry, which is produced by casting (where molten gold is poured into a shape), coins are made by striking; a process by which metal is shaped by huge tons of weighted pressure. “Imagine 10 rhinos standing on top of something,” says Jones, explaining that the technique makes a piece one-third heavier, one-third denser and one-third stronger. “It’s really hard to warp or dent. It has a real solidity that you can feel.
886 The Royal Mint will be sold online, with a Burlington Arcade store set to open in the coming months. Prices range from £99 to £29,950