The company was established and incorporated by royal charter of Charles 1 on 22nd December 1637. The craft of goldsmith existed in Ireland as early as 1800 BC and flourished following the introduction of Christianity in the fifth century also during the medieval period following the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1169. There is mention of the existence of a guild of goldsmiths in Dublin during the sixteenth century.
The charter of 1637 is extant and is in the possession of the company. This lengthy and comprehensive deed furnishes numerous clauses granting very wide and plenary powers. Briefly, the important provisions are: a company established as a body corporate with powers of perpetual succession and the control of the manufacture and sale of all gold and silver wares in Ireland.
The powers given included enforcing prescribed minimum standards of fineness for the quality of gold, silver and platinum to be used in manufacture and the submission to the company of all gold, silver and platinum wares for assay and hallmarking. As well, ancillary powers such as that of making bye-laws, holding property, search, seizure and destruction of sub-standard wares were given by the charter.
The marks stamped are known as HALLMARKS, so called because they are stamped in Goldsmiths Hall, the name by which the Assay Office would have been more widely known in its early years and also the meeting place of the company of Goldsmiths. Strictly speaking, the maker’s mark some times referred to as a responsibility or sponsors mark is not a hallmark as it is stamped by the maker before sending the article for assay.
During the now almost four centuries of the company’s existence its powers have been extended several times by act of parliament and by government order to meet changing conditions. The laboratories have state of art facilities and constantly updating equipment and test methods making them one of the leading precious metal test laboratories in the world. Fundamentally, however, the original purpose, which was to protect the public from fraud when buying articles of gold, silver and now platinum still remains. The assay office provides a high level of consumer protection and a fair trading environment.