Welsh gold has been mined from only two distinct areas of Wales, from a few mines all of which closed some decades ago. It is considered the rarest gold in the world. Because of its scarcity, this has made it is highly sought after.
Welsh gold has a strong association with the British Royal family. Almost every member of British royalty has had their wedding rings made from Welsh gold since her Majesty, The Queen Mother started the tradition on her wedding in 1963 to her husband Prince Albert, the future King.
But Welsh gold’s royal connections go back further than this, as we will talk about.
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 was 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 been 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 this time 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 this mine. At this time it was owned by a man called William Pritchard Morgan, 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 1 kg bar of Welsh Gold from the Gwynfynydd gold mine, for use in future royal wedding rings.
Many times gold is 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 Robers 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 to the rivers. This is expensive and is closely monitored and controlled, again adding to costs.
Wage costs are higher in the UK than in other parts of the world where gold mining took place. So it has to be feasible 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 worth investigating. Alba Mineral Resources began drilling from three drill holes along a 200-metre area and, amazingly, 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 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 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. The designs are regularly updated with new designs, so this makes the range highly prized and many customers have quite a collection of Clogau jewellery.
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 Prince of Wales, Charles wore the same regalia during his official investiture.
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
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)
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 the gold, copper was regularly used as an alloy with the Welsh gold – hence giving it is reddish, rose gold colour.
How to Idenify Welsh Gold
The 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.
The British Museum