LONDON — Best known as the maker of Britain’s coins and commemorative currency, The Royal Mint isn’t letting an increasingly cashless society damage its prospects. So it’s venturing into luxury goods, and has named designer Dominic Jones its first creative director for the new categories of jewelry and homeware.
The jewelry collection is known as 886, named for the year of the mint’s founding. It is unisex and made from gold and silver while the designs are meant to highlight the “intrinsic value of precious metal” and British craftsmanship.
The inaugural collection was conceived by Jones and made by craftspeople at the mint’s manufacturing facilities in Llantrisant, South Wales. They used ancient coin- and medal-making tools and techniques to make the jewelry and worked with sustainably sourced gold recovered from electronic consumer waste.
In launching jewelry and homeware, the mint also wants to upskill its workforce, create jobs and invest in craftsmanship. The mint is owned by the British government and managed by the Treasury.
“This new direction aims to restore Britain as a center of jewelry-making excellence, providing a manufacturing solution for the industry post-Brexit,” said the mint, adding that by 2023, 75 percent of production will be in-house, generating new careers and skills in South Wales.
Jones said that when he was first approached about the project, he was intrigued and as the plans and vision for 886 developed, his interest only grew.
“The idea of translating the ancient history of medal- and coin-making skills into jewelry while also creating a modern brand with one of the oldest companies in the world is not exactly a small task. And neither is setting a new benchmark for what British jewelry and manufacturing can look like,” said Jones, who eventually said “yes” to the job.
To prepare, he spent hours at The Royal Mint museum in Llantrisant, Wales, which houses coins, medals, artwork and minting equipment. He was eager to learn about the history of the organization, and said he wanted the first 886 collection to feel like “a natural extension” of the mint’s history and origins.
“My vision for 886’s jewelry was to create a physical store of value through precious metal; beautifully crafted, design-led, wearable bullion,” said Jones. “It’s not a new concept in jewelry historically; however, it’s an ideal that’s been mostly lost within the majority of the design-led jewelry industry. The impression of value has become a lot more important than the true value of the materials,” he said.
Jones believes that the Mint should be proud of its precious metal expertise, adding that the debut collection is about “beautiful pieces that don’t necessarily scream for attention, but which leave a lasting impression.”
Jones made his debut in 2009 and was the first jewelry designer to win the British Fashion Council’s NewGen award, which he scooped a total of five times between 2010 and 2014.
His spare, androgynous collections are stocked at retailers including Selfridges, Matchesfashion and Lane Crawford. He has consulted for brands including Fabergé and Thierry Mugler and collaborated with Amanda Harlech on the Harlot & Bones jewelry collection.
For 886, Jones explored the idea of “wearable assets” and combined a contemporary aesthetic with the mint’s craftmanship skills “to create beautiful, classic jewelry pieces that will retain their value for generations.”
Each design is available in solid 18ct gold, 9ct gold, Britannia and sterling silver, and the pieces are all hallmarked. The collection includes band and signet rings, hoop earrings, and pendants shaped like gold bars. The hero design is a minimal cuff, that’s been engraved on the underside with a poem inspired by gold or silver.
Prices start at 99 pounds and the pieces are being sold exclusively through The Royal Mint’s dedicated 886 website.
Sean Millard, chief growth officer at The Royal Mint, said that 886 “offers an entirely new narrative in precious metals, ushering in an exciting chapter not only for [the company] but for the wider industry. We are here to challenge perceptions around precious metals and to help secure the future of British craftsmanship.”
As the home of precious metals for more than 1,100 years, the mint believes it is uniquely placed to spearhead a new, sustainable approach to fine jewelry manufacturing. It has partnered with Canadian clean technology firm Excir to become the first luxury brand to create jewelry on site which is made entirely from gold recovered from consumer electronic waste.
The mint said that 50 million tons of electronic debris are produced globally every year, the majority of which is shipped to landfill or smelted, with detrimental environmental effects.
An estimated 7 percent of the world’s gold is contained within the e-waste. Excir’s technology recovers more than 99 percent of the gold contained within discarded laptops and mobile phones, providing a more sustainable, circular source of high-quality gold.
The mint has incorporated Excir’s technology into its manufacturing plant in Llantrisant, Wales, following a “significant investment that provides a vertically integrated supply of gold.”
In 2023, the plant will be capable of processing 60 tons of electronic waste a week, producing an expected 550 kg of recovered gold a year, the mint said.