Sheffield Assay Office
In an age where consumer protection and rights are a key concern for most present-day manufacturers it is fascinating to note that the hallmark is, in fact, one of the oldest forms of consumer protection that exists. The history of the hallmark dates back as far as 1300.
We offer a range of additional analytical services from metal and mineral analysis, to mercury screening and environmental testing. Sheffield Assay Office was the first UK Assay Office to be awarded UKAS accreditation and is proud to have retained that accreditation for 32 years.
As the number of lab-grown diamonds in the market continues to soar, we recognised an urgent need for retailers, and consumers alike, to have access to a fully independent, specialist service that can accurately identify the presence of natural or lab-grown/synthetic diamonds.
HISTORY INTEGRITY INNOVATION
There has been an Assay Office in Sheffield since 1773, when local silversmiths successfully petitioned Parliament for the right to assay silver in Sheffield.
To 'assay' means to test and assess the precious metal content of an item.
It is impossible to tell the precious metal content of an item just by looking at it. Gold, silver and platinum are too soft to use alone for making jewellery, cutlery and other goods. They need to be alloyed with other, baser (and cheaper) metals for manufacturing. To protect the consumer, we test articles to make sure that too much base metal has not been used. At the same time, we ensure the manufacturer's peace of mind by providing an independent assessment of quality and content.
The 1773 Act of Parliament appointed 30 local men as 'Guardians of the Standard of Wrought Plate in the Town of Sheffield' to supervise the work of the Office.
Even as early as 1773, Sheffield already had an established tradition of fine silverware production so it was interesting, but entirely appropriate, that the number of Guardians who were also silversmiths was restricted to just ten to ensure that the Office offered an independent and impartial service - and was run for the benefit of the consumer rather than the manufacturer. After all, the hallmark is the oldest form of consumer protection that exists.
So, almost two and a half centuries ago and right at the start of its long and fascinating history, The Sheffield Assay Office put a marker down for independence and integrity. In those early days, most of the assay business came from within a 20 mile radius and precious items were literally presented 'over the counter' to be assayed.
Today, The Sheffield Assay Office attracts customers from all over the world and the business has evolved to meet the demands of society and industry. Jewellery and items of precious metal are still assayed in their millions each year and bear the distinctive Sheffield 'Town' mark, but Sheffield Assay office now has a world-wide reputation in other arenas too, particularly in cutting-edge analytical services.