886: the hot new eco jewellery brand to know

As we hurtle along the path to becoming a cashless society, many businesses have been forced to tweak their practices or pivot entirely. For the Royal Mint, the organisation responsible for making the coins many of us so rarely now carry, diversification has been an imperative.

By way of an answer, the privately limited company (whose sole shareholder is HM Treasury) today launches its debut “luxury lifestyle brand”. Specialising in jewellery and homeware, 886 The Royal Mint is intended as a new revenue stream that will preserve the skills of and create new opportunities for the Mint’s craftspeople.

Spearheading the initiative as creative director is London jeweller Dominic Jones. His eponymous brand, which launched in 2008 and shut its doors in 2014, specialised in punky golden fangs, claws, thorns and teeth, and was worn by everyone from Beyoncé to David Bowie, Snoop Dogg, Harry Styles, Rihanna, Florence Welch and FKA twigs. A surprisingly rock’n’roll choice for a company whose main client is the Treasury.

“They were quite in interested how I would approach it,” says Jones, who was given free rein to design the Mint’s debut foray into bling. He spent time researching at the Royal Mint Museum in Llantrisant in Wales (The Royal Mint HQ relocated there in the Seventies). “I wanted to give the brand the same intent and purpose as the Royal Mint had in its inception. So the defining idea for the jewellery was the concept of it being this physical holder of value through material.” Just as the Royal Mint was created to provide a trustworthy supplier of coins which is value held through precious metals, Jones set out to create his version of “functional gold bullion”.

Dominic Jones

The unisex collection comprises chains, earrings, bangles, studs and cuffs crafted from solid 18ct gold, solid 9ct gold, solid Britannia and Sterling silver. About 70 per cent of it is produced in-house in Llantrisant, and the rest is made elsewhere in the UK. “They were specific that it should be almost entirely made in the UK,” says Jones, “and that in itself led to its positioning as a luxury brand as you can’t compete with the mid-market jewellery brands producing in China if you make in the UK.”

886, which takes its name from the year the Royal Mint was founded, will be focused on timeless pieces of jewellery that last a lifetime (literally — each piece comes with a lifetime guarantee). Jones was inspired by friends asking him where to source simple investment pieces: “I say this kind of in jest, but as a multi-award-winning designer who’s designed some really wacky things that have been worn by some pop stars and celebrities, the questions I get most from friends are: ‘where can I buy a really simple gold chain?’ and ‘where can I buy a really beautiful pair of gold hoops?’” Rather than continuing to send his friends to hunt at Grays Antiques Market, Jones wanted to solve the problem with “beautifully designed but understated staples, that will look just as chic in 30 years time as they do today”.

The Royal Mint

In a world-first, the gold pieces in the collection will be made entirely from recycled electronic consumer waste. “Electronic consumer waste is a huge problem,” says Jones. “Most gets shipped abroad, burnt and buried in landfills. A huge volume of really expensive materials is held in there but people haven’t been able to get them out.”

The Mint has partnered with Canadian company Excir, whose patented chemical formula recovers more than 99 per cent of the gold contained within used electronics. An average mobile phone contains 0.04g of gold and there’s 0.1g in a laptop, which means it took 40 laptops to make the 9ct (4g) huggie hoops. “This is a really big solution to the problem,” says Jones.

The Royal Mint

Not only is it eco, but the Mint’s bling is, well, minted as you would a coin. Unlike most jewellery, which is produced through casting (where melted gold is poured into a shape), the pieces are made by striking; a process whereby metal is shaped through huge tonnes of weighted pressure. “Imagine 10 rhinos standing on something,” says Jones, explaining the technique makes a piece a third heavier, a third denser and a third stronger. “It’s really hard to bend out of shape or dent. It’s got a real solidity to it that you can kind of feel.”

886 The Royal Mint will be sold online, with a Burlington Arcade store set to open in the next few months. Prices range from £99 to £29,950

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