Birmingham Assay Office

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Birmingham Assay Office
Birmingham Assay Office - Newhall Street - Birmingham - 2005-10-13.jpg
General information
Type Assay Office
Architectural style Victorian
Address Newhall Street
Town or city Birmingham
Country England
Coordinates 52°29′1.77″N 1°54′22.38″W / 52.4838250°N 1.9062167°W / 52.4838250; -1.9062167Coordinates: 52°29′1.77″N 1°54′22.38″W / 52.4838250°N 1.9062167°W / 52.4838250; -1.9062167
Completed 1877
Owner TCN UK
Design and construction
Architect Andrew Phipson

The Birmingham Assay Office is one of the four remaining assay offices in the United Kingdom.

The development of a silver industry in 18th century Birmingham was hampered by the legal requirement that items of solid silver be assayed, and the nearest Assay Offices were in Chester and London.[1] Matthew Boulton and Birmingham's other great industrialists joined forces with silversmiths of Sheffield to petition Parliament for the establishment of Assay Offices in their respective cities. In spite of determined opposition by London silversmiths, an Act of Parliament was passed in March 1773, just one month after the original petition was presented to Parliament, to allow Birmingham and Sheffield the right to assay silver.[1] The Birmingham Assay Office opened on 31 August 1773 and initially operated from three rooms in the King's Head Inn on New Street employing only four staff and was only operating on a Tuesday. The first customer on that day was Matthew Boulton.[2]

The assay office marks for London, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Edinburgh. The second from the left shows the anchor for Birmingham.

The hallmark of the Birmingham Assay Office is the Anchor, and that of the Sheffield Assay Office was the Crown. A story about the origins of this hallmark goes that meetings prior to the inauguration of both Birmingham and Sheffield Assay Offices in 1773 were held at a public house called the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand, London. It is rumoured that the choice of symbol was made on the toss of a coin which resulted in Birmingham winning the Anchor and Sheffield with the Crown (which has now been changed to a rose).[2]

Location[edit]

The Birmingham Assay Office moved from the pub in 1815 to its own offices at Little Cannon Street and then moved to its current home on Newhall Street in the Jewellery Quarter in 1877, and is now the largest Assay Office in Europe, hallmarking 13 million articles in 2003. It also claims to be the largest in the world.[2]

The Assay Office is planning to move to a new building on a site on Icknield Street in the Jewellery Quarter in 2014 (52°29′11″N 1°55′03″W / 52.4865°N 1.9175°W / 52.4865; -1.9175).[3]

Services provided by the office include nickel testing, metal analysis, plating thickness determination, bullion certification, consultancy and gem certification. Platinum was brought within hallmarking regulations in 1975.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Samuel Timmins; Committee on Local Industries (1967). Birmingham and the Midland Hardware District. Routledge. pp. 499–509. ISBN 0-7146-1147-6. 
  2. ^ a b c "Birmingham Assay Office". Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  3. ^ "The New Building". Assay Office website. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  • All About Antique Silver with International Hallmarks, 2nd printing (2007), Diana Sanders Cinamon, AAA Publishing, San Bernardino, CA.

External links[edit]