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Making the Melbourne Cup

It’s arguably Australia’s most iconic trophy but what actually goes into creating the Melbourne Cup? TALIA PAZ races to find out.

Fact: this year’s 18-carat gold, 1.65 kg Emirates Melbourne Cup is valued at more than $200,000. It has been produced by ABC Bullion, a subsidiary of local metal services supplier Pallion, which secured a five-year contract to manufacture the prestigious horse racing trophy from 2016 onwards.

At the time of announcing the appointment in 2015, Pallion CEO Andrew Cochineas explained that the Cup would be mined, refined, fabricated and constructed in Australia using Australian-sourced material for the first time in its 150-year history.

And so the journey to produce the 2017 ‘People’s Cup’ begins ...

Time to mine

Where does one start when being commissioned to manufacture the Melbourne Cup? Quite simply, the gold needs to be extracted from the ground. This process is conducted at the Lake Cowal gold mine in NSW Central West, where geologists are on hand to determine what grade of gold is in the rock, before the detonators are set. The product goes to a processing plant and is crushed to 15 microns – roughly the same texture as talcum powder. This fine material makes its way to a furnace, before it is smoldered and hauled to ABC Refinery in Sydney.

So refined

Transported in armoured trucks, the gold arrives at the refinery in the form of doré bars, a semi-pure alloy of gold and silver. Here, the doré goes through multiple refining processes to achieve 99.99 per cent pure gold. The finished bars are turned into 12mm thick blocks, ready for the next part of the process.

Fabrication fascination

Metal fabricator A&E Metals is tasked with rolling the blocks until they measure about 1mm in thickness. In order to achieve this, the gold blocks may need to pass through a rolling mill up to 25 times, with the ultimate goal being to produce 280mm wide sheets. All of the sheet’s edges, thicknesses and weight – there’s a 1 per cent leeway on the gold’s weight – really have to be nothing less than perfect before it can be passed to the trophy makers.

Spin doctor

Following the previous processes, the chain of command is bestowed upon Keith ‘Sparrow’ King, WJ Sanders’ chief metal spinner. King describes the Melbourne Cup as the “hardest” object he has worked on in his 30-year spinning career. King’s skill is unique and becoming a long-lost art in Australia; however, the contract has afforded the business to employ an apprentice who will continue the tradition. After the Cup is spun, the WJ Sanders team spends up to eight hours filing each of the three handles. They then manufacture the base as well as polish and engrave the trophy before declaring it complete.

National tour

Even though the Cup is now complete, it isn’t off duty just yet. In the months leading up to the race that stops the nation, which this year falls on Tuesday November 7, the trophy will travel around Australia and New Zealand with its own bodyguard in tow. Interestingly, everyone must wear gloves when touching the Melbourne Cup prior to the race.

Gallery

Gold sourced from mine in lake cowal.
Gold sourced from mine in lake cowal.
Doré is refined multiple times.
Doré is refined multiple times.
The Cup is spun by Keith ‘Sparrow’ King.
The Cup is spun by Keith ‘Sparrow’ King.
Filing the handles takes many hours.
Filing the handles takes many hours.
The trophy is hand-engraved.
The trophy is hand-engraved.
The final stage involves adding the base.
The final stage involves adding the base.



 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Talia Paz • Staff Journalist

Talia Paz is a staff journalist for Jeweller, and has more than three years' experience as a freelance journalist for national and international publications, covering a wide range of industries.









Friday, 19 April, 2019 01:10am
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