Thomas's Skipton UK Diamonds Fine jewellery and Watches
36 Sheep Street, Skipton. North Yorkshire. United Kingdom. BD23 1HY Tel: 0044 (0) 1756 795353
Alloys of Precious Metals
Gold and silver in their pure form are not sufficiently durable, so they need an alloy to improve their wearing qualities. Traditional the metals used for the alloy of gold has been silver and copper, and copper in strengthening silver.
Goldsmiths are known to have been operational well before standards became law, and were marking their wares with makers markers and their won mark.
The craft or mystery of goldsmiths included silversmiths, and when the customer brought along his silver to be re-worked, maybe because it had been broken - or was no longer fashionable, or because he had bought it then the craftsman could add copper and keep back some silver. As Silver was worth more per grain than copper and likewise gold more than silver, the dishonest goldsmith could be on a good little earner.
So Edward I had his civil servants set out a statute the set standards in 1300.
Of each 12 ounces of finish silver there must be 11 ounces and two pennyweights (11oz 2dwt) There being twenty dwts to the ounce the sum becomes 11.1/12 or 925 parts per thousand this being the "(Ea)sterling" standard. Easterling being those nordic people from the East who revelled in silver as today with Georg Jensen jewellery.
Gold was determined to be 19 and one fifth carats or 19.2/24ths by weight which is 800 parts per 1000 This was known as the Touch of Paris. This means when the gold alloy was rubbed against a rock called a touchstone and the scratch left tested with a special acid 80% of the scratch would remain.
The guardians of the assay applied a mark - The Leopard's Head to show that the kings standard had been achieved, and the Maker also made his mark, often his initials o and a symbol. If later testing proved that the mark was incorrect then the maker and guardians could be held to account, and as the guardians changed over time it was necessary to indicate which year the items were marked to determine which guardians were in trouble.
Over the centuries there have been various changes to the accepted purities for gold and silver - and know platinum, and maybe soon Palladium. The history of these changes is a fascinating study and a copy of Jackson's Silver & Gold Marks of England, Scotland & Ireland, edited by Ian Pickford is invaluable. ISBN 0 907462 63 4, at a shade under fifty pounds.
Alternatively there is a reduced content paperback at about £7.00, and the ever faithful Bradbury's Book of Hallmarks which you can buy from your local bookshops or at Amazon - at £5.50.
Today 4 British Assay masters and their guardians operate, London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh, with Ireland having an assay in Dublin. London has branches now in Hatton Garden, and opened at Heathrow in March 2008. Thomas's mark is registered at Sheffield as G&JT.
However through history there have been numerous "marks" applied in other cities and towns. The goldsmith would want to be able to have the mark applied locally for reasons of security, and timeliness. Some would want to have a local mark so as to be associated with a particular aristocratic family, or rich client, or church, while others would want to be associated with the guild in London. Just imagine the 18th century - Travelling up to to London with a trunk full of silver with footpads and highwaymen would have been nigh unthinkable. Today we have swift secure carriers. See a list of Town Marks at the foot of this page. So the marks were not necessarily backed by guardians of the assay standards
Hallmarks or Assay Marks
The Hall is the place where the items are tested. The Assay Mark is the statement of the highest purity standard the goods exceeded when tested or "assayed". The UK laws allow no downside tolerance, so the metal must be at least ..., rather than is .... . The "Hallmark" is the minimum of three elements, which hall or assay office, the purity assay, and Sponsor's Mark who submitted the item. Additional marks may now include the date letter, optional standard marks such as the sterling lion, and commemorative marks, and convention marks which indicate common controls across certain European Countries.
Thomas's goods all comply with UK Hallmarking Regulations.
Palladium is now hallmarkable, the standard might be considered to offer potential for confusion as it is 950 so the outer form distinquishes between palladium and platinum, as does the weight palladium being much lighter.
Changes to UK Hallmarking - 1999
There have been some significant changes to UK Hallmarking, but they are unlikely to have much effect in the market place for some time.
Gold has had two new standards introduced, at and , these are primarily for manufacturers and investment managers, they are not associated with British Jewellery. The same can be said for Silver and Platinum.
Platinum has two other new standards to supplement the original at 950, these are and , these in the longer term may have an effect as this brings the UK into line with some Japanese products. Thomas's have bought a selection of 950 and 900 Platinum Earrings from Japan, which has the world's biggest market for Platinum Jewellery. This is due in early June 2006.
