In the month of August 2017, we launched a competition in collaboration with The Royal Mint. The competition invited customers of The Royal Mint and BullionStar to promote the Royal Mint Brand in Singapore through any medium! We received numerous top quality submissions and after much deliberation, we present to you the two winners of the competition, Ms. Joanne Chim and Mr. Daniel Yap!
Treasure for Life - By Joanne Chim
In an interview, Joanne mentioned that when she first saw the Queen's Beast silver coins from the Royal Mint, she felt a sense of intrigue due to the minute details that were very skilfully stamped onto each coin. Subsequently, as Joanne discovered the process behind the design and the value of the coins, she began to feel even more inspired by the creative designs and the story behind this series. The coins have enabled her to have an idea of the intrinsic value behind precious metals.
As a designer herself, Joanne is naturally fascinated with artwork and what made her fall in love with the Queen's Beasts coins were the level of detail and the effort put into designing each creature. Be it the Griffin, Lion or Dragon, the intricate details of each figurine translated into a deep sense of appreciation for the value that these coins bring.
Hence, when producing her video for the competition, Joanne wanted to convey the idea that The Royal Mint coins are just as valuable a gift as hand written letters, due to the intricate nature put into designing each coin, yet each holding a lasting significance allowing one to treasure for life. The calligraph in Joanne's video submission was a quote from Henry Hazlitt which says, "The great merit of gold is precisely that it is scarce; that its quantity is limited by nature; that it is costly to discover, to mine, and to process; and that it cannot be created by political fiat or caprice."
Check out Joanne's winning video submission below!
Mothers - By Daniel Yap
Daniel wanted to tell the story that inspired the sculptor, Philip Nathan, to create the Britannia design, which now celebrates it's 30th anniversary and is a true modern masterpiece.
It is a story often misunderstood. Many interpretations of the Britannia reflect ancient Greek mythology, but Philip Nathan hoped to create a more realistic and raw character inspired by Boudicca, commonly known as Boadicea. "I was moved by the fact that a lady beaten down would hit back with 100,000 tribesmen behind her—and win for awhile," Daniel said, "It's the sort of thing that can inspire generations. I especially appreciated the chance to convey this theme to a segment of the population whose struggles aren't usually seen as screenworthy—mothers."
BullionStar carries an extensive range of investment grade gold bullion coins and silver bullion coins minted by Britain’s famous Royal Mint. The Royal Mint is fully owned by Her Majesty’s Treasury and has the distinction of being the world’s oldest mint.
BullionStar’s range of Royal Mint bullion coins includes gold and silver Britannia coins, gold and silver Lunar coins, and gold and silver Queen’s Beast coins. The Lunar and Queen’s Beast bullion coins are quite recent additions to the Royal Mint’s bullion coin range, and they substantially extend the choice of Royal Mint bullion coins now available to BullionStar customers.
Gold and Silver Britannia
The flagship of the Britannia range is the handsome 1 troy ounce Britannia gold coin, which since 2013 has been minted in 0.9999 fine gold. From its launch in 1987 until 2012, the 1 ounce gold Britannia coin was minted in 22 carat gold (0.9167 fine). In 2015, the Royal Mint also introduced fractional dominations into the Britannia gold coin range in ½ oz, ¼ oz, and 1/10 oz weights.
The latest 2017 issue of the gold Britannia coin commemorates the 30th anniversary of the coin’s launch in 1987, so for some investors, this year’s issue may hold some extra historical significance.
The Royal Mint also issues a 1 ounce Britannia silver coin, which since 2013 has been minted in 0.999 pure silver. Prior to 2013, the silver Britannia was minted in 0.958 pure silver. The 1 ounce 2017 Britannia silver bullion coin is also the 20th anniversary of the coin’s issue as it was initially launched in 1997.
In addition, the 2017 gold and silver Britannia coins both contain a new security and design feature in the form of micro inscribed radial lines on the obverse of the coin, which are configured as an intriguing radial sunburst pattern behind the Britannia figure.
The Britannia name is derived from imagery of Britannia featured on the reverse face of these coins. The current Britannia imagery displays a standing female symbol of strength embodied in the naval tradition and was designed by English sculptor and coin designer Philip Nathan.
