( Percival Norton Johnson)
From humble beginnings, Percival Norton Johnson took a protege position in his fathers assaying firm. After proving his vast knowledge in precious metal refining, Percival became a partner in the small firm with ambitions to create an empire in the trade. In 1817, Johnson started this crusade.
Notably, Johnson was the first London Assayer to guarantee their ingots value at a specific purity due to advancements in his chemical tests on the precious metals. This gave Johnson much notoriety at the time due to being able to offer buy-backs on the ingots he assayed.
Johnson then built a small refinery for the gold bars that were coming into his growing business. Due to his proficient skills at extracting Platinum Metals (still the core of the business today) and ores from gold bars Johnson began his empire in the London Bullion Market.
Originally, Percival Johnson had set up as a simple gold assayer in London. Enter George Matthey, a talented protege that earned his rank within Johnsons early business. Matthey was an excellent assayer and chemist whom studied at the Royal College of Chemistry. After proving his incredible value to Johnson, he made George "Matthey" his partner and formed Johnson Matthey in 1851.
It is said that Johnson had great appreciation for Matthey's ambition. It's said that George Matthey is the one who pushed to become Johnson Matthey to transform into the international conglomerate it is today.
Soon after the partnership, the company was officially appointed by the Bank of England as the Official Assayer & Refiner, which allowed them to further expand their operations to other cities in the UK.
Johnson Matthey was able to set up branches in cities like Birmingham and Sheffield as well, wherein they manufactured and supplied raw materials like silver solder and flux to jewelry, silverware, and cutlery traders.
A landmark moment in the company’s history occurred in the year 1874 when they were contracted to manufacture the kilogram reference standard. It was made from 90% platinum and 10% iridium and is currently held in the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.
Johnson Matthey started a limited partnership with P.R. Mallory, creating Johnson Matthey & Mallory Limited in 1947.
The P.R. Mallory Company began in 1916 in Port Chester, New York as a tungsten wire manufacturer. Phillip Rogers Mallory, the founder of the company, moved his company to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1924.
P.R. Mallory later formed the Mallory Metallurgical Company. The company engineered electrical alloys and composites made from silver, copper and tungsten. P.R. Mallory even worked with Henry Ford to create the first applications for Electrical Resistance Welding.
In addition, during World War II, P.R. Mallory teamed up with Samuel Ruben and created the first mercury cell battery, millions were manufactured by his company for the war effort.
Probably among the most infamous creations was when P.R. Mallory revolutionized the battery industry with the alkaline manganese battery, and in 1964 the company registered the well-known "Duracell" as its trademark.
The partnership with Johnson Matthey was headquartered in Toronto, Canada, where the P.R. Mallory refinery was located.The majority of the metals refined for the company were used for industrial purposes at the time.
It is unknown as to when the partnership began to produce investment grade bullion, but the company produced gold and silver bullion bars and rounds until the end of the partnership in 1977. The majority of the gold and silver bars refined by the limited partnership used the Johnson Matthey & Mallory Identification Marks or "JMM" for short. These ingots often are some of the most sought after by collectors due to how short of a time Johnson Matthey and Mallory produced these ingots together.
In the 1960s, Johnson Matthey formed a subsidiary named Johnson Matthey Bankers (JMB) and took up a coveted seat in the London Gold Fixing, which determines the price of gold via a dedicated conference line.
So far, JMB had concentrated most of its activities on the manufacture and sale of precious metals ingots and bullion bars. However, in 1980, they decided to expand their reach to encompass high-risk loans. The risky endeavor paid off and their assets doubled by 1984, but the victory was short-lived. The high-risk loans largely concentrated to a few borrowers in the El Saeed group, ESAL Commodities, amongst several others. Some of these loans proved to be unsustainable. A £21million loan to Abdul Shamji of Gomba Holdings, who, at the time, owned the Mermaid Theatre in London, ended up exceeding the bank’s capital and it collapsed. There was a High Court inquiry into the matter and it turned out that Shamji has lied about his assets. Consequently, Shamji was imprisoned for a period of 15 months.
They say "history always repeats itself" and giving out bad "high risk" loans to unqualified candidates at unreasonable rates has always proven to be catastrophic in the process of time. in 1984 Johnson Matthey Bankers had taken on more than 420M in risky loans. Good banking practice has always been said to loan no more than 10% of current net worth, JMB found itself extended 120% of its net worth to clients on the verge of bankruptcy.
JMB’s position as one of the five members of the London Gold Fixing proved to be a point of grave concern. The Bank of England officials were concerned that JBM’s insolvency would shake public confidence in the other bullion banks as well. The ensuing panic, if not contained or preempted, could then spread to the rest of the British banking system.
