Executives from the Assay Office Birmingham joined members of their Building Project team to mark a very significant event on 1st May as work began on the site of the new Assay Office building at Icknield Street. The Assay Office has been at its current home in Newhall Street since 1877 and the move within the Jewellery Quarter demonstrates the confidence and commitment of one of Birmingham’s oldest businesses as it continues to invest for the future.
Founded by an Act of Parliament in 1773, the Assay Office still carries out its statutory duty of testing and hallmarking precious metal but has widened its scope considerably in the past decade, now offering assessment, authentication, and valuation of precious metals, jewellery, watches, fashion accessories and gemstones. Its independence and expertise set it apart from many of its competitors and under the leadership of Chief Executive and Assay Master, Stella Layton; the Assay Office Birmingham is committed to continuous investment, improvement and growth.
Commenting on the Ground Breaking Ceremony Stella Layton said, “This is a very significant moment for the Assay Office Birmingham. The new building will enable us to offer better facilities to our customers in terms of efficiency and security and much better, working conditions for our staff. It will provide a centre of excellence to the local trade and make our important private collection of silver and our library more accessible to researchers and other enthusiasts.
The move is crucial to our future business development, offering a more flexible and more environmentally friendly facility to support our ambitions as we continue to grow our portfolio of innovative services to the jewellery, precious metal, gemstone, and other associated trades.”
The new Office is in a designated Enterprise Zone within the Jewellery Quarter and the site is bounded by Icknield Street, Pope Street, and Moreton Street, within easy reach of many local customers as well as having excellent access to the Ring Road.
Investment in the recently designated Enterprise Zone appears to have kick-started activity in the surrounding streets and the Ground Breaking ceremony was punctuated by the rumbling of diggers and demolition vehicles, swinging into action to replace dereliction with some very welcome regeneration. The building project has also been supported by an ERDF grant of £1.2m which, coupled with the financial incentives of the Enterprise Zone, have enabled the Assay Office to pursue plans for the move despite the deep recession which has hit the jewellery industry hard.
The new development is being co-ordinated by Project Manager Mark Wright of Trebor Developments and the building designed by Glazzard Architects of Worcester. The exterior of the new Assay Office has been carefully designed to complement the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area and existing neighbours such as the Kettleworks building, while creating an iconic look with its sights firmly set on the future. The interior has been planned to provide the most possible efficiency and flexibility in every aspect. Galliford Try who will construct the building are working to a very detailed brief and recognise the significance of the project to Birmingham and to the jewellery industry.
Representatives from all partners involved in the project gathered to mark the significant moment when building began.
Assay Office Chairman Kate Hartigan proved to be an expert with a spade, and supported by Chief Executive Stella Layton and recently retired former Chief Executive Michael Allchin, struck a convincing symbolic first blow to the site. However, new technology was lined up ready to make a bigger impression and Kate looked equally at home in the cab.