A guide to introductory texts and resources to those new to researching gold and silver.
Please find below a list of introductory texts to those new to researching gold and silver. A complete overview of the library's books, journals and archives can be found on the Library Holdings page.
Researching Your Family History
For researchers interested in following up their family history, livery company archives can provide a useful source of raw biographical material. An important indicator of membership of this city livery company is the descriptor ‘Citizen and Goldsmith’.
Our apprentice books date from 1578 and contain information on the name of the apprentice, parent, whether living or deceased, parent’s trade or profession and place of abode (parish). This can help to take the family back another generation to the parish of origin. If the apprentice became a freeman then this would be recorded in the freedom books which begin in 1692. Before that date it would be recorded in the Court Minute Books which begin in 1334.
The narrative of the minute books contains much material on the Company’s affairs and, in particular, about the enforcement of its statutory duties regarding hallmarking. Therefore there is occasionally further information on the working lives of goldsmiths and silversmiths – particularly if they fell foul of the Company for breaching its regulations (ordinances). In these instances they were not necessarily members of the company.
The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office holds registers of marks entered by goldsmiths from the late 17th century which are a source for identifying their work. The information in the registration is the mark, impressed in ink, the name of the goldsmith, the date of registration and an address. There are two missing registers in the mid-18th century
Occasionally personal information can be found about the partners and family of members of the Company but this is, on the whole, rare. However there are a series of petitioners’ books from the middle of the 19th century which contain detailed information about the personal circumstances of freemen and their families. One such family, the Kensits, was the subject of a television programme, Who Do You Think You Are? in 2008.
A short listing of the Goldsmiths' Company's archives is included on AIM25's website.
How do I find out more?
If you think one of your ancestors may have been connected to the Goldsmiths’ Company, please write to us via post or email, providing as much information as possible (for example full name, dates, occupation and addresses) so that a member of the library staff can conduct an initial search of the archives.
Bibliography for UK hallmarks
A range of specialist books have been written to help identify UK hallmarks. They are largely based on the surviving registers of marks that most UK assay offices kept from the early 1770s (and some, such as London, much earlier). The Library has a large reference section dedicated to hallmarking, which includes all of the books listed below.
If you would like to find out about books on hallmarking in other countries, please contact us for more information.
BRADBURY, Frederick. Guide to the marks of origin on British and Irish silver plate from mid 16th century to the year 1963 and Old Sheffield Plate makers' marks 1743-1860 (Sheffield, Sheffield Assay Office, 2009)
JACKSON, Charles James. English goldsmiths and their marks: a history of the goldsmiths and plate workers of England, Scotland and Ireland. With over thirteen thousand marks reproduced in facsimile from authentic examples of plate and tables of date letters and other hallmarks used in the assay offices of the United Kingdom (London, Macmillan and Co. Limited, 2nd ed. 1921)
PICKFORD, Ian, ed. Jackson's silver and gold marks of England, Scotland and Ireland (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 1989)
PICKFORD, Ian, ed. Pocket edition: Jackson's hallmarks: English Scottish, Irish silver & gold marks from 1300 to the present day (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 1991)
GRIMWADE, Arthur Girling. London goldsmiths 1697-1837 their marks & lives (London, Faber & Faber, 1990)
CULME, John. The directory of gold & silversmiths, jewellers & allied traders 1838-1914, from the London Assay Office registers (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2v., 1987)
JONES, Kenneth Crisp ed. The silversmiths of Birmingham and their marks 1750-1980 (London, NAG Press Ltd., 1981)
RIDGWAY, Maurice Hill & PRIESTLEY, Philip. The compendium of Chester gold and silver marks 1570 to 1962 from the Chester Assay Office registers (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2004)
EXETER MUSEUM. Exeter and West Country silver Exeter (Exeter, Exeter City Council, 1978)
HARRISON, Miles. Exeter and West Country silver. A register of goldsmiths, silversmiths & jewellers in the West Country from 1700-1900 with hallmarks and makers' marks (London, Berforts Group, 2014)
HUNT, Simon. Catalogue of Exeter silver. Exeter Museum Publication No. 86 (Exeter, Exeter Museum 1976)
GILL, Margaret A. V. A directory of Newcastle goldsmiths (London, The Goldsmiths’ Company, 1980)
BARRETT, Geoffrey N. Norwich silver and its marks 1565-1702 (Norwich, Wensum Press, 1981)
HARTOP, Christopher ed. East Anglian silver 1550-1750 (Cambridge, John Adamson, 2004)
SHEFFIELD ASSAY OFFICE. The Sheffield Assay Office register. A copy of the register of the persons concerned in the manufacture of silver wares, and of the marks entered by them from 1773 to 1907 (Sheffield, Sheffield Assay Office, 1911, reprinted 1989)
GUBBINS, Martin. The Assay Office and silversmiths of York 1776-1858 (York, Williams Sessions Limited, 1983)
Bibliography for UK Jewellery
With an excellent collection of books, periodicals and images on British, continental and American jewellery, the library is one of the best places to study the history and development of this unique form of decorative art.
