Makers Marks – Sponsors Marks – Trade Marks – Associations Marks on precious metals has a long tradition in Australia, mainly due to our British past and the centuries old British tradition of hallmarking, (identification through the use of stamps and/or other marks in the precious metal during the crafting process). the British Hallmarking system, was a well established practise even at the foundation of our country back in the roaring 1700′s.
Most Marks found on Australian Jewellery and Silverware date from the early 1800′s. The 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 New South Wales along with the lion rampant or leopards head or DB alongside an anchor symbol.
The gold and silversmiths in the colonial period were not subject to the rigours of an Assay Office nor were they duty bound to uphold the regulations of the British Hallmarking Acts, these hallmarks found on colonial period precious metals were a voluntary guarantee from the manufacturer that the article was genuine.
The Royal Mint opened it’s Sydney Office in 1855 and the Melbourne Office in 1872. At this time specified gold coinage became readily available. By the 1870′s Melbourne merchants were pressing for the introduction of a hallmarking system. The concentration of gold and silversmiths in Victoria lead to the first Industry Association, namely – The Manufacturing Jewellers Association of Victoria founded in 1899.
This Association applied three guarantee marks to it’s work, the first mark identified the manufacturer, the second mark was a quality mark in carats and the third mark was a device guaranteeing the quality of material. The third device was typically an Australian Symbol significant for it’s time ;
- 9 ct ‘Sheaf of Wheat’
- 12 ct ‘Pick and Shovel’
- 15 ct ‘Fleece’ (suspended sheep)
- 18 ct ‘Sailing Ship
Unfortunately due to World War I and the attrition of workshops the Association faded during the 1920′s. In 1910 the Manufacturing Jewellers Association of New South Wales was formed and significantly, became the Gold And Silversmiths Association of New South Wales in 1924. The New South Wales distinctive device was markedly different to the Victorian previously used, the metal standards of 9 – 15 and 18 ct gold were accompanied by a ‘Kookaburra’ and ‘Silver 925′ was accompanied by a ‘Wren’.
In 1916 the Sydney Hallmark Company was registered, retail jewellers were the major protagonists for the formation of the company. At the 1920 Brisbane Conference of the Federated Jewellers Association the principal of the Hallmark was adopted unanimously. The following marks were adopted as standards on gold articles :
- For gold articles the symbol was a ‘Kookaburra’. With this stamp accompanied by marks indicating gold standard in carats and parts per thousand.
- For silver articles the symbol was a ‘Wren’. With metal quality in parts per thousand.
The unanimous decision meant that all registered maker’s marks 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
- Carats/parts per thousand
- Date letter
The date letter commenced with ‘A’ for 1923 and to distinguish the state of origin the Kookaburra and Wren would be a perfect oblong for New South Wales, the top right corner removed for Victoria, the top left corner removed for South Australia and bottom left corner removed for Queensland.
With the coming of the Second World War and due to a lack of support the Hallmark Company discontinued operations in 1940. It’s effective period of operation was from 1922 until it’s demise in 1940. The Federated Retail Jewellers Association acquired the rights to the Marks and in 1964 the Company Marks were removed from the Commonwealth Register.
In 1988 a group of Gold and Silversmiths formed the Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia. It’s principal aim is to establish a system of registering Makers Marks, identifying an articles 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, jewellers, designers and artisans who want their individually – designed and handcrafted pieces to be acknowledged for what they are.
The Guild System identifies :
- The Maker
- The metal purity
- The Australian origin
- The date of manufacture
The Guild is currently in it’s twentieth year of operation making it the longest running organised system of voluntary ‘Hallmarking’ in Australia. In line with the traditions, Guild members place their Makers Mark first, then the metal purity mark, which is expressed as parts per thousand and has the elemental substance shown as a pictogram border and which complies with the Standards Australia regulations, the third mark is the Guild symbol, which is a Kangaroo head set in a square on its diagonal pictogram border, the final stamp is the Date Mark which follows the convention of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths UK. the Date Mark also incorporates the current UK script letter in the Australian Guilds distinctive square on its diagonal border.
In line with the UK convention the Date Letter changes on the first of January each year and by agreement the four distinctive stamps appearing on Australian Guild members works are referred to ‘Guild Marking’ and not hallmarking, as our system is not administered by a Hall.
For more information please go to www.gsga.org.au
ESKAE jeweller is a fellow member of the Guild and you will be able to see us on the Guild website. Our member no. is 90, so if you want to look us up that will make it easier. It is a great information site and something that should be encouraged in Australia as a national system of identifying Australian made and quality Australian goods.
ALL jewellery at Eskae conforms to and is marked according to the Guild standards.
Your Private Jeweller
If you have any jewellery that you are struggling to find out the history on, I have a great network of jewellery valuers, who will be able to help you. If you do not find the information you need on the GSGA website I would be happy to get one of my trusted valuers to have a look at the piece for you. To arrange a private consultation please email me at Sam@EskaeJeweller.com.au to arrange the most convenient time and place for you.