Official Hallmarking in Jamaica
Jamaica silver is amongst the least seen of British colonial silver, I've never handled a piece, but the 'Alligator's Head' mark that was in use on the island is well documented. I always imagined that the system of control that would have been used was that of a self-governing type, as was the case in other colonies, and I had not realised until recently that hallmarking in Jamaica was ever official.
The original laws setting the standards and enforcing the marking of silver and gold where put in place during the reign of Charles II in 1681. Those found guilty of breaking these laws lost their ears and endured a period in the pillory (Hard, but fair!). The pillory, often depicted these days as a target for the throwers of rotten vegetables, was in fact a place where many departed this life, for rather than soft tomatoes, such items as rocks and stones were the likely missiles that were used by an often bloodthirsty mob.
The laws relating to hallmarking in Jamaica are shown below:
An act for the assaying of gold and silver wares, and bullion.
2nd July, 1747.
I. Whereas by an act of the governor, council, and assembly of this island entitled, An act for ascertaining the value of foreign coins, and establishing interest, it is, amongst other things, thereby enacted and ordained, That no goldsmith, or worker in gold and silver, within this island, from and after the first day of August, one thousand six hundred and eighty-one, should work, sell, exchange, or cause to be wrought, sold, or exchanged, any plate, or other goldsmiths wares of gold, less in fineness than twenty-two carats; and that, from the time aforesaid, no goldsmith, or worker in gold or silver, should make, sell, or exchange, in any place within this island, any plate, or goldsmiths wares of silver, less in fineness than that of eleven ounces two pennyweight; and that no goldsmith, or worker in gold and silver, should presume to put to sale, exchange, or sell, any plate of goldsmiths work of gold or silver, before he hath set his own mark to so much thereof as may conveniently bear the same upon pain of forfeiting the value of the thing so sold or exchanged ; that whatsoever goldsmith, of worker in gold or silver, as aforesaid, from and after the said first day of August, should presume to sell or exchange any gold or silver wares of less fineness than aforesaid, for every such first offence should forfeit treble the value of the said wares so sold or exchanged ; one half whereof to our sovereign lord the king, his heirs and successors, for and towards the support of the government of this island, and the contingent charges thereof, and the other half to the party aggrieved, to be recovered in manner and form aforesaid ; and that whosoever should offend the second time, and thereof be convicted, should stand in the pillory for the space of one hour, and lose his ears, for the same : And whereas notwithstanding the said in part recited act. it is notorious that most, if not all, the gold and silver wares made and sold in this island are composed of base metals, and are greatly inferior to the equality and goodness directed and required by the said recited law, to the great wrong and injury of the buyer.
In order, therefore, to put an end to so notorious imposition on your majesty's subjects in this island, and to compel and oblige the several workers of gold and silverwares in this island to comply with the said in part recited act, in working up such gold and silver of such fineness and quality as is directed by the said recited act, may it please your majesty that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the governor, council, and assembly, of this, your majesty's island of Jamaica, and is hereby enacted by the authority of the fame, That, from and after the first day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty-seven, it shall and may be lawful for the governor and commander in chief of this your majesty's island of Jamaica, and the governor and commander in chief for the time being, by warrant under his hand and seal, from time to time, to nominate and appoint one or more assay-masters for the trying and assaying all gold and silver wares made in this island, in all or any, or either, of the three towns of St. Jago de la Vega, Kingston and Port-Royal; or in such other places as, from time to time, the governor or commander in chief of this island for the time being shall think necessary and convenient.
II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that every goldsmith, or worker in gold and silver, before he or they shall be allowed to sell, expose to sale, or exchange, any gold or silver wares whatsoever, except as herein after is excepted, shall enter his and their name and place of abode, and mark, in the assay-office, nearest to his and their habitation, under the penalty of ten pounds and shall be, and they are hereby, obliged to carry all such gold and silver wares to one of the aforesaid assay-masters, to be tried in the like manner as gold and silver wares are tried and assayed in Great Britain.
And if, upon such assay, the said gold or silver wares shall be found worse than the standard aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the said assay-master, and he is hereby directed and required, to break and deface the said gold and silver wares, so that they may be not disposed of; but if, upon such assay, the said gold and silver wares shall appear to be of the fineness and quality above mentioned, the said, assay-master shall, and he is hereby obliged to, mark the said gold and silver wares with the stamp or mark of an alligator's head, and the initial letters of his own name, to so much thereof of the said wares as will conveniently bear the same.
III. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that it shall and may be lawful to and for the said assay-master and assay-masters to ask, demand, and receive, of and from every goldsmith, or worker in gold and silver, or any other person for whom any assay mall be made, for every gold assay twelve shillings and sixpence, and for every silver assay seven shillings and sixpence, provided always, that from the several small silver wares and trinkets following, brought at one and the fame time to be assayed, viz. From every twelve table-spoons, one assay only shall be made ; from every twenty-four teaspoons, four strainers, and four pair of tongs, one assay only ; from every twelve pair of buckles, one assay only ; from every twenty-four pair of sleeve-buttons, one assay only ; from twenty-four coat and other buttons, one assay only; from every twenty-four finger-rings or ear-rings, one assay only ; and from every parcel of other trinkets, or small pieces of silver wares, or plate of any sort, the whole parcel not exceeding six ounces, one assay only ; and from every parcel of gold trinkets, or small wares in gold of any sort, the whole parcel not exceeding two ounces, one assay only. All which said assays to be made by scraping a proportion from every piece, to make up the. weight to be assayed be made.
IV. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the gold or silver that shall be made use of for such assays, had or made by virtue of this act, shall be returned to the proprietor of the gold or silver from whence the same was taken : And, if any goldsmith, or other worker in gold and silver, or any other person so carrying any gold or silver wares to be assayed, shall not be satisfied with any assay thereof, to be made as aforesaid, but that still insist that such wares so assayed are of the standard above mentioned, the said gold and silver wares shall not be broken or defaced, but be-immediately deposited in the hands of some, magistrate of the precinct, where, the said assay shall be made; and shall, in order, to determine the said dispute, be re-assayed before all or any other the assay-masters then in this island, who are hereby obliged to attend, on notice given by the party requiring the said re-assay, and. also before one of, his majesty's justices, of the peace, and any disinterested master goldsmiths or silversmiths that will be present at the laid re-assay, and in the presence of the party, if he will be present at the same, at a particular time to be appointed by the said justice of the peace, against a piece of old sterling plate with the goldsmiths hall mark upon it, then also to be assayed at the fame time ; from which, re-assay there shall be no appeal.
V. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that upon every such re-assay so to be made as aforesaid, the said assay-master or assay-masters so to be called in as aforesaid, and the said gold or silversmiths present at the said re-assay, shall,on their affidavits in writing, to be sworn to before, the said justice, declare, the quality and fineness of the said gold or silver wares re-assayed as aforesaid ; and thereupon-the said justice shall, certify under his hand and seal whether the same be of standard or not, and deliver such certificate to the party who is entitled to the benefit of the same : And if it shall be certified, that the said gold or silver wares are of the standard aforesaid, or of equal fineness with the said old sterling plate, at the same time to be assayed as aforesaid, the said assay-master, by whom the first assay had been made, shall forthwith mark the said gold or silver wares with the said mark of an alligator's head, and shall not be allowed any fee or reward for the said assay or re-assay, or for marking the said gold or silver wares, but shall bear the charge of the said assay and re-assay, and also pay one pound three shillings and nine pence to each assay-master that shall be present, and shall have travelled out of the parish where he or they reside, for his and their travelling charges and expenses on that occasion, all which said charges shall be likewise paid by the party requiring the said re-assay, in case the said wares shall be found to be worse than standard, and shall, in either case, be levied by warrant under the hand and seal of any one justice of the peace, by distress and sale, on the goods and chattels of the said party refusing to pay the same; And in case any person, who shall purchase any gold or silver wares from any goldsmith or silversmith with the mark aforesaid, shall be doubtful whether the same is of the standard aforesaid or not, such purchaser shall be at liberty to demand a re-assay thereof, to be made in manner aforesaid; and in case any fraud or imposition shall appear to have been made by the assay-master by whom the first assay was made, such assay-master shall, for every offence, forfeit the sum of twenty pounds to the party aggrieved ; to be recovered in the supreme court of judicature of this island, by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information.
VI. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the said assay-masters, and each and every of them, shall, under the penalty of twenty pounds, take the following oath before the chief justice of this island, before he or they presume to make any assay of the said gold and silver wares ; viz.
