Denzil Bazley is a mechanical engineer, a published author and, more recently, has introduced charming coin rings to the KZN market
Story Hayley Dennyson Pictures Supplied
Chatting to Denzil over tea at Oscars Café, it’s clear that he is a man of many facets. After years in the corporate sphere, working for some of the world’s top brands, he took a step away to find his own freedom. Today, he lectures engineers, mostly in the Middle East, and has visited 10 countries in the last five years.
Denzil loves a good story and has shared many fascinating conversations with students.
History is in Denzil’s blood and his first book, Nil Desperandum – the Bazley Story, focused on his own family and others who influenced the development of Natal in the late 1800s. It also includes tales of Henry Francis Fynn (of Shaka Zulu fame) and cannibalism (although the two were not connected). The book sold out in one year. Denzil is now working on a second.
His great-great-grandfather, John Bazley, is reported to have been the first settler at Richmond in the Natal Midlands in 1850 and went on to be one of the founding fathers of the sugar industry in KZN. He later settled on the South Coast at what became known as Bazley Beach.
His son (and Denzil’s great-grandfather), William, went on to build the port at Port Shepstone, opening up the Umzimkulu River to allow steamers to transport goods to and from Durban (a process that had, until then, taken three weeks by ox wagon).
The family had a home called Broadview, overlooking the Oribi Gorge. Today, Denzil has named his own home, overlooking Giba Gorge, in its memory and has the original marble fireplace at its heart. “The house is a work in progress – cut into the hillside and set amid natural grassland,” he says.
It is here that Denzil creates his Royle Coin Rings from coins collected around the world. “Indian rupees are the most popular for their intricate design, but many customers are also drawn to the floral design of the Swiss and Irish coins, and the German Mark for its gothic edge. “East African coins are very distinctive.” Then, of course, there are those who want a connection to their heritage – for example, British and Rhodesian coins, particularly when I am able to find a significant year.”
Inspired by the popularity of coin rings in the US (where a quick Google search brings up thousands of results), Denzil named the business “Royle” after a Bazley family name, which is held by his father and his son. He researched the process, bought manufacturing equipment from the jewellery market in Dubai and determined to establish his skill set in this new venture. “It takes passion, skill and the right equipment, which I am able to make and adapt, thanks to my engineering background,” Denzil explains.
“There is also a satisfying sentimental element to this. It’s wonderful to be able to help people commemorate a special event or to remember loved ones. I’ve had many siblings and friends request matching rings from old South African coins with the motto ‘Unity is Strength’.”
When he is in town, Denzil can be found at the Shongweni Market, demonstrating the techniques used to create these intriguing jewellery pieces. “It’s quite a spectacle and attracts the attention of young and old.”
Older coins are better suited to being made into rings, as they have a higher silver content than today’s coins. Denzil predominantly works with coins made before 1970, with some from the 1800s.
On his travels, Denzil scours the markets, looking for interesting coins and instruments to help him in the production process. “I have always been interested in coins, but this has given me a new appreciation,” he says.
Royle Coin Rings can be made to any size, with a flat or curved edge, with prices between R200 and R1 200.