The History of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths

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The Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh is the oldest surviving consumer protection organisation in Scotland . . .

Goldsmiths have worked in Edinburgh since at least the 12th century. By the late 15th century there were enough of them to have formed their own Incorporation, or trade body. The Incorporation controlled all aspects of its members' work, including admission to the craft, but most importantly the assaying and marking of their work. These marks - called hallmarks, as they were actually struck in the Goldsmith's own hall - guaranteed that their customers were buying wares made of gold or silver of the agreed legal standard of fineness. The Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh is therefore the oldest surviving consumer protection organisation in the country!

Since 1457, the Deacon, or leader of the craft, assayed and marked the members' wares, but in 1681 a separate Assay Master was appointed to oversee this task. The Incorporation's importance in the life of the city and country was confirmed in 1687 when King James VII granted it a Royal Charter.

Edinburgh's Assay Office was made officially responsible in 1784 for assaying and marking the work of goldsmiths and silversmiths throughout Scotland. Between 1819 and 1964 a second assay office operated in Glasgow, but since that date, the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of Edinburgh have continued to operate Scotland's only Assay Office.

Today we are one of the fourteen Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh and a member of The Convenery of Trades of Edinburgh www.edinburgh-trades.org

For more information about the history of the Incorporation, please contact the Incorporation Archivist.