Perth man ‘panned for gold’ to make wedding ring

John Greenwood panned for gold in the Scottish mountains. Picture: John Jeffay/Cascade News
John Greenwood panned for gold in the Scottish mountains. Picture: John Jeffay/Cascade News
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IT was the ultimate labour of love - romantic John Greenwood spent 18 months panning for gold in the Scottish mountains, so he could present his fiancée with a unique wedding ring.

The man with the Midas touch collected thousands of tiny specks until he had enough for a jeweller to cast a pair of matching bands for himself and Morag Shearer.

The pair exchanged rings in a dream wedding on the paradise island of Antigua, in the West Indies.

“It was a labour of love,” said John, 48, from Luncarty, Perthshire. “It was an amazing feeling to put the ring on her finger. I was really overwhelmed

“They talk about gold fever. I was panning for gold in my dreams. I was driven by it. I reckon I spent 20 full days getting enough gold for the ring.

“It was a bit like climbing a mountain and getting to the top.”

He used a simple gold pan, trowel, shovel and rake to collect nuggets, flakes and tiny specks.

The rings are hallmarked simply as “Scottish gold” because gold from rare is so rare and is not commercially available.

John, who works as an explosives technician, said: “In its natural form Scottish gold has a purity of approximately 22+ carats (pure gold being 24 carats) and a significantly greater value than the gold market value thanks to its rarity.

“As hallmarks come in standards of 9ct, 14ct, 18ct and 22ct, there was no specific hallmark to suit and since the source of the gold was known the ring is hand engraved ‘Scottish gold’ on the inside.”

Two years ago John surprised fiancee Morag, 42, a physiotherapist, with an engagement ring, also cast from specks of gold he’d panned himself.

She was delighted with her new addition, a wedding ring.

“I feel very proud of John, and very lucky,” she said. “The ring is very unique and very special.”

She joined John on one of his panning expeditions, and found a tiny speck, but says John deserves all the credit.

The couple wed in Antigua (on September 25) with a small group of family members and are returning to Scotland.

“You couldn’t put a value on the rings,” said John. “The jeweller charged £500 to make the pair of rings, but that’s only a part of it.”

When John proposed to Morag he two years ago he’d secretly collected enough gold to surprise her with an engagement ring.

She was astonished when he presented it to her on Christmas Day – and promptly said yes to his proposal. They’d been together for three years.

At the time John said: “I’ve been incredibly lucky to find so much gold to make a ring but I was out there every weekend and in the evenings before it got dark in freezing cold water. I certainly put a lot of effort in.”

Gold experts say John must have the Midas touch, after he collected 34 grammes in a few months. They say dedicated gold panners can spend a life time looking for gold and never get that much.

“Everybody says I must have beginner’s luck. I’ve always been interested in the idea of gold panning but I never actually did it until 18 months ago,” said John.

“I started in September (2011) and by December I had 34 grammes, which is a huge amount. Some days I’d be camping next to the river and I’d start as soon as the sun was up and carry on for 14 or 15 hours a day,”

Goldsmith Grant Logan, from Campbeltown, Scotland, made it into a diamond ring for John.

“The result is a totally unique engagement ring with such a wonderful personal story.”

John searched for gold around the Highland Boundary Fault which separates the Scottish mountains from the lowland and is home to precious metals and minerals.

For both the wedding rings and engagement rings he needed to collect far more gold than was used in the finished product, to allow the jeweller to melt and cast it.

Morag’s wedding ring weighs 3.25g and his is 5.2g. Altogether John has collected around 100g of Scottish gold.