One of the most respected brands over the past 150 years in the precious metals industry was Johnson Matthey. This British refinery rose from a small business started by one man to become an internationally recognized provider of silver and gold precious metal bars, with Good Delivery status on the London markets and COMEX. Johnson Matthey’s profile grew to such an extent that it had an international presences that included three facilities in the United States and Canada.
Below you’ll learn more about Johnson Matthey’s past, its present status within the global precious metals industry, and the available products from the brand still online at Silver.com.
History of Johnson Matthey
Johnson Matthey was originally formed in London in 1817 by Percival Norton Johnson who sought to establish a gold assayer’s business in the city. Johnson would remain in business for himself for the next 34 years until George Matthey joined the operation in 1851 and the name was changed officially to Johnson & Matthey. The company quickly earned, by 1852, an appointment as the Official Assayer & Refiner to the Bank of England.
The company grew quickly to include branches in major British cities from Birmingham to Sheffield, supplying jewelry, silverware, and cutlery companies with the raw materials and ancillary supplies needed to run their businesses, such as silver solder and flux. For the better part of its first 150 years in existence, the company was a supplier of official British coinage in all denominations under its Assayer & Refiner position with the Bank of England.
This continued until the 1980s, when the company took advantage of the immense growth in demand for silver bullion as an investment option to expand its business to include the pouring and production of precious metal bars. Johnson Matthey operations largely consisted of silver and gold bar production ranging from 1 oz and 10 oz bars to 100 oz and 1 Kilogram offerings.
Types of Johnson Matthey Bars
Johnson Matthey production over the years focused on silver and gold bars that featured only the company’s brand logo and identifying information. It never deviated into production of bars with collectible designs on them, instead sticking to the refining of minted ingots and cast bars. Those investors who prefer the London Good Delivery, COMEX Division Good Delivery Bars, and other smaller cast bars chase after a product that exist in a world between hand-poured products and those minted ingots which are highly computerized throughout the production process. Examples of these types of cast bars include the 100 oz Johnson Matthey Silver Bar.
The common approach to this production process is to first melt the precious metal in question in a bulk “holding” crucible to prepare it for pouring into molds. Typically an induction furnace is used to heat the metal to its melting point, at which time the holding crucible is tilted to transfer the molten metals through a soft gas flame and into a pre-heated and dressed bar mold to create the bar’s specific size and weight. To ensure proper weights are reached, the molds are typically positioned on a balance to record the weight of the metal as it is poured so that pouring can cease when the right weight is reached.
At this point in the process, one of two steps is taken. Some refiners will drop the bar out of the mold into a tank of water within seconds of pouring the mold to quickly cool the bar in a process known as “quenching.” Alternatively, the bars may be left in the molds to air cool over time.
Either way, once cooling is complete the bars are cleaned with soft cloths to remove any stains and then weighed to ensure the stated weight was achieved in the process. Approved bars are then marked with a refiner’s official stamp, a serial number, and the assayed purity of the batch.
Cast bars are, in the case of minted ingots, actually just the first step in the creation process for an entirely different product. In order to create minted ingot bars such as the 1 oz Johnson Matthey Silver Bar, refiners will start by manufacturing long, flat cast bars to serve as the blanks upon which minted ingots will eventually be formed. Traditionally this was done by creating a long mold that was used in the production of cast bars. These molds made it possible to create cast blanks with the precise width, thickness, and length required to make minted ingots.
To speed up the process, modern refiners will often use a continuous casting process instead. This produces bar stock of the required width and thickness on a continuous basis that is then fed into a continuous casting machine. Throughout a very complex process, the cast blanks are melted under induction heating or resistance heating to form minted ingot shapes that match exact specifications.
The new bars are then broken down in a rolling mill to reduce the larger batches down to the required thickness, and an interstage annealing process occurs that recrystallizes the grain structure of the metals and improves the surface finish of the bar. The rolling mill, combined with a strip annealing furnace help refine the bars to their required thickness. Further exposure to a gauging mill refines the bars even more, before they are eventually sent to the blanking press where each individual bar is punched out of the strip to prepare for striking process, at which point mint marks and designs are added to the finished product.
Examples of Johnson Matthey Products Online at Silver.com
Currently, Silver.com still has Johnson Matthey products available, but supplies are limited to three styles of minted ingots and the 100 oz Silver Cast Bar. Details on the products available right now at Silver.com include:
- 1 oz Johnson Matthey Silver Bar: Each of these one ounce bars of fine silver is newly pressed and imprinted with the full name of the refinery — “Johnson Matthey Assayers and Refiners,” the JM logo and the serial number of the bar. The words “Fine Silver 999” and “1 Ounce Troy” are clearly labeled on the front for quick identification. The back side of the bar also has several of the JM logos arranged diagonally across the bar. This same design is featured on the 10 oz Johnson Matthey Silver Bar.
