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Bullion Department

The origins of the London Bullion Market can be traced to the partnership between Moses Mocatta and the East India Company, who started shipping gold together towards the end of the seventeenth century. In the early 1700s, while Sir Isaac Newton was Master of the Royal Mint, gold in England was overvalued so it became more freely circulated than silver. This increased circulation quickly led to England having a gold based coinage, whereas the rest of Europe remained silver based until the 1850s.

The first gold rush of 1697 brought gold from Brazil into London, partly transported on ships owned by the East India Company. This inflow of gold led to demand for a purpose-built London vault, which the Bank of England established. Their 'bullion warehouse' served the whole of the European market, and was further stocked by the influx to London from the subsequent gold rushes in California, Australia and South Africa. Refineries that were set up to process this gold (including the Rothschild's own Royal Mint Refinery, established in 1852) were located close to the Bank of England which played a key role in being a custodian, regulator and facilitator of lending and selling of gold by other banks.

From 1809, when Nathan Mayer began to deal in bullion, the trade in this commodity has been central to the operation of the firm. The records relating to the bullion business are mainly found in this section, created to receive records from the Bullion Department of the General Office. Records concerning the acquisition of the lease of the Royal Mint Refinery may be found in the Correspondence series XI/109, and some series within VII of the Bullion Department relate entirely to the operation of Refinery. The series XII/158, NMR Receipts: domestic and business, within the Estates Department records, contains many receipts for bullion. 

See also The Royal Mint Refinery » 

Bullion microsite

To coincide with the centenary of the Gold Fixing in September 2019, The Rothschild Archive has created a new microsite dedicated to the history of Rothschild and Bullion. The site features pages on Gold Trading, Gold Mining, and Gold Refining (focusing on the activities of the Rothschild Royal Mint Refinery). The site includes a history of the Gold Fixing, and for the first time, a comprehensive list of the daily Gold Prices 1919-1968 is available to researchers. A Rothschild Research Forum account is required to access this site. Apply for membership of the Rothschild Research Forum here »

Go to the Bullion microsite »