Press release

Touchstone Award for trading standards goes to Birmingham City Council

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Touchstone Award, sponsored by the British Hallmarking Council (BHC), is a national award for trading standards in hallmarking.

The Chairman of the BHC’s Education and Enforcement Committee, Mike Drewry, presented the Touchstone Award at the annual conference of the Trading Standards Institute in June. The winners, Birmingham City Council, attended another presentation at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London on Thursday 22 November 2012.

The event included the re-presentation of the Touchstone Award, by Christopher Jewitt, Chairman of the BHC, a full day’s hallmarking training session at the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office and a prestigious award winners’ luncheon at the hall. At this event we also launched the Touchstone Award for 2013 and said a fond farewell to Chairman of the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office Management Committee, Sir Jerry Wiggin, who will shortly be replaced by silversmith Grant Macdonald.

The winning entry was received on behalf of Birmingham City Council by Head of Trading Standards, Sajeela Naseer. It featured an exercise managed by Trading Standards officer, Gary Singh, who has developed an effective long-term enforcement project targeting the significant Asian jewellery community in Birmingham, where un-hallmarked and under-carated goods are commonly found. Previous enforcement activity has driven a significant improvement in the level of compliance.

The UK has one of the most rigorous and long-established hallmarking regimes in the world which provides clear benefits to UK consumers and jewellers. With precious metal prices at an all-time high, the hallmark is more important than ever and the BHC is keen to encourage Trading Standards Authorities to continue to enforce this important legislation.

BHC member, Robert Grice, who has driven the Touchstone Award from inception to presentation commented, “Birmingham’s entry was first class. It detailed a well-planned, long term exercise which is being regularly monitored to measure its success.” Two further authorities, Wandsworth Council and the London Borough of Croydon, were Highly Commended for their entries.

Birmingham City Council is the first to receive this award, which consists of a silver plate bearing the inscription ‘The British Hallmarking Council, Touchstone Award, sponsored by the Assay Offices of the UK for the most innovative initiative in relation to hallmarking’. The 4 UK Assay Offices, London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh, all funded the initiative. The name of the local authority which won the award was engraved, together with the year and Diamond Jubilee mark, on the plate.

The Touchstone Award is sponsored by the 4 UK Assay Offices and is presented annually to the Trading Standards Department, or individuals within the Trading Standards Service, for the most innovative initiative undertaken in relation to hallmarking, which could include an enforcement activity, an educational activity, an information activity or a published article.

Sales of precious metal articles occur every day so it is important to know that these items are in fact precious metal. The Touchstone Award encourages entrants to express what single course of action they would take to improve hallmarking in the UK.

Notes to editors

A hallmark consists of a series of marks applied to articles of the precious metals platinum, gold, palladium and silver and means the article has been independently tested to guarantee that it conforms to all legal standards of purity (fineness). A complete hallmark consists of three compulsory punch marks: a sponsor’s (or maker’s/ manufacturer’s name) mark, a metal and fineness (purity) mark and an Assay Office mark. A number of voluntary marks are often applied including, a date mark and a traditional fineness mark. 2012 also saw a voluntary mark celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

In the UK, the Hallmarking Act of 1973 and subsequent amendments makes it an offence to describe gold, silver, platinum and palladium an item which is not hallmarked as appropriate or exempt from hallmarking. The first UK Assay Office was based at Goldsmiths’ Hall, founded around 1300. The origin of the term “hallmarking” means “marked in Goldsmiths’ Hall”. Since that time, there have been ten Assay Offices in the UK but now there are four remaining offices: the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office in London (whose mark is the leopard’s head), the Sheffield Assay Office (rose), the Birmingham Assay Office (anchor) and the Edinburgh Assay Office (castle).

Goldsmiths’ Hall is positioned at the junction of Foster Lane and Gresham Street, north east of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Hall, opened in 1835, is one of London’s hidden treasures. It is the third hall on this site, the Goldsmiths’ Company and London Assay Office being located here since the 1300s. Little is known of the first Hall but the second was erected in 1634-6 and restored after the Great Fire of 1666. It lasted for almost two centuries, but was eventually demolished in the late 1820s.

The present Hall, by Philip Hardwick, remains much as he designed it, although there have been changes to the decorative schemes and the use of rooms. The Hall narrowly escaped complete destruction when in 1941 a bomb exploded inside the south-west corner. Faithfully restored on the exterior after the War and internally modified, it retains much of the charm of an urban palazzo. A major refurbishment which was completed in 1990 has further adapted this great building for the 21st century. The Hall is available for meetings, conferences, concerts, dinners and other functions.

For more information please contact Alison Byne:

The Goldsmiths Company Assay Office
Goldsmiths' Hall
Gutter Lane
London EC2V 8AQ

Tel: 020 7606 8971
Fax: 020 7814 9353

Email: alison.byne@assayofficelondon.co.uk
Web: www.assayofficelondon.co.uk