An excellent article written by Kevin Hitchins. Kevin is, as well as being a gold and silversmith, the President of The Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia.Australian Hallmarking a brief History
Makers Marks- Sponsors Marks-Trade Marks or Associations Marks on Precious metal has a long History in Australia due mainly to our Colonial British past and the centuries old tradition of British Hallmarking, which was a well established practice even at the foundation of our country back in the late 1700’s.
Most Marks found on Australian jewellery and silverware date from the early 1800’s and early Colonial smiths used either the master smiths initials or the full name often with devices that were replicas of The British Assay Offices- it is common to see articles made by Alexander Dick of Sydney Town, or David Barclay of Hobart Town, with A.D. or DICK NSW along with a lion rampant or leopards head, or DB along side an anchor symbol. The Gold and Silversmiths in the Australian colonies were not subject to the rigors of an assay office, nor were duty bound to uphold the regulations of the British Hallmarking Acts, rather, the pseudo-Hallmarks found on colonial precious metal wares were a voluntary guarantee by the manufacturer that the article was genuine. Gold items from this early 1800’s period, if quality stamped at all, would probably have been of 18ct or 22ct, corresponding to the English Standards, as the 18ct gold standard had been introduced in London in 1798, however from the 1850’s native gold was used in the colonies for much of the jewellery fashioned in the immediate gold rush period. This work was often Makers Marked but rarely quality stamped. In 1854 the lower standards of 9, 12, 15 carat were brought into use in Britain, primarily to allow the British manufactures to compete with the European and American makers that were making unregulated lower carat jewellery, particularly watch cases and fob chains.
The Royal Mint opened its Sydney office in 1855 and the Melbourne office in 1872, so specified gold coinage was readily available, and many old formulae for gold alloys relate to converting gold sovereigns or guineas to 9-15 or 18 carat alloys for jewellery. By the 1870’s Melbourne merchants were pressing for the introduction of a Hallmarking system, in fact, parliamentarian The Hon. J.G. Francis returned to England in 1874 to petition the British Government, unsuccessfully, for its introduction to colonial Victoria. (Sutherland 1888). Manufacturing of precious metal ware although initially starting in Sydney and Hobart, centered around Melbourne by the end of the 1800’s possibly due to the wealth caused by the gold rush and also due to the large amount of commerce conducted through the port of Melbourne.
This concentration of gold and silversmiths in Victoria led to the first Industry Association, namely- The Manufacturing Jewellers Association of Victoria, which was founded in 1889, this association applied three guarantee marks to its work, the first mark identified the manufacturer, and the second was a quality mark in carats and the third was a device guaranteeing the quality of material and workmanship. The device was an Australian symbol significant for its time — 9ct ‘Sheaf of wheat’- 12ct ‘Pick and shovel’- 15ct ‘Fleece’ (suspended sheep) - and 18ct ‘sailing ship’. One of the publications of this association dated December 16th 1903 shows seven members, and by the beginning of World War 1 there were 26 registered Makers, in 1920 the 12carat standard was dropped, and due to the attrition of workshops caused by the war the association faded during the 1920’s.
In 1910 The Manufacturing Jewellers Association of NSW was formed and significantly, became the Gold and Silversmiths Association of NSW in 1924, Sydney Manufacturers continued to use Makers Marks consisting of initials or full names, and the first instance of a registered trade mark, Robert Rollason’s — back to front ‘RR’ symbol. Their distinctive device to guarantee metal quality and NSW origin was markedly different to Victoria, the metal standards of 9ct,15ct and 18 carat gold were accompanied by a ‘Kookaburra’ and ‘silver 925 was accompanied by a ‘Wren’.
The early 1900’s not only saw the two major states form their own associations. An independent non-profit company was established for the purpose of testing assaying and stamping quality gold, silver and other metals and articles; in 1916 The Sydney Hall Mark Company was registered. Retail Jewellers were the major protagonists for the formation of the company and at the 1920 Brisbane Conference of the Federated Retail Jewellers’ Association the principal of the Hallmark was adopted unanimously. The following marks were adopted on gold articles; the symbol was a ‘Kookaburra’, with this stamp accompanied by marks indicating gold standard in carats and parts per thousand, and for silver articles the symbol was a ‘Wren’ with metal quality in parts per thousand. Punches for this Federated Hallmarking system were cut by W.J. Amor of Sydney. The registered Makers Mark and a year letter were to be stamped in all cases and in keeping with the British system the order of stamping was ; Makers Mark, Kookaburra, carat-Parts per Thousand-Date Letter. The Date letter commenced with ‘A’ for 1923 and to distinguish the state of origin the Kookaburra or Wren would be a perfect oblong for NSW, the top right corner removed for Victoria and the top left corner removed for SA and the bottom left corner removed for QLD. A brochure of 1922 shows the scale of charges for stamping articles, and records show that the Sydney office stamped 13,712 articles of gold in its first year and 1,061 articles of silver. The Melbourne office was to stamp less than 500 and the South Australian Office had no assayer available. Despite the efforts of the trade associations, many retail, wholesale, manufacturing companies, gold and silversmiths Australia wide acceptance of the “AUSTRALIAN HALL MARK” for gold and silver was not to be realized. The roaring ..20’s gave way to the great depression and then the Second World War and due to lack of support the Hall Mark Co. discontinued operations in 1940- its effective period of operation was from, 1922 until its demise in 1940 , a total of 18 years. The Federated Retail Jewellers Association acquired the rights to the Marks and in 1964 the company marks were removed from the Commonwealth register. Although many manufacturers and retailers instituted their own systems of marking and many adopted ‘Australiana’ devices and symbols the “Australian Hall Mark” was the only truly official system.
In the years since the end of World War 2, the Australian Jewellers Association attempted to introduce the Jewel Mark for its membership, which registered each sponsor or manufacturer by use of its distinctive device — a stylized diamond crystal and a numerical reference to each member, along with the metal purity mark. Despite a well organized plan, the system failed due to a lack of support from its membership.
In 1988 a group of Gold and Silversmiths formed The Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia, its principle aim was to establish a system of registering Makers Marks, identifying an article as Australian made and of stated metal quality, with the provision for identification of year of manufacture. The Guild attracts a membership of dedicated gold and silversmiths, jewelers, designers and artisans who want their individually- designed and hand crafted pieces to be acknowledged for what they are- unique, beautiful examples of hand raised hollowware and plate, jewellery and articles made form precious metal.
The Guild system identifies, the Maker, the Metal purity, the Australian origin and the Date of manufacture and is in its 20th year of operation making it the longest running attempt at voluntary ‘Hall marking” in Australia. In line with tradition Guild members Place their Makers Mark first, which is a distinctive device usually a design showing their initials or it may be a sign or symbol, second is the metal purity mark, which is expressed in part per thousand — millesimal system, and has the elemental substance shown as a pictogram boarder and complies with Standards Australia regulations, the third mark is the Guild symbol- a Kangaroo head set in a square on its diagonal pictogram boarder, the final stamp is the Date Mark which follows the convention established by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths UK and incorporates the current UK script Letter in the Australian Guilds Distinctive square on its diagonal Boarder. In line with the UK convention the Date Letter changes on the first of January each year and by agreement the Four Stamps appearing on Gold and Silversmiths Guild work is referred to as GUILD MARKING and not Hall marking as the GSGA system is not administered by a Hall.
Kevin J J Hitchins
President- The Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australiahttp://www.gsga.org.au
Chair- Precious Metals Committee- Standards Australiahttp://www.saiglobal.com
Bibliography: Australian Jewellers, Gold and Silversmiths — Makers Marks By Kenneth Cavill, Graham Cocks & Jack Grace 1992Article reproduced by kind permission of Kevin Hitchinshttp://i46.tinypic.com/2vac9k2.jpg
Gold & Silversmiths Guild of Australia