Jewellery Outlook


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Clogau jewellery has cachet of rare Welsh gold
By Tom Wildhern

March 22, 2009 – Wedding rings crafted from Clogau gold from the now inactive Clogau St. David’s Gold Mine in the Welsh mountains have been worn by British royalty including the heir to the throne Prince Charles. Ben Roberts, Managing Director of Clogau Gold of Wales Ltd., tells Jewellery Outlook that Clogau gold jewellery is attracting increasing attention overseas, but there is little Clogau gold left.

Jewellery Outlook: What is distinctive about Clogau gold jewellery?

Ben Roberts: Not only has the brand got a great story in terms of the mine’s history and association with the Royal Family but even the products are distinctive.

As a design style I think Clogau gold jewellery has one synonymous look and that would be our Tree of Life designs.

We started with this at the very beginning – when we first started the company and it seems to have stayed with us and become stronger and stronger. This, combined with our renowned use of rose gold, has become our calling card if you like.

Ben Roberts, Managing Director, Clogau Gold

When people see our products they can generally recognise them as ours even with the Sterling Silver and Rose Gold designs that we offer these days.

Jewellery Outlook: What is the outlook for supplies of Clogau gold?

Ben Roberts: Well, we don’t have much left. I’m not going to lie and say we can eek this out forever. We’re genuinely going to have to look at reopening the mine otherwise we’ll have to start selling jewellery without our gold in it, and according to research this is why 80% of our customers buy Clogau gold jewellery.

We’re speaking to various people about this at the moment but I can’t say too much.

Jewellery Outlook: What proportion of the metal in Clogau gold jewellery originally came from the Clogau St. David’s Gold Mine?

Ben Roberts: It’s only a small amount. I never put an exact percentage on it because it genuinely varies, but I make no apologies for the fact that we only put a small amount in. If we created items using pure Welsh Gold, I think we’d run out by the end of the month.

The gold we do put in though is just enough to give it yet another talking point. A talking point and an emotional story are something very important to women who wear our jewellery. It makes it different from the next brand in the shop window when the shop assistant can talk about the jewellery for hours then in turn, the wearer can too.

Jewellery Outlook: Why is Welsh gold considered special?

Ben Roberts: These days it can probably be said that it’s down to its rarity but at the turn of the (20th) century the Clogau Gold mine was the largest mine in Great Britain and produced a large proportion of the country’s gold.

Today it’s not so easy to find and the mine itself is considered exhausted.

It could never be mined as a fully working gold mine selling the gold as a commodity and we only made it work by subsidising the mining operation from our jewellery sales.

The gold itself is special though. When I first saw Welsh Gold I was just a young lad. Jack, the oldest miner at Clogau, showed me how after 20 tonnes of rock was blasted from the mine 1 ounce of gold was produced, probably worth £3 or £5 even in today’s values but I was amazed. I spent days of my summer holidays panning after that.

Jewellery Outlook: Why does Clogau gold have a rosier tint than gold extracted elsewhere?

Ben Roberts: This is one of the reasons why the gold is considered special. When the Clogau St David’s Gold mine first opened it was as a copper mine. It was only as the years went by and the owners of the mine noticed that they were getting less and less of their “yellowish copper” back from the refiners that they decided to look into it. What they found was in fact that the gold was being stained a copper colour in the rock and they had unknowingly been sending gold for refining.

This is the reason we use so much rose gold in our jewellery – again, just a great little story.

Jewellery Outlook: What inspires the designers of Clogau Gold Jewellery?

Ben Roberts: Usually, either myself or someone else within the company will have an idea. The idea then gets pooled into a list of other ideas and we decide which ones to send to our four freelance designers. We write a brief for the designer (sometimes complex and sometimes just a couple of paragraphs) and send it off.

Usually about a week later we get designs and request neat versions if we’re happy. It seems to work well.

Jewellery Outlook: Please describe your main markets. Are most customers from the UK, or do you sell gold jewellery overseas and, if so, where?

Ben Roberts: The UK counts for around 90 percent of our market. We’re getting more and more interest from distributors overseas, including Asia, the US and even Russia but nothing is happening quickly at the moment because of the turmoil most of the industry has found itself in over the last year.

I think it will happen by the end of the year, but we’re not in a hurry to box anything off right now. I keep telling myself that we need some international business to keep up the fantastic growth we’ve been enjoying over the last couple of years but most importantly, I think we need to find the right partner.

Jewellery Outlook: What are the prospects for raising the branding and profile of Welsh gold or Clogau gold jewellery internationally, in light of the proud heritage of gold mined in Wales and the fact that British royalty’s wedding rings were crafted from Clogau gold?

Ben Roberts: Well, we’ve had a few ideas including celebrity endorsements which I can’t say too much about at the moment, but other ways of getting out and about publicly might include international exhibitions. We’re going over to Basel at the end of this month for exactly this reason – to scope the idea of exhibiting there.

Internationally though, I’m not sure we really need that much of a push. I think with the right distributor and a moderate amount of promotion the brand will speak for itself. It has everything the Americans want -- heritage, association with the Royal Family and this goes for the Japanese too.







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