Birmingham Assay Office spent a fantastic day at Thinktank during half-term at their Meet the Experts event. Sally Hoban (Heritage & Training Officer), Penny Parkes (Marketing Manager) and Jack Brown (who is currently on placement from Newman University College) were joined by Hand Hallmarking expert Faye Grove for a day of interactive demonstrations and activities aimed at teaching people of all ages and especially young children more about Hallmarking and why it is so important in protecting consumers when buying precious metals and jewellery.
Sally says: “We set up our stand by the entrance to the new We Made It Gallery and presented visitors with a challenge. Their first task was to try to pick out by look and touch alone any gold and silver articles in a large pile of costume jewellery. Some people did realise quite quickly that there weren’t any precious metal items hidden within the ‘bling’ because none of the pieces were Hallmarked.
The next stage of the challenge was to crack the Hallmark code and date several pieces of silver from our collection, including two silver spoons (one by Matthew Boulton), a Britannia silver box and a silver bracelet. With the help of some large magnifying glasses our young visitors in particular took great delight in finding the Hallmarks on the pieces, working out the date letters and looking them up on an interactive screen. The children loved the fact that they were able to hold a spoon from the late 18th century and find out how old it was just by looking at the Hallmark. I think we may have encouraged a few budding antique specialists of the future!
One young girl was so amazed at the age of the Matthew Boulton spoon she asked if it really was older than her Grandad!
After cracking the Hallmark code the children were able to see Faye applying the marks by hand and perhaps most excitingly of all they got to have a go at applying a mark themselves.” But it wasn’t just the youngsters who enjoyed having a go at Hallmarking. Kenny Webster, Sarah Hayes and Lynsey Fairweather from Thinktank couldn’t resist having a go either!