Protecting the Consumer and Servicing
the Trade with Independence and Integrity

The Birmingham Assay Office has received a huge accolade, achieving a “Runner Up” position in the first “Best Midlands Brand” Awards, announced on Friday night.  The Awards marked the culmination of the first Birmingham Made Me Design Expo, an integral part of IDEA Birmingham, a massive collaboration spearheaded by Birmingham City University and sponsored by industry giants.   The Design Expo set out a platform for Midlands businesses and organisations small and large, to showcase the range of design and innovation expertise existing across the region and also its prominent cultural heritage. Nominations for the Best Midlands Brand Award included a wide range of businesses but the final shortlist  of ten was dominated by international household names: AGA,  Aston Martin, Cadbury, Jaguar, JCB, Marmite, Paul Smith, Poundland and The Royal Shakespeare Company. Video game software developers Codemasters, the loca  Ikon Gallery and The Birmingham Assay Office were also in contention. The shortlist was put to public vote and the top three companies were very close. In the final outcome it was AGA who were the outright winner with Codemasters and The Birmingham Assay Office as runners up. Kay Alexander, Chairman of The Birmingham Assay Office attended the Awards with Sales and Marketing Director, Marion Wilson and Marketing Manager, Penny Parkes. She said  “I am incredibly proud of what The Birmingham Assay Office has achieved. These awards acknowledge innovation, design and forward thinking and it is gratifying that people recognise The Birmingham Assay Office for these strengths as well as for hallmarking  and our wonderful history and heritage. “In the past decade our business has diversified far beyond its statutory duty of hallmarking, and has made significant investment in order to provide innovative services and state of the art testing equipment for metals, gemstones and jewellery whether it be precious or costume. Above all we have a fantastic team of staff whose expertise and commitment have earned us this Award and I am delighted that their efforts have been acknowledged.” [caption id="attachment_1235" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Michael Allchin, Assay Master"][/caption] Commenting on The Birmingham Assay Office’s success Michael Allchin, Chief Executive and Assay Master said: “Innovation, Independence and Integrity are what we have always been about and always will be. The Birmingham Assay Office has invested heavily in high tech equipment and the highly skilled experts to use it.  We would not have survived for over two centuries without continual innovation and in the current difficult trading conditions it is more important than ever.  We are delighted and honoured to have been recognized in this way.” NOMINATIONS Shortlist for Best Brand 2012 representing Birmingham - the Original Design City The Birmingham Assay Office AGA Aston Martin Cadbury Codemasters Ikon Gallery Jaguar JCB Marmite Paul Smith Poundland The Royal Shakespeare Company, RSC   The Birmingham Assay Office - Nomination The Birmingham Assay Office, now the largest Assay Office in the world, was established following Matthew Boulton's personal intervention in lobbying Parliament in 1773. At the time silversmithing was booming and manufacturers, including Boulton's Soho Manufactory, were having to send all items produced to Chester for hallmarking. Boulton, having teamed up with the Sheffield Cutlers, asserted the case for a new Assay office requiring an Act of Parliament. Staying at the 'Crown & Anchor' on the Strand, a coin was tossed, so the story goes, to determine that Birmingham -- miles from the sea - should adopt the 'Anchor' as its hallmark, with Sheffield taking the 'Crown'. The 1773 Act established the Birmingham Assay Office as self-supporting, making its revenues from charges on assaying and today six million articles of gold, silver or platinum are tested every year prior to be hallmarked. It has developed into an independent centre of quality assessment and expert opinion for precious and base metals, gemstones, fine and costume jewellery and fashion accessories employing around 140 people in the Jewellery Quarter, which reputedly accounts for up to 60% of UK jewellery output. A 'not for distributed profit' organisation, it has invested heavily in sophisticated equipment and highly trained staff to ensure that it remains a leader in its own field, recently becoming the first Assay Office in the world to receive Responsible Jewellery Council certification for meeting their ethical, human rights, social and environmental standards. THE BIRMINGHAM ASSAY OFFICE – OVERVIEW The Birmingham Assay Office has a long established reputation within the jewellery trade. Founded by an Act of Parliament in 1773, with a statutory duty to assay and hallmark precious metal articles, Birmingham is now the largest Assay Office in the UK. Through innovation and investment it has developed over the centuries into an independent centre of quality assessment and expert opinion for precious and base metals, gemstones, fine and costume jewellery and fashion accessories. The Birmingham Assay Office is the last surviving enterprise with which the Eighteenth century entrepreneur Matthew Boulton was involved. It has a rich and fascinating history and offers a living and vibrant  legacy to the ambitions of its founder.   The continued survival and successful growth of The Assay Office is dependent on four factors which have always been fundamental to its existence; independence, expertise, integrity and innovation. In the past decade The Birmingham Assay Office has expanded its services significantly, whilst remaining a champion of high quality standards for the precious metal, gemstone and fine and costume jewellery trade. Its’ services focus on fast, accurate analysis, expert opinion, and assurance that items are compliant with relevant legislation. A “not for distributed profit” organization, The Birmingham Assay has invested heavily and courageously in sophisticated  equipment and highly trained staff to ensure that each of its five operating divisions is a leader in its own field. Hallmarking Five million articles of gold, silver, platinum or palladium a year are hallmarked in Birmingham, to confirm that they contain the required amount of precious metal, as required by the Hallmarking Act 1973. Methods have had to change to accommodate the shift in the market, particularly the influx of finished goods made in the Far East. In addition to traditional methods, The Assay Office uses state of the art technology to perform non destructive assay by X Ray Fluorescence (XRF), and low impact hallmarking by laser. Four innovative new divisions have been developed since 1999: The Laboratory is the UK’s leading test house for Precious Metal Analysis and Nickel, Lead and Cadmium Compliance to the REACH Directive and is UKAS accredited to ISO 17025.  An Organic laboratory was developed in 2011, providing the facilities to test textiles for colour fastness, flammability and fibre composition among other things. The Laboratory carries out analysis for all sectors of the fine jewellery, costume jewellery and fashion accessory industry. It also works with suppliers of medical products and those recycling precious metals amongst others.   SafeGuard Valuations are the leading brand of independent jewellery, watch and silverware valuations in the UK with a network of over 1,200 retailers offering the service, including the major multiples. Most of this appraisal work is carried out within the Assay Office. SafeGuard valuers have unrivalled expertise in assessing jewellery, watches and silverware.   AnchorCert Gemstone Certification has developed into a major new brand in the jewellery trade. Thousands of diamonds, coloured gemstones and natural pearls are identified and certificated every year, offering verification and reassurance to the trade and the consumer. The Birmingham Assay Office is one of few facilities in the world that can identify synthetic and treated diamonds and other gemstones. AnchorCert is UKAS accredited to ISO 17025. The AnchorCert Gemstone Weight Estimator App, developed in 2011, applies well established formulae to assess the estimated weight of a mounted gemstone. Pawnbrokers, Antique dealers and potential buyers have only to put the measurements of the stone into their mobile device to arrive at a reliable estimated weight, thanks to AnchorCert’s innovative approach. Assay office Plaque Heritage and Training The independent expertise within the Assay Office team has a commercial value of its own which is now being realized via targeted Training Courses to the trade and to the public. The Heritage of Birmingham’s oldest institution and the legacy of Matthew Boulton is leveraged to maintain awareness of the importance of hallmarking and to support the ongoing significance of Birmingham’s’ Jewellery Quarter as a specialist centre of excellence.

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