Its rarity and beauty has long made gold the stuff of legends, with wars raged to obtain it and gold panners of old risking their lives in the stampede to make their fortunes.
But while gold is now readily available on the high street, one of the rarest golds – Scottish gold – is still highly sought after, with jewellers having to rely on small and irregular quantities painstakingly found by amateur gold panners.
People might be buying a bit of jewellery with gold from places such as South Africa and Mozambique and not realise there is gold in Scotland’s riversCapital jeweller Alistir Wood Tait
But now Scotland’s first commercial goldmine is about to produce gold for the first time in the Scottish Highlands, allowing more people to commission a wedding ring or piece of jewellery with the distinction of being truly “made in Scotland.”
Gold was last successfully mined in Scotland over 500 years ago but the high price of precious metals makes work cost-effective. Mining firm Scotgold Resources is crushing 2,400 tonnes of ore which has been stockpiled at Cononish near Tyndrum in Stirlingshire.
During an initial six-month trial it aims to produce 400-600 ounces of gold with around 100oz being sent out to jewellers to test customer demand for Scottish gold. The stockpiled ore is reckoned to contain 7.9 grammes of gold per tonne, and 39g of silver.
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A report estimated that the reserve of gold at the mine located in Loch Lomond National Park was “significantly” greater than previously estimated.
The firm, whose headquarters are in Perth, said the trial represented “a significant milestone” and it is now looking for potential investors to back larger-scale production at Cononish. The company has estimated several tonnes of gold could be extracted from the site.
Chief executive Richard Gray said: “It is extremely satisfying to be able to celebrate this significant milestone. The achievement of gold production provides tangible evidence of our progress and we appreciate the support of our stakeholders.”
The project was launched nearly a decade ago but faced delays as a result of falls in the price of gold, lack of finance and problems with planning permission.
The price of gold has recovered this year and is selling this week at more than £1,013oz. It previously slumped from approximately £1,328oz in August 2012 to just over £750 in December.
Edinburgh jewellery specialist Alistir Wood Tait said there was a demand for Scottish gold and believed customers would be willing to pay a premium to have an item of jewellery with such a provenance.
“There is a market for Scottish gold. People might be buying a wedding ring or a bit of jewellery with gold from places such as South Africa or Mozambique and not appreciate that there is gold in Scotland’s rivers and elsewhere which has been taken since the Bronze Age or earlier,” he said.
“Scottish gold was found in Kildonan in Sutherland in the gold rush of 1869 but nowadays jewellers like myself are getting it from individual panners, enthusiasts who are out in areas like the Borders and Perthshire.
“It is a rare and unusual part of our heritage.”