56 years ago today, two days before his sixteenth birthday, Grant Macdonald travelled into the City of London to register his own sponsor mark, GGM, at the London Assay Office. The mark has been stamped, or more recently lasered, onto all his creations in silver and gold ever since so that in years to come anyone looking at the piece of work will know that it was made by Grant Macdonald. The other marks that form the hallmark denote the material, the fineness, the leopard’s head identifies that it has been made in London and the letter shows the year.
The earliest attempt at regulating the Silversmithing, Goldsmithing and Jewellery trade was in 1238, by Henry III. He commanded the Mayor and Aldermen if the City of London to choose six of the more discreet goldsmiths of the City to superintend the craft. All this was to designed and put in place so that frauds could not be committed and the trade regulated.
In 1300 Edward I tried again to prevents fraud in the trade being committed by goldsmiths passing a statute for this purpose:
‘no goldsmith… shall from henceforth make or cause to be made any manner of vessel, jewel or any other thing of gold or silver except it be of the true alloy and that no manner of vessel of silver depart out of the hands of the workers, until further, that it be marked with the leopard’s head’.
Statute of Edward I in 1300
The Goldsmiths’ Company gained its Royal Charter in 1327, although it had been recognised by King Edward I as early as 1300, when he passed a statute requiring that gold and silver of a defined standard be marked with a leopard’s head. This was supposedly taken from the royal arms and later known as the King’s mark. The Goldsmiths’ Company was asked to supervise this – Britain’s first marking system to guarantee the fineness of precious metal.
In 1478 the Goldsmiths’ Company as we know it was formed and from this point onwards Goldsmiths’ Hall became the home of a permanent assay office, it is probably from this that the term ‘hallmark’ originates.