To prevent the enviable chaos, the Bank of England allowed Johnson Matthey Bankers to sell them the bank for 1 pound sterling (about $1.40 then) while the Bank of England took on a staggering 212M in debt from the improperly managed JMB; All while the share price plummeted 280M (more than 70%) on the 30th of September 1984. Part of the deal included Johnson Matthey to inject 62M into the Bank and JMB's largest shareholder Charter Consolidated P.L.C, (the infamous mining and finance company associated with the financial and industrial empire of Harry Oppenheimer) to inject 31M into the bank in the form of convertible preference shares.
Eventually, after much criticism of the public for bailing out Johnson Matthey Bankers, the Bank of England sold the business to Australias most infamous bank, The Westpac Banking Corporation for 1.3 Billion. It is believed Westpac was specifically after JMB's strongest asset, their bullion business.
While Johnson Matthey’s banking subsidiary failed, the parent company continued flourishing. In 1989, the company secured an annual revenue of £1.43 billion, with industrial plants set up countries across the globe — Belgium, Pennsylvania, and Australia.
Johnson Matthey continues expanding through strategic acquisitions. In 2008. they acquired Argillon — a business that specialized in the production of Catalysts — for €214 million. Soon after, in 2010, they acquired InterCAT — manufacturers and providers of catalytic cracking additives essential for the petroleum industry — for $56.2 million. These acquisitions paved the way for Johnson Matthey to open up a European emission control catalyst plant in Macedonia for £34 million, enabling them to produce catalysts for light and heavy-duty vehicles alike, essentially establishing themselves as leaders in catalysis production.
In its current state, Johnson Matthey is structurally divided into five divisions — Emission Control Technologies, Process Technologies, Precious Metal Products, Fine Chemicals, and New Businesses.
Emission Control Technologies produces and supplies catalysts for light and heavy-duty vehicles and for stationary exhaust emission control. One of their most prominent products is the Continuously Regenerating Trap (CRT) system which can control and mitigate heavy-duty diesel vehicle pollution. This product was commercialized in 1995, and their sustainability efforts won them a MacRobert Award for sustainable innovation in 2000. They now supply catalysts for one-third of all the cars around the world.
Process Technologies is also concerned with supplying catalysts. However, their prime purpose is to license technologies and deliver a range of services to various other industries such as gas processing, petroleum, syngas, and many others.
Precious Metal Products is concerned with the management, distribution, refinery, and recycling of precious metals, and the fabrication of products that use precious metals. They offer metal separation of ruthenium, iridium, palladium, silver, gold, platinum, and rhodium.
Fine Chemicals is concerned with the supply of pharmaceutical ingredients and chiral technologies to three primary industries — fire chemical, agrochemical, and pharmaceutical. They operate under the brand name Alfa Aesar and distribute research chemicals across the globe.
New Businesses is comprised of two subsidiary divisions — Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and Johnson Matthey Battery Technologies. Their sole purpose is to find other opportunities of core technologies integration within the areas encompassed by the company’s current businesses.
Johnson Matthey manufactured and refined precious metal bullion bars at two refineries in the United States and Canada. The leading refinery in Salt Lake City, Utah, was called Johnson Matthey Gold & Silver Refining Inc. It was established in 1983 because of the upsurge in gold mining in the 80s in the US. Over the years, it has received several accreditations to its name, including London Bullion Market Association, CME Group — Market Contract, and Tokyo Commodity Exchange.
Johnson Matthey Gold & Silver Refining Inc. refined both gold and silver bars. They manufactured London Good Delivery silver bars since 1989. Johnson Matthey has another offshoot in North America, where they refined platinum metals to create an extensive range of products.
Johnson Matthey had changed the style bullion it produced at these plants over the years, thus making their vintage pieces collectible. To add to the collectibility of these ingots, Johnson Matthey sold both the Salt Lake City, USA and their Brampton, Canada plants to a Japanese Industrial Conglomerate, "Asahi Holdings" for £118m in 2014.
Johnson Matthey also had a refinery in Royston, north of London. It was set up in 1955. However, in 2005, due to over-saturation of the global gold refining industry, they had to shut down their Royston branch.
Johnson Matthey precious metals and bullion bars are considered to be valuable collectors’ items and they are purchased by collectors and investors because of their assurance of quality and sustained value.
Their product base also includes platinum-based powders and precious gold and silver metal bars. They manufacture(d) silver and gold bullion in the sizes of 1g 2g 5g 10g 1/2oz 20g 1oz 2oz 3oz 4oz 5oz 7oz 10oz 20oz 25oz kilo 50oz 100oz, 1000oz and along with recycling of scrap. The company normally accepts semi-refined bullion, predominantly gold, predominantly silver, electrolytic slimes derived from copper, electrolytic slimes derived from silver, precipitated gold slimes, loaded carbon, old jewelry, jewelry manufacturers scrap, electronic scrap, dental scrap and old coins and medals for refining purposes.
Johnson Matthey bullion bars and ingots can be purchased here at The Mineral Exchange and at many other fine retailers online. They can be identified by the capital letters ‘JM’ and/or a hammer and anvil logo. One thing is for sure, when you're buying a Johnson Matthey product, know it is one with a deep rooted history in the bullion trade.