Silver has a new commercial standard, , this means that much jewellery and silverware which has previously be condemned as "Sub Standard" is now acceptable. This will bring into recognition European silver in the 800/835 grouping which will all be marked 800.
One piece of, in my opinion, of stupidity is the use of Silver permitted symbols. The Lion Passant (Rampant in Scotland) is the mark associated with Sterling Silver. While Britannia Silver had a distinctively different mark.
So watch out, on Silver after 1999 you must look at the purity as a numeral, as the symbols may confuse.
The Voluntary Additional Marks of HM Queen Elizabeth's Reign
These pictures of an assay office publication may start you off learning about international convention marks
Each Assay office is fiercely independent and a cost centre that must attract business, hence each office has a different website and different approaches. I hope these links help, and hope you'll return to Thomas's - Skipton soon.
Sheffield Assay Office http://www.assayoffice.co.uk/index.htm
Assay Office London operated by The Goldsmiths Company http://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/welcome.htm
Birmingham Assay Office http://www.theassayoffice.co.uk
Edinburgh Assay Office www.assayofficescotland.com
Avoid making your mind up too quickly. These are some links to help in your research.
India starts Hallmarking
Here are the expected marks of the Indian Hallmark, Firstly the logo of the Bureau of Indian Standards, then a finess mark 916 = 22ct Gold, then a mark applied by an assay centre. These will be supplimented with the sponsor mark and a year letter. Once agreed they application of a common Control mark may appear.
This Catspaw is the triple crown of Swedish Hallmarks
This lion passant bearing a sword and numbered with 750 the fineness for 18ct gold is a Netherlands hallmark.
This is the Platinum Parrot from Portugal
Will you forget the elephant of Austrian Hallmarks
The Boujet is the Dublin Assay Mark.
This is our third most visited page. If there is more you would like let me know.
http://www.assayoffice.co.uk/index.htm for the latest information.
Reading a list of towns in which goldsmiths and silversmiths hammered their trades you may note how many were associated with cathedral cities.
London was the principle centre nationally and for the south east, additionally marks are known from: Wessex and the south east of England: Salisbury, Dorchester, Guidford, Lewes, Sandwich, Sherbourne, Southampton, Warminster, Winchester. Exeter(1218-1700), Bristol, Barnstable, Bath, Bideford, Bridgwater, Bruton, Chard, Crewkerne ,Dunster, Honiton, Falmouth, Gloucester, Launceton, Penzance, Plymouth, Taunton, Truro and others unidentified in the South West of England.
Norwich, Bury St Edunds,Cambridge, Colchester, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, King's Lynn, Waveney Valley in East Anglia.
The Midlands is Birmingham, and also Coventry, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Chester was still operating until 1962, and marks are known for Liverpool, Manchester and Salford, Preston, Shrewsbury.
Over to Sheffield from 1773 and still operating, and York operating from about 1560 to 1856, Hull and then Leeds.
Further North - Newcastle, Gateshead and Carlisle.
Wales hardly features in Jackson's heavy tome, no assay office but possibly marks known for Carmarthen and Newport.
Scotland is well represented. Edinburgh from about 1633 and Glasgow which from 1681-1819, and thereafter glasgow mark was applied in Edinburgh. Then Aberdeen, Banff, Arbroath,Ayr,Ballater, the edinburgh neighbor- Canongate, Cupar, Dumphries, Dundee, Elgin, Ellon in Buchan, Fochabers, Forres, Greenock, Inverness, Keith, Leith, Montrose, Nairn,Paisley, Perth, Peterhead, St Andrews, Stonehaven, Tain and Wick.
I think it fair to let my Irish Colleagues cover Dublin which is wonderfully rich in detail, even to stating how many pounds of silver were marked a year. Sometimes more than 3 tons!!
The records for the other offices are always in ounces and now grams.
The Skipton Millennium Walk is another Thomas's Services to the community page
Thoughtfully chosen by us ... and by you
Many jewellery items are held in single units please telephone to check availability and alternatives.
Thomas's 36 Sheep Street, Skipton. North Yorkshire. United Kingdom. BD23 1HY
Tel: 0044 (0) 1756 795353 Fax: (0044) ( 0) 1756 700090 Email firstname.lastname@example.org