The precious metals we make into bullion bars, bullion coins and jewellery to buy, sell and cherish all come from special refineries. It’s at these refineries where the metals are extracted from the original mined materials and purified. The refineries use centuries-old (but just as good) fire assaying methods combined with high-tech, instrumental techniques to accurately determine the metal’s quality and create the brilliant gold bullion blocks and shiny silver coins we know and love.
The glistening list
There are a number of precious metal refineries around the world, but only a select number are accredited by the Good Delivery list of Gold and Silver. Set up by the trustworthy London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), the list identifies accredited refineries of large, wholesale gold and silver bars. Each refinery undergoes a rigorous process to make it onto the list and must meet the finest standards of purification and extraction. At the moment, there’s 71 gold and 81 silver refiners on there – creating a treasure trove of gold pieces, Britannia silver and other precious metals.
The golden seven
There are seven refineries renowned around the world to reign supreme over all the others.
Known as the heart of the gold industry, Switzerland houses four of the seven top refineries: PAMP, Valcambi (the largest, producing 1,600 tonnes of gold every year) and Argor-Heraeus all lie within a kilometre of each other. Metalor Technologies is also in Switzerland, but on the other side of the country. The non-Swiss highly regarded refineries are Heraeus in Germany, Tanaka in Japan and Rand Refinery in South Africa.
Despite their specific locations, these refineries are truly global – from metal supplier networks to customer bases – their ownership and dealings are glamorously international. Valcambi, for example, are a Swiss company but were recently acquired by Indian jeweller, Rajesh Exports.
The UK’s Royal Mint Refinery is based just outside the Tower of London and proudly sits on the LBMA list. Although it’s not known as one of the world’s golden seven, it’s a highly reputable refinery.
The top seven gold and silver refiners in the world:
- PAMP, Switzerland
- Valcambi, Switzerland
- Argor-Heraeus, Switzerland
- Metalor Technologies, Switzerland
- Heraeus, Germany
- Tanaka, Japan
- Rand Refinery, South Africa