Although gold and silver Britannias are non-circulation coins, all gold and silver bullion Britannia coins are still classified as legal tender in the UK. For example, the 1 oz Gold Britannia is legal tender with a face value of GBP 100. As legal tender, all Britannia’s are exempt from UK VAT and UK Capital Gains Tax.
Gold and Silver Lunar
In 2014, the Royal Mint launched a new series of gold bullion and silver bullion coins to celebrate the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac.
Officially called the Shēngxiào Collection, this series is more commonly known as the Royal Mint’s Lunar series. Each of the 12 coins in the series features imagery of animals of the Zodiac on the reverse face of the coins. The imagery has been designed by British Chinese artist Wuon-Gean Ho. The gold Lunar is minted from 99.99% pure gold and is issued in the 1 troy ounce and 1/10 ounce denominations. The silver Lunar coin is minted from 99.9% pure silver and is issued in a 1 ounce denomination.
Each of the gold and silver Lunar series consists of one new coin design per year. The series began with the Year of the Horse in 2014, the Year of the Sheep in 2015, the Year of the Monkey in 2016, and most recently the 2017 gold Lunar Year of the Rooster, a coin which features an attractive design of a Marsh Daisy Rooster. The forthcoming 2018 Lunar design will celebrate the Year of the Dog.
Royal Mint Lunar gold bullion and silver bullion coins are also legal tender in the UK, and, for example, the 1 oz gold Lunar coin has a face value of GBP 100.
Gold and Silver Queen’s Beasts
In 2016, the Royal Mint again expanded its bullion coin range with the addition of the Queens Beasts series minted in gold and silver. The images on this series of coins, which were designed by Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark, are based on statues of 10 heraldic beasts that were commissioned for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 1953. These statues were themselves based on the extensive history of British royal ancestry and heraldry associated with the British monarch.
In gold, the Queen’s Beasts gold coin is available in a 1 troy ounce weight of 99.99% pure gold and a 0.25 troy ounce weight of 99.99% pure gold, while in silver, the Royal Mint has opted to produce a 2 ounce coin minted to a very high 99.99% pure silver standard. This 2 oz silver coin is the Royal Mint’s highest purity silver coin to date.
While the reverse faces of the above gold and silver bullion coins feature imagery of Britannia, Lunar zodiac animals, or Queen’s Beasts, respectively, the one consistent feature of all of these coins is that their obverse coin face features a head portrait, or effigy, of the reigning British monarch Queen Elizabeth II. Royal Mint coins issued since 2016 feature a contemporary head portrait designed by the Royal Mint’s engraver Jody Clark. Up until 2015 for a number of years, the portrait used a portrait designed by well-known sculptor Ian Rank Broadley.
Singapore GST and Investment Precious Metals (IPM)
A key driver of gold and silver bullion coin sales in Singapore is whether a particular bullion coin is exempt from Singapore’s Goods and Services Tax (GST). Qualifying coins are defined as Investment Precious Metals (IPM) by Singapore Customs.
Gold and silver Britannia coins, gold and silver Lunar coins, and gold and silver Queen’s Beast coins are all defined as Investment Precious Metals (IPM) by Singapore Customs, and so all of these bullion coins are exempt from Singapore GST.
The Royal Mint also produces the world-famous Gold Sovereign coin, a coin which has been minted in its modern form since 1817 and which has therefore been minted for some 200 years now. The Sovereign is legal tender in the UK with a nominal value of one pound sterling and features the famous imagery of St George slaying a dragon, imagery which was designed by the Italian engraver Benedetto Pistucci for the first modern Sovereign in 1817.
Currently the Mint produces both a Sovereign and a Half Sovereign denomination, however, both of these coins are minted in 22 carat gold, i.e. with a gold fineness of 91.67%. This unfortunately means that the Gold Sovereign does not qualify as IPM under Singapore Customs Rules because qualifying IPM is defined as containing 99.5% pure gold or higher. The Gold Sovereign is thus not currently on the Custom’s list of exempted precious metals coins.
