At the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, we believe that Scotland is home to the best designers and makers in the world.
Through our work to promote the importance of ethically sourced precious metals, we also know that Scottish makers are passionate about ensuring that the materials they work with have been ethically produced.
This is just one of the reasons it’s so exciting that gold is now being commercially mined in Scotland. The gold mined at the Cononish Gold Mine is ethically mined and processed, and great care has been taken to ensure that the local environment remains undamaged.
Director of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, Mary Michel, had the opportunity to accompany Assay Master and Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Assay Office, Scott Walter, on a routine visit to the Cononish Mine to learn about the process that Scottish gold goes through from discovery through to refinement.
After a stunning drive through the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Mary and Scott arrived the Cononish site, near Tyndrum. They were pleased to see that although the mine is visible, it didn’t mar the landscape of the National Park.
Scotgold’s Chris Sangster played the role of tour guide for the day, and began by pointing out the thick veins of quartz running through the hillside. It is in these veins that Scottish gold is found.
From here, it was down into the mine! With the proper safety equipment, of course.
Chris explained that after the rock is blasted, the pieces are ground down to a particle size of 0.2mm, which is equal to the size of the gold particles within. This allows the gold to be separated using a gravity method – a conveyer belt system which results in the gold, which is very dense, separating from the other, less dense metals.
Mary and Scott then saw the gold being smelted at 1100 degrees and poured into a moulding goblet – a real-life Goblet of Fire!
Once the gold, silver, and other metals have cooled, they are removed from the goblet and we are left with a cone-like mould known as doré. The doré is transferred to the Edinburgh Assay Office for the first stage of the all-important chain of custody, and then sent to London to be refined and alloyed with other metals so it can be worked into jewellery.
It was wonderful to see first-hand the work that goes into producing a product that so many of us have as part of our lives.
The more we know about where our materials come from, the richer the story we can tell about them will be.
You can find out more about Scotgold and the Cononish Project on their website.