The first serious study of jewellery history was undertaken by the Victorians, who were fascinated by ancient lore and the global trade in gemstones. In the early 20th century, various writers, such as Joan Evans, undertook research using more scholarly methodology, and their work is still a valuable research resource.
The first great overviews of British jewellery were produced in the middle of the century by Joan Evans, followed by Shirley Bury and Diana Scarisbrick, and over the decades their work was supplemented by a host of specialist monographs by academics, curators and collectors. The rise of ‘art’ jewellery in the 1960s and ‘new’ jewellery in the 1970s and 1980s also led to a series of works looking at these movements.
Today there are several new trends in jewellery scholarship. Despite its rich potential, the 20th century saw relatively little attention being paid to jewellery by those looking at the sociology and theory of design. This is now starting to change, as can be seen in books like Marcia Pointon’s Brilliant Effects (Yale, 2009). The larger overviews are also starting to be updated, with a new volume on Victorian jewellery being published in 2010 by the British Museum, the first since Bury’s authoritative work.
BECKER, Vivienne. Antique and 20th century jewellery (London, NAG Press, 1980)
BRITISH MUSEUM. Jewellery through 7000 years (London, British Museum, 1976)
BENNETT, David & MASCETTI, Daniela. Understanding jewellery (Suffolk, Antique Collectors' Club Ltd, 1989)
EVANS, Joan. English Jewellery from the fifth century A.D. to 1800 (London, Methuen & co., 1921)
EVANS, Joan. A history of jewellery, 1100–1870 (London, Faber and Faber, 1970)
MARSHALL, Rosalind & DALGLEISH, George, eds. The art of jewellery in Scotland (Edinburgh, HMSO, 1991)
MASON, Shena. Jewellery making in Birmingham 1750-1995(Chichester, Phillimore, 1998)
OMAN, Charles. British rings 800-1914 (London, B.T. Batsford, 1974)
PHILLIPS, Clare. Jewelry from antiquity to the present (London, Thames & Hudson, 1996)
PHILLIPS, Clare. Jewels and jewellery (London, V&A, 2000)
POINTON, Marcia. Brilliant effects: a cultural history of gem stones and jewellery (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2009)
SCARISBRICK, Diana ed. Jewellery: makers, motifs, history, techniques (London, Thames & Hudson, 1989)
TAIT, Hugh, ed. The art of the jeweller: a catalogue of the Hull Grundy gift to the British Museum (London, British Museum, 2v., 1984)
Ancient to 19th Century
COCKS, Anna Somers. An illustrated dictionary of jewellery (London, V&A, 1980)
HACKENBROCH, Yvonne. Renaissance jewellery (London, Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications, 1979)
JESSUP, Ronald. Anglo-Saxon jewellery (London, Faber & Faber, 1950)
JOHNS, Catherine. The jewellery of Roman Britain, Celtic and Classical traditions (London, UCL Press, 1996)
LIGHTBROWN, Ronald. Mediaeval European jewellery (London, V&A, 1992)
BURY, Shirley. Jewellery 1789-1910: The international era (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors’ Club, 2v., 1991)