Although there is strong potential interest among BullionStar’s customers in the Gold Sovereign, for most bullion coin buyers the lack of GST exemption currently makes the purchase of Sovereigns uneconomical relative to other bullion coins on the market. It is possible, however, that Singapore Customs may amend its IPM rules in the future as it considers and evaluates the worldwide popularity of the Gold Sovereign or if the Royal Mint raises this issue with Singapore Customs.
Royal Mint Gold Sovereigns
In the meantime, BullionStar does stock a number of Gold Sovereign proof sets, for example, here and here. These sets, which would be of interest to collectors, consist of 4 coins, namely, the Sovereign, the Half Sovereign, the Double Sovereign (twice the weight of the Sovereign with a nominal value of £2) and a very large ‘Five Pound’ Sovereign (5 times the weight and gold content of the Sovereign with a nominal value of £5).
In total, this set contains 2 troy ounces of gold. This is because the Sovereign has a gold content of 0.2354 troy ounces, the Half Sovereign has a gold content of 0.1177 troy ounces, the Double Sovereign contains 0.4708 troy ounces, and the large ‘Five Pound’ Sovereign contains 1.177 troy ounces of gold, i.e. 0.1177 + 0.2354 + 0.4708 + 1.177 = 2 troy ounces.
Note also that all newly minted batches of Royal Mint coins, including all of the Royal Mint bullion coins discussed above, are also assayed and tested for metal composition, weight and size as part of the long-standing annual Trial of the Pyx held at GoldSmiths Hall in London which is both a practical and traditional quality control exercise that is presided over by the Master of the Mint and the UK Treasury’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. This Trial is a further guarantee that all Royal Mint bullion coins are of the highest possible quality and workmanship.
There are many precious metals refineries throughout the world, some local to their domestic markets, and some international, even global in scale. Many, but by no means all, of these refineries are on the Good Delivery Lists of gold and/or silver. These lists are maintained by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) and they identify accredited refineries of large (wholesale) gold and silver bars that continue to meet rigorous proficient standards of refining and assaying, and that are, at the same time, financial viable and stable companies. Currently, there are 71 refiners on the LBMA’s gold Good Delivery List and 81 refiners on its silver Good Delivery List, or which just over 50 of these refineries are accredited to both the LBMA’s gold and silver lists.
But within the top echelons of the world’s precious metals refineries, a number of names stand out due to their sheer scale and pedigree, as well as their global brand recognition in the production of a wide range of investment grade gold and silver bullion bars. These names include PAMP, Argor-Heraeus, Metalor Technologies, Heraeus, Valcambi, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo, and Rand Refinery.
5000 Tonnes of Gold
Together these seven refinery groups have a combined gold refining capacity approaching a mammoth 5000 tonnes per year. And that’s not even taking into account their refining capacity for other precious metals such as silver and platinum. Valcambi has a gold refining capacity of 1600 tonnes per annum, Metalor 800 tonnes, Heraeus 400 to 500 tonnes, PAMP over 450 tonnes, Argor-Heraeus over 400 tonnes, Tanaka 500 tonnes, and Rand Refinery 600 tonnes.
Notably four of these refineries are based in the gold refining powerhouse of Switzerland, of which three, PAMP, Valcambi and Argor-Heraeus, are clustered literally within a few kilometres from each other in the golden triangle of Swiss refineries centred within the very south of the Swiss canton of Ticino near the Swiss-Italian border. Metalor Technologies is the exception, as its Swiss headquarters facility is based in Neuchâtel, in the north-west of Switzerland. Of the non-Swiss refineries, Heraeus, Tanaka and Rand Refinery, these are headquartered in Germany, Japan and South Africa, respectively.
International in Scale and Ownership
Although three of the four giant Swiss refineries have historically each been owned by a Swiss bank, and although groups such as Heraeus and Tanaka are still privately owned and controlled by founding shareholders, its important to note that none of these giant refineries are purely local concerns, so their headquarters locations are to some extent a secondary concern. From operating facilities, to metal supplier networks, to customer bases, all of these refineries are now absolutely global in nature.
For example, Metalor operates four precious metals refineries globally, in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Massachusetts (US). Heraeus runs gold refining and gold bar production facilities in Hanau (Germany), Hong Kong, and Newark (US). In addition to its Swiss refinery, PAMP, part of the Geneva-based MKS PAMP group, runs a joint venture refinery in New Delhi, in conjunction with MMTC, a large state-owned Indian trading company.
