I’ve written a few posts about the recent problem of silver and bronze sculptures and artworks being stolen from public places. One of the pieces that I discussed this year was the stealing of the Assay Office sign in Birmingham. The sign pictured above is a solid silver sign with 18ct gold lettering. Below the lettering is stamped a large hallmark. This plaque was put up in 1977 to mark the 100th anniversary of the assay office opening in 1877. Birmingham Assay Office is based in the heart of the city’s jewellery quarter and is the largest hallmarking office in the UK.
Having walked past that sign on a number of occasions I never realised it was solid silver! No doubt the sign has been melted and sold for scrap at this stage, it’s such a pity that this little piece of local history should be forgotten like this.
But thankfully rather than lament the loss of their silver sign the Birmingham Assay Office have taken this opportunity to commission a new sign from a local maker. The jewellery quarter is packed with amazingly talented designers and makers and this is a great chance to recognise and reward this talent.
When I heard about this commission I thought there’s no way they are going to have the sign made in silver again but fair play to them they’ve gotten a local supplier The Bullion Room on board as a sponsor. They are going to manufacture the sign using silver and studded diamonds which they have gifted to the assay office, they will also provide extra security.
Since designers are being given free rein with their ideas for the silver plaque I’m really looking forward to seeing the results. It’s great to see an awful story of theft be turned into a good news story celebrating the wealth of designers and makers in the Jewellery Quarter. I wonder has anything like this happen in Ireland?
Here are the guidelines for the name plaque commission
- Designers must be operating from an address with a Birmingham postcode.
- The plaque must be a maximum of 19cm wide but could be deeper
- It must be suitable to be securely fixed to the stonework flanking the doorway
- It should be made from materials suitable for exterior signage. Increased Security will also be provided courtesy of the Bullion Room so designers should not be concerned about creating a high value item.
- The item must be suitable to be hallmarked sterling silver i.e. with a fineness of at least 925ppt.
- The item will also carry a Diamond Jubilee Hallmark. The last date for striking this is 1st October 2012.
- This is an official company sign; the words The Assay Office must be clearly legible
- The design should be appropriate to the status of the UK’s largest Assay Office whose mission is to champion high quality standards in the jewellery, precious metal, and gemstone industry. Further information about the work of The Assay Office can be found at www.theassayoffice.co.uk
- The designer is not required to manufacture the final article, as this will be undertaken by The Bullion Room. However, the design must be accompanied by a clear technical specification as to its intended method of manufacture.
- Applications should include a full size drawing/impression/image of the finished item
- The technical specification should detail method of construction, type, and quantity of materials to be used and suitable points of fixing.