BRADFORD, Ernle D.S. English Victorian jewellery (London, Country Life Ltd, 1959)
FLOWER, Margaret. Victorian jewellery (London, Cassell & Company Ltd, 1951)
GERE, Charlotte. Victorian jewellery design (London, William Kimber, 1972)
GERE, Charlotte & MUNN, Geoffery C. Artists' jewellery. Pre-Raphaelite to arts and crafts (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors’ Club, 1989)
GERE, Charlotte & RUDOE, Judy. Jewellery in the age of Queen Victoria (London, British Museum, 2010)
HINKS, Peter. Nineteenth-century jewellery (London, Faber & Faber, 1975)
O'DAY, Deirdre. Victorian jewellery (London, Charles Letts Books Ltd, 1982)
20th Century Jewellery
CARTLIDGE, Barbara. Twentieth-century jewellery (New York, Harry N. Abrams Inc. 1985)
DORMER, Peter & TURNER, Ralph. The new jewelry, trends and traditions (London, Thames and Hudson, 1985)
DRUTT ENGLISH, Helen & DORMER, Peter. Jewelry in our time, art, ornament and obsession (London, Thames and Hudson, 1995)
GAME, Amanda & GORING, Elizabeth. Jewellery moves (Edinburgh, NMS Publishing, 1998)
HINKS, Peter. Twentieth century British jewellery 1900-1980 (London, Faber & Faber, 1983)
HUGHES, Graham. Modern jewellery (London, Studio Books, 1963)
HOGBEN, Carol. Modern artists' jewels. An exhibition held in the Jewellery Gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum, 11 September to 1 November 1984 (London, V&A, 1984)
21st Century Jewellery
ASTFALCK , Jivan, BROADHEAD, Caroline & DERREZ, Paul. New directions in jewellery (London, Black Dog Publishing, 2005)
CHERRY, Norman. Masters and protégés. Contemporary British jewellery (Birmingham, Birmingham City University, 2008)
CUNNINGHAM, Jack. Maker wearer viewer: contemporary narrative European jewellery (Glasgow, Glasgow School of Art, 2005)
MANSELL, Amanda. Adorn. New jewellery (London, Lawrence King Publishing Ltd, 2008)
Bibliography for UK Silver
With an excellent collection of books, periodicals and images, on English silver, the library is one of the best places to study the history and development of this unique form of decorative art.
The standard works by early 19th century authors, such as E. Alfred Jones and Sir Charles Jackson, were supplemented by the post-war wave of writers such as Charles Oman, Gerald Taylor, and Arthur Grimwade. A third generation, led by Philippa Glanville, which includes John Culme, Timothy Schroder, Christopher Hartop, Ellenor Alcorn and Helen Clifford, are adding still further to our depth of knowledge on the manufacture, function and significance of silver within our social and material culture.
Numerous articles from art periodicals, and specialist publications from organisations like the Silver Society, the Caddy Spoon Collectors’ Club, the Wine Label Circle and the Silver Spoon Collectors of Great Britain, amongst others, also provide up-to-date research.
Negatives, 35mm slides, transparencies and digital images of British silver taken from the 1930s onwards are another specialist feature of the library’s stock.
