At Baird & Co’s gold refinery, boss Nick Hammond is sorting through a tray of scrap jewellery. Bracelets, necklaces, a horse pendant (called a “banger” because it is hollow, and could explode under high heat) and a military medallion dated 1895 are all destined for the furnace. “It’s sad, but we can’t hold them back – they all go in the pot,” Hammond says, pointing out that Baird would have paid around £30,000 to pawn brokers and other dealers for the contents of the tray.
Baird’s high-security factory, on an industrial estate in East London, is home to the UK’s only gold refinery. The family-held business, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is a supplier of gold bars to the Royal Mint and one of the UK’s biggest producers of gold wedding bands.
It has just opened a showroom and vault in the Hatton Garden area of London, hoping to lure new customers into the world of gold. “If you want long-term exposure to gold, you have to make the case for physical gold,” says Hammond. The yellow metal is famed for its status as a safe haven and a store of wealth in times of uncertainty, but is there really a growing demand for physical gold? And how are companies exploiting the opportunity?
Global demand for gold bars and coins rose 9pc in the first quarter of year, according the World Gold Council, despite a relatively flat market. London remains at heart of the trade: in May alone, it cleared 20.8 million ounces of gold in transactions worth $25.8bn. The exact amount of gold in the City’s vaults has always been a mystery, but for the first next month the London Bullion Market Association will publish hard data on the gold its members hold.
With revenues of £665m, Baird is accustomed to turning out gold bars, coins, jewellery, bespoke items and industrial products for a range of suppliers. Its new shop is an attempt to “build the brand” and take some of the complexity out of holding gold, Hammond explains.
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