Wednesday 30 June, 2021

Company Librarian Eleni Bide features on first episode of The Golden Age of Gold

Goldsmiths’ Company Librarian Eleni Bide, joins jewellery designer Rajvi Vora on the first episode of ‘The Golden Age of Gold’ for The Compass podcast on BBC World Service. Understanding humankind’s ongoing relationship with this precious material, ‘The Golden Age of Gold’ takes us on a whistle-stop tour of gold’s past, present and future. 

Starting off by examining the celestial properties of gold expressed through the divine acts of worship from the ancient Egyptian and Incan civilisations, Rajvi makes her way to medieval London, where she explores how gold was regulated. Here she chats with Eleni Bide who delves into the rich history of hallmarking. Eleni recalls how assayers from the Goldsmiths’ Company visited workshops even before the official Assay Office was established in 1478. She dives into the fascinating ways that gold was tested, hundreds of years before the technological innovations that we see today. With a history that stretches back to 1300, hallmarking is the oldest form of consumer protection in the UK. Today, it continues to verify the standard of the precious materials that we purchase.

“Hallmarking may be over 700 years old, but its guarantee to consumers remains as relevant today as it did in 1300. The key is the simplicity of its basic premise - a physical mark to confirm the metal has been independently tested and conforms with agreed standards. With this at its core, hallmarking has been able to adapt to changing fashions, buying habits, and trends in international trade.” – Goldsmiths’ Company Librarian Eleni Bide.

During this episode Rajvi is also given a tour of one of the UK’s oldest precious metal workshops – Smith and Harris – who in 2019 celebrated their 200th anniversary. Remaining at their site since the Elizabethan period, Smith and Harris incorporate a mixture of techniques that use both lasers and computers, detailing the trade’s technological advances. However, alongside all these modern innovations, they also continue to use the processes and tools that have endured history, as many of the techniques wielded throughout their 17 different workshops are the same that would have been used over 400 years ago.

For more information on hallmarking and the London Assay Office visit here

To listen to the first episode of 'The Golden Age of Gold' click below.

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