- 10 oz Johnson Matthey Silver Bar (Secondary Market): These bars feature the same design as described in the above bullet point, however they are available to you online at Silver.com courtesy of a secondary market, and did not come directly from Johnson Matthey.
- 100 oz Johnson Matthey Cast Silver Bar: The design of the Johnson Matthey 100 oz silver bar is a lot different than that of other silver bars on the market today. Though the inscriptions located on the front side of the bar are fairly standard with its weight, purity, mint mark all visibly stamped, its shape is what differentiates it from the competition. The bar is shaped almost like a loaf of bread and is slightly indented on its face. The front side of the bar is also slightly wider than its backside. This simple, yet carefully thought out design makes these bars ideal for stacking in large quantities.
Johnson Matthey’s Current Standing
Johnson Matthey’s precious metals refining operations consisted of three facilities in North America. Two operational refineries exist in Salt Lake City, Utah and Brampton, Ontario. An additional investment casting services facility exists in St. Catharines in Canada. In December 2014, Johnson Matthey announced its intentions to divest from gold and silver refining in the interest of focusing on its long-term, strategic goals to take greater advantage of its expertise in chemistry and its high-tech solutions in various other industries.
Asahi Holdings is a Japan-based company with a rich history of operation across various business lines. Its primary operations consist of collection, recovery, and refinements of precious and rare metals, including gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. It also manufactures and sells precious metal alloys, chemicals for plating, and electrolytic recovery equipment used in gold and silver refining.
Originally formed in July 1952, the company is headquartered in Tokyo, with much of its current precious metal refining operations taking place at its Kobe, Japan facility. When Johnson Matthey opted to divest from gold and silver refining, Asahi Holdings came to the table with an offer to purchase its refining operations.
The plan announced in December 2014 by Johnson Matthey was formalized in July 2015, but Asahi Holdings took physical control of Johnson Matthey’s North American units in March 2015 and got busy minting its own bars. With the successful acquisition of Johnson Matthey’s operations for $186 million (USD, cash), Asahi Holdings formed a subsidiary known as Asahi Refining.
The newly-formed Asahi Refining acquired both the minting facilities in Salt Lake City and Brampton, as well as the investment casting services in St. Chatarines. The 340 people employed at the three locations were kept on as members of Asahi Refining. The two minting facilities now operate collectively as Asahi Refining, branding all products with the company’s name and logo. The facility in St. Catharines is now referred to as Niagara Investment Castings, and operates as a division of Asahi Refining Canada Limited.
Upon the purchase of Johnson Matthey’s facilities, the company’s standing as a London Bullion Market Association Gold Delivery member was transferred to each of the gold and silver refining operations in the new Asahi Refining corporate structure. Asahi Refining is, as a result, certified as LBMA responsible gold compliant as well as London Good Delivery refiners.
Purchase Remaining Johnson Matthey Products from Silver.com
At Silver.com we make it easy for you to purchase the Johnson Matthey products you want from our catalog. Silver.com proudly accepts Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards, with no minimum purchase price and a maximum of $5,000. PayPal fund transfers are our latest offering. In addition to a $0 minimum and a $60,000 maximum, PayPal transactions process instantly and enter the shipping queue immediately. Paper check payments have a similar $0 minimum and a $40,000 maximum, and while they take four to six business days to process, you’ll enjoy a 4% savings on your purchase price compared to credit/debit payments and PayPal transfers.
We also accept bank wire transfers. The minimum is higher at $2,000, but the $100,000 maximum makes it easier for you to invest in as much silver as you wish. Bank wire payments process instantly and enter our shipping queues immediately.
All Silver.com shipments are packaged in discreet boxes to protect the identity of your products during shipment. Packages are delivered via the United States Postal Service or UPS, and should they become lost or damaged, Silver.com will work to correct the situation. We can either start an insurance claim on your behalf to secure a refund of your money, or work with the carrier to track down your package.
If you have any questions about Johnson Matthey bars, payment methods, or shipping options, please feel free to contact a Silver.com associate. Our team members are available on the phone during regular business hours at 888-989-7223, online using our website’s hosted live chat, or by submitting your questions to us in writing via email.