N M Rothschild & Sons: The Royal Mint Refinery, a golden opportunity

Michele Blagg

This paper outlines a number of strategies Rothschild employed in order to gain, maximize and maintain its control over the London bullion trade. Seizing the opportunity to lease the refinery at the Royal Mint from the Exchequer in 1852 was an important step as Rothschild moved outside its normal sphere of banking, to less familiar industrial sector. Operating the refinery immediately put much of the new Australian and California gold production at the disposal of the merchant bank, later securing them a good share of early South African gold. During this period the London bullion market adopted a more formal structure, over which Rothschild assumed an administrative control.  Strengthened by its operation of the refinery, and later its role as Chair of the London gold fixing, Rothschild secured its relationship to bullion, which continued into the twenty-first century.