"I, A - B. do swear, that I will, to the best of my Skill and judgements faithfully perform the office of assay-master, and make true assay of all gold and silver brought to me to be essayed, end give a true report of the fineness thereof; and that I will not break or deface any gold and silver which stall be by me assayed, in case the same shall be of the quality and goodness equal to the standard appointed by an act of the governor, councils and assembly of this island, entitled, " An act for ascertaining the value of foreign coin, and establishing interest " and that I will not make any undue profit or advantage of or by my said office, nor take any greater or fitter fees than what are appointed by law. So help me God";
which oath the chief justice of this island for the time being is hereby directed and required to administer, and to give a certificate under his hand, that such assay-master, so appointed as aforesaid, hath appeared before him, and taken the said oath.
VII. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any goldsmith, or worker in gold and silver, or any other person whatsoever, from and after the said first day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty-seven, shall sell, expose to sale, or exchange, any gold or silver wares in this island (jewellers wares, and such small trinkets as cannot bear the touch, only excepted) before the same hath been
assayed, and hath received the marks aforesaid, by one of the said assay-masters duly appointed as aforesaid, such person or persons so offending, shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of twenty pounds.
VIII. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that each of the said assay-masters, so appointed as aforesaid, shall keep a public work-house in the town or parish for which they shall be appointed expressly by their said Warrant, and in no other town or place ; and provide themselves with proper furnaces, tools, and utensils, for the assaying and marking all gold and silver brought to him or them to be assayed; and give due attendance at the said workhouse every Tuesday and Friday in every week, and faithfully enter all and every the several pieces of gold and silver they shall assay, with the weight and fineness of the same, in a fair book, to be open to the inspection to all persons requiring the same, without fee or reward. And it shall and may be lawful to and for the governor and commander in chief of this island, at his and their will and pleasure, to supersede any warrant or warrants, appointment or appointments, by him or them given, or to be given or made, of or to any or either of the assay-masters; and, upon every such supersedeas, such assay-master shall forthwith destroy, or deliver over to some other assay-master, all and every the standard marks herein before mentioned, which he shall have or be possessed of, under the penalty of fifty pounds; and shall be, and he is hereby rendered from thenceforth, incapable of acting as an assay-master, unless he shall receiver another warrant for that purpose.
IX. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that it shall be lawful for the said assay-master or assay-masters, to make assay of all gold and silver may assay in bullion that shall be brought him or them to be assayed, and to demand and receive the aforesaid rates for each assay thereof; and the said assay-master or assay-masters shall, and he and they is and are hereby directed and required, under the penalty of ten pounds, to put the initial letters of his or their own name and names, and a plain mark, upon the said bullion, signifying the true quality and fineness of the fame, before he or they shall suffer it to go out of his or their custody or possession, in order that the value of such bullion may appear to all persons unto whom it may be offered for sale, provided always, that nothing in this act mentioned shall extend, or be construed to extend, to debar or restrain any person or persons whatsoever from selling, and exposing to sale, any plate or goldsmiths wares of gold or silver, that has the standard mark of Great Britain or Ireland, in like manner as this act had not been made ; anything herein before contained to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding.
X. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any person or persons, other than the said assay-masters, shall presume to mark any gold or silver wares with the alligator's head, or shall counterfeit the marks of sterling plate, such person or persons, and his and their accomplices, being thereof convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, without the benefit of the clergy.
XI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all and every the fines, forfeitures, and penalties, mentioned in this act, and not directed how to be recovered and applied, shall be recovered in the supreme court or judicature of this island ; one moiety whereof shall be to our sovereign lord the king, his heirs and successors, for and towards the support of the government of this island, and the contingent charges thereof, and the other moiety to the informer, or him or them that shall sue for the same.
XII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that this act shall continue and be in force for the term of three years from the passing thereof, and from thence to the end of the next session of assembly, and no longer. Providing always, That nothing in this act herein before mentioned shall be in force until such time as one assay-master, at least, shall be appointed ; and shall continue in full force and effect no longer than one such assay-master, at the least, shall continue in the actual exercise of the said office ; and, for such part of the said term of three years as there shall be no assay-master, this act, and every thing therein contained, shall be suspended ; and, upon the appointment of any other assay-master within the said term of three years, every thing herein contained shall be revived.
An addition was made under 28 Geo II VIII:
The above Act revived and made perpetual.
All species of plate brought to be assayed and marked must, as near as maybe, have all the pieces soldered or joined together and no plate is to have more solder than is necessary.
Does any member have an example of Jamaican silver of this period that they can post an example of?