The Royal Mint has been minting coins in the U.K. for more than a millennia. Now, as it increases its sustainability efforts, it’s launching jewelry made with gold sourced entirely from electronic waste and designed by Dominic Jones.
The 886 Collection is named after the Royal Mint’s establishment date—that’s 886 A.D. The collection is the first luxury jewelry range from the company, which is wholly owned by Her Majesty’s Treasury and under exclusive contract to supply all the nation’s coinage.
The range marks the Mint’s first jewelry collection, but it’s also the world’s first luxury jewelry range to use 100 percent recovered gold sourced from electronic waste. The decision builds on the Mint’s growing sustainability initiatives.
“Each piece is crafted from solid gold or silver, using ancient techniques more commonly used in coin and medal-making,” the Royal Mint said in a statement. “Precious metals are struck, forged and pulled rather than cast, increasing the density of the metal and making it 30 percent stronger.”
The gender-neutral range is designed by creative director Dominic Jones, an award-winning jeweler best known as the first jewelry designer to win the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN award in 2009. He was also the first jewelry designer to show at London Fashion Week.
“The 886 collection began with the idea of an institutional gold bullion that has been distorted, inverted and warped into a gentle, soft shape that feels like it floats off the skin,” Jones said.
“I wanted to celebrate the inherent beauty of precious metal, without the distraction of stones or design flourishes. It’s very brave in its simplicity.
“The Royal Mint was created as a trusted place to store value through materials, and the 886 collection explores the idea of jewellery as a wearable asset, in beautiful, classic pieces that will retain their value for multiple generations.”
The collection is aimed at celebrating the tradition of British portraiture and Royal Mint’s storytelling history, it said. The designs come in 18ct solid gold, 9ct solid gold, Sterling silver, and Britannia silver in a variety of widths and weights. All of the collection’s pieces are hallmarked alongside the gram weight of the metal, “a marker of intrinsic value that can be passed down through generations,” the Mint said.
Recycling gold from e-waste
At least seven percent of the world’s gold is tossed out with broken or old electronics. Gold mining comes with environmental and human rights issues; the world’s leading luxury jewelers have been steadily increasing their use of recycled gold as a sidestep to the industry’s criticisms. The recently reborn Oscar Massin label is exclusively using recycled gold.
For its part, the Royal Mint is working with Excir, a Canadian cleantech firm that extracts gold from used electronic devices including laptops and smartphones.
Electronic “e” waste is its own problem; an estimated 50 million tons of electronic materials are tossed into bins every year—and that number could reach 120 million tons per year by 2050. Electronic e-waste is the most rapidly growing waste problem in the world. According to the United Nations, only 20 percent of this is properly recycled. The industry is a literal gold mine—estimated at more than $62.5 billion, which is more than the GDP of most countries.
Much of the global e-waste recycling is done informally, often in developing countries where workers are exposed to hazardous and carcinogenic substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium, reports the U.N. When sent to landfills, these chemicals can contribute to leachate, a toxic sludge that contaminates soil and groundwater.
Improper handling of e-waste also leads to increased mining of elements including gold, platinum, and cobalt, among other rare earth elements. The U.N. says there’s as much as 100 times more gold in a ton of e-waste than in a ton of gold ore.
The Royal Mint says it’s not only extracting the precious metals from e-waste, but it’s also ensuring the rest of the materials are properly disposed of or recycled. Earlier this year, the Mint announced plans to open a plant in South Wales next year that will recover gold from e-waste. The Royal Mint says it will be able to process 90 tons of circuit boards per week, which will yield hundreds of kilos of gold per year, it says.
The Royal Mint has been recognized for its increasing sustainability metrics, including The Green Key Award—a leading standard of excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. In 2018, the Mint installed a wind turbine that can provide 850kW of power. The location also features solar panels and electric car charging stations.