On Monday I was fortunate enough to be given a tour of the London Assay Office hosted by Mr David Merry. I have known “Dave” as I call him for many years as he is currently the longest serving member of staff.
Dave took us around the Goldsmith Hall Livery areas first, including the Court Room where the Court of Assistants meet (Board of Directors) and also the main function rooms. Then into the actual Assay Office starting where the packets are unpacked, counted, listed and details entered onto the computer. They are then placed into larger plastic containers for movement around the various departments. The original packaging is reused when the items are completed and ready for return to the customer.
The scraping process (drawing) is not the most frequently used method any longer. Instead most items are now x-rayed to check the metal composition. The result gives a list of the all metals the item contains and the percentage of each metal. These days, in the case of standard 925 sterling silver, the contents would be just silver and copper. Going back 100 years or so it would contain other metals including Gold and Zinc.
Modern gold alloys might contain more than two elements.
Laser marking: The only part of this process of which I was unaware is that marks burnt into the surface of silver do not have to be black. For if the article is given a last pass on low power the marks will change from black to bright. This recent development was I understand invented by Sheila, who heads the laser marking department.
The UK Hallmarking procedure is one of the best and earliest examples of consumer protection. Initially started in Europe it was perfected and refined in England.
Many thanks to Dave Merry and the Assay Office staff for an interesting and informative experience.
Apparently there is a service provided which allows customers to watch their own article being tested and hallmarked. This is arranged by the manufacturer, in this case JA Campbell. Please contact John on 01277 217829 for further details.