There is evidence of goldsmiths working in Edinburgh as early as the twelfth century, coining for King David I of Scotland (who reigned from 1124 to 1153) and working for the mint.
The first evidence of an Edinburgh man who is specifically called goldsmith ('aurifaber') rather than mint worker ('monetarius') is Pagan the goldsmith in the reign of William The Lion (who reigned from 1165 to 1214).
In times of economic and political stability, goldsmiths in Edinburgh grew in numbers and wealth and by the late fifteenth century they had separated from the Incorporation of Hammermen and set up their own organisation in the city, the Incorporation of Goldsmiths.
In 1492 their Deacon is named as Patrick Forester, he was a member of the town council. Edinburgh was the only Scottish city in which the goldsmiths had their own trade Incorporation.
The practice of applying a hallmark to guarantee precious metal purity can be traced back to Edinburgh, as far as 1457/58 when the first surviving Act of Parliament was passed on the subject. As such, the Incorporation of Goldsmiths is the oldest consumer protection group in Scotland.
The three-towered castle is the ancient hallmark of the Edinburgh Assay Office, applied since 1485. It represents the quality, strength and durability of the nation and of her goldsmiths' work.
The Castle and Lion Rampant hallmarks are now highly regarded as a guarantee of quality and confidence. At an international level they are powerful marketing tools, particularly in Japan and the USA.
In 1681 the Incorporation appointed an Assay Master to oversee the process of testing and hallmarking. The first Assay Master was Mr John Borthwick. This is the same year that by a statute of the Privy Council, a letter of the alphabet was first used as to denote the year of hallmarking. The initials of the Assay Master were only replaced in 1759 when a thistle was used to denote sterling silver.
In 1687 James VII granted the Incorporation its Royal Charter.
Since the modern Hallmarking Act of 1973 (amended in 1999) all gold, platinum and silverwares (not exempted by the 1973 Act) must be assayed and hallmarked by an approved UK Assay Office.
Edinburgh Assay Office was the first UK Assay Office to introduce a finishing service for imported jewellery and to ensure that finished goods could be sampled and marked and still be returned in perfect order.
Edinburgh Assay Office won the much coveted Customer Service Award at the 1997 annual jewellery awards ceremony. The Edinburgh Assay Office remains the only Assay Office to have ever been awarded this accolade.
Technological developments in the creation and application of the hallmark were racing ahead faster than at any other time in history - from the latest non-contact laser marking to continued developments in traditional hand-marking techniques, for which there is still a high demand.
In the year 2000 Edinburgh Assay Office applied its first hallmarks by Laser. In 2001 Edinburgh Assay Office introduced non-destructive testing using x-ray fluorescent spectroscopy.
Edinburgh Assay Office introduced the world’s first online submission and tracking system for hallmarking. Through a secure website login customers are able to list items, create parcels for submission and print completed hallnotes with individual barcoding for each parcel.
Palladium is bright, white, tarnish-resistant metal. It was officially recognized as a precious metal for fine jewellery with the introduction of a compulsory UK hallmark from 1st January 2010 for all articles weighing over one gram.(Palladium had had a voluntary legally recognised UK hallmark since July 2009).
In May 2010, the Edinburgh Assay Office became the largest Assay Office in the UK for the first time in recent history.
In 2013, Edinburgh Assay Office launched Assay Assured, the world's first digital consumer protection trustmark specifically for online jewellery retailers.
In January 2015, Edinburgh Assay Office launched their award winning Hallmarking & Fulfilment service.
This service provides a cost-effecive logistics solution for jewellery importers, suppliers and online retailers.
The Edinburgh Assay Office has been acknowledged by its customers as the Assay Office of choice, winning UK industry awards for its customer service and the quality of its workmanship. We are proud of our long and distinguished history and our heritage as one of the oldest consumer protection systems in the world, but we remain committed to a process of continuous improvement.
I was once a customer of the Edinburgh Assay Office and I have purposely retained this perspective in order to steer the development of our service.
The Edinburgh Assay Office is an independent, privately funded business, owned by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh.
Developed by the The Incorporation of Goldsmiths, our Historical Database helps you to match an item with an Edinburgh hallmark to its maker. It contains over eight thousand biographies as well as numerous illustrations of makers' marks, covering the period from 1136 to the present day.
Incorporated under Royal Charter / VAT no GB2699355