In many cases, the ownership of these refineries is international and cross-border in nature, and increasingly so over the last few years. Agor-Heraeus is owned by the Austrian Mint and two German entities Commerzbank and Hereaus. In 2015, Valcambi was acquired by Indian jewellery producer Rajesh Exports, with one of the selling shareholders being US-based gold mining giant Newmont. Indeed, just last month, Tanaka announced the acquisition of Metalor Technologies, a development which has initiated an upcoming major Japanese - Swiss precious metals refinery combination. Metalor was already international in ownership, as its controlling shareholders are French and Belgian private equity companies. While Rand Refinery of South Africa is exclusively owned by five of the largest South African gold mining companies, some of these owners, such as Anglogold Ashanti and Goldfields, are vast international concerns. Rand Refinery has also increasingly had to cast its new wider for sourcing gold to process in its refinery as South African gold mining output has declined. Rand Refinery now refines over 75% of the gold mined on the African continent (excluding South Africa), and is also increasingly tapping into gold mining output from the US and Asia.
The World's Refinery Referees
Another indicator of the esteem within which these select refineries are held is their membership of the exclusively small panels of good delivery list referees which have been appointed to run the LBMA’s good delivery lists, and similar good delivery lists maintained by the London Platinum and Palladium Market (LPPM) for platinum and palladium bars.
The LBMA’s good delivery referee panel is a five refinery member panel made up of Argor-Heraeus, Metalor Technologies, PAMP, Rand Refinery and Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo. The LPPM’s referee panel also comprises five refiner members, namely Metalor Technologies, PAMP, Valcambi, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo and platinum specialist Johnson Matthey. So not only are these refineries listed on these LBMA and LPPM good delivery lists, they actually help run the entire set of good delivery standards and processes. With the upcoming acquisition of Metalor by Tanaka, these LBMA and LPPM referee lists may need some adjustment, since Tanaka and Metalor are members of both referee panels.
Overwhelmingly, the gold and silver bars of these refiners are all also accepted as good delivery for the COMEX gold 100 oz and gold kilo futures contracts, the gold contracts of the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM), the Dubai Good Delivery gold list maintained by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), and the good delivery standards of the Shanghai Gold Exchange.
Investment bullion bars
Although all of these precious metals refineries, to various extents, supply semi-fabricated precious metals, alloys and industrial precious metals suppliers to a diverse set of industrial and jewellery sector clients, it is perhaps the investment grade bullion products of these giant refiners that they are best known to a global audience.
PAMP fabricates a vast range of cast and minted gold and silver bars which are extremely popular across Asia and the Middle East, in fact, the premier brand in those regions. Valcambi manufactures a wide range of gold, silver and platinum / palladium investment bars, as well as precious metal coins and medals, and has become well-known as the international supplier of Combibars. Heraeus, Metalor and Argor-Heraeus produce a wide selection of gold and silver bars ranging from large wholesale (good delivery) bars through to smaller cast and minted gold and silver bars. Tanaka’s gold bars dominate the Japanese market and notably, Tanaka is also the sole distributor in Japan of gold and silver bullion Maple Leafs coins from the Royal Canadian Mint and gold and platinum Philharmonic coins from the Austrian Mint. Tanaka's acquisition of Metalor will be interesting in terms of how the combined group markets and distributes its investment bullion products going forward.
It's also not widely appreciated that Rand Refinery has refined over 50,000 tonnes of gold since it first opened in 1921, which is a staggering nearly one-third of all the gold ever mined. Rand Refinery large gold bars are held widely by central banks across the world. Rand Refinery’s flagship gold bullion Krugerrand coin is also held very widely, with over 60 million Krugerrands minted since 1967.
This article has not touched on the Perth Mint, Royal Canadian Mint or Royal Mint, which its important to remember, each operates its own precious metals refinery facilities in addition to being a sovereign national mint.
In summary, the seven refineries featured above are truly giants of the industry, and their longevity and customer trust attest to the authenticity and quality of their investment bullion products.
To learn more about the world's top precious metals refineries featured in this article, please see the full refinery profiles which have now been published on BullionStar's Gold University pages: