History and role
The Company was established as a
guild for the
goldsmith trade, and over time became responsible for
jewellers too. Only those clothed with the livery (
liverymen) of the Company were licensed to trade such precious commodities within the bounds of the City. Whilst this arrangement maintained standards, it also became restrictive in an ever increasing global market.
The word hallmarking derives from the fact that
precious metals were officially inspected and marked at
Goldsmiths' Hall, the
HQ. Today, the Company is one of the few Livery Companies still to play a formal role in its ancient trade. Until the late 20th-century, the Company retained paramount responsibility for
silver, but successive parliamentary legislation has devolved much authority to Government departments.
Nonetheless, the Goldsmiths' Company oversees the
Assay Office, where objects made of precious metals are tested for purity, and then marked with an official
symbol should they pass the necessary tests. At the
Trial of the Pyx, the Goldsmiths' Company is also responsible for checking the validity of