BLAIR, Claude ed. The history of silver (London, Macdonald Orbis, 1987)
CLAYTON, Michael. The collector's dictionary of the silver and gold of Great Britain and North America (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 1971)
GLANVILLE, Philippa ed. Silver (London, V&A, 1996)
GLANVILLE, Philippa. Silver in England (London, Unwin Hyman, 1987)
HERNMARCK, Carl. The art of the European silversmith 1430-1830 (London, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1977)
INGLIS, Brand. The Arthur Negus guide to British silver (London, Hamlyn, 1980)
JACKSON, Charles James. An illustrated history of English plate, ecclesiastical and secular, in which the development of form and decoration in the silver and gold work of the British Isles from the earliest known examples to the latest of the Georgian period is delineated and described (London, Country Life Limited and B. T. Batsford, 2v., 1911)
OMAN, Charles Chichele. English domestic silver (London, Adam & Charles Black, 1959)
OMAN, Charles Chichele. English silversmiths' work civil and domestic: an introduction (London, HMSO, 1965)
SCHRODER, Timothy B. The National Trust book of English domestic silver (London, Viking in assoc. with the National Trust , 1988)
TAYLOR, Gerald. Silver (London, Pelican Books, 1963)
TAYLOR, Gerald. Art in silver and gold (London, Studio Vista Limited, 1964)
TRUMAN, Charles ed. Sotheby's concise encyclopaedia of silver (London, Conran Octopus, 1993)
HELLIWELL, Stephen J. Collecting small silverware (Oxford, Phaidon/Christie's Ltd, 1988)
LUDDINGTON, John. Starting to collect silver (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 1984)
PICKFORD, Ian. Antique silver (Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club,1998)
CULME, John David. Nineteenth century silver (London, Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd, 1977)
GRIMWADE, Arthur Girling. Rococo silver 1727-1765 (London, Faber & Faber, 1974)
HAYWARD, John Forrest. Huguenot silver in England 1688-1727 (London, Faber & Faber, 1959)
OMAN, Charles Chichele. Caroline silver 1625-1688 (London, Faber & Faber, 1970)
ROWE, Robert. Adam silver 1765-1795 (London, Faber & Faber, 1975)
GRIMWADE, Arthur Girling for CHRISTIE’S LONDON. Catalogue of silver treasures from English churches: an exhibition of ecclesiastical plate of domestic origin (London, Christie’s, 1955)
OMAN, Charles Chichele. English church plate 597-1830 (London, Oxford University Press, 1957)
SCHRODER, Timothy B., ed. Treasures of the English church: a thousand years of sacred gold & silver (London, The Goldsmiths' Company in association with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2008)
ALCORN, Ellenor, M. English silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Volume I (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1993)
ALCORN, Ellenor, M. English silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Volume II: silver from 1697 including Irish and Scottish silver (Boston, MFA Publications, 2000)
ALCORN, Ellenor, M. Beyond the maker's mark. Paul de Lamerie silver in the Cahn collection (Cambridge, John Adamson, 2006)
CULME, John David, ed. English silver treasures from the Kremlin: a loan exhibition (London, Sotheby’s, 1991)
GRIMWADE, Arthur Girling. The Queen's silver. A survey of Her Majesty's personal collection (London, The Connoisseur, 1953)
HARTOP, Christopher. The Huguenot legacy: English silver 1680-1760 from the Alan and Simone Hartman Collection (London, Thomas Heneage & Co. Ltd, 1996)
HARTOP, Christopher. British and Irish silver in the Fogg Art Museum Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Art Museums, 2007)
JONES, E. Alfred. The royal plate of the Tower of London, including the old silver communion vessels of the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower (Oxford, Fox, Jones & Co., 1908)
JONES, E. Alfred. Catalogue of the collection of old plate of William Francis Farrer at No. 7 St. James's Square, London (London, The St. Catherine Press, 1924)
JONES, E. Alfred. Catalogue of the objects in gold and silver and the Limoges enamels in the collection of the Baroness James D. Rothschild (Letchworth, Arden Press, 1912)
JONES, E. Alfred. Catalogue of the plate belonging to the Duke of Portland, K.G., G.C.V.O. at Welbeck Abbey (London, The Saint Catherine Press, 1935)
JONES, E. Alfred. The gold and silver of Windsor Castle (Letchworth, Arden Press, 1911)
JONES, E. Alfred. Old English gold plate (London, Bemrose & Sons Limited, 1907)
JONES, E. Alfred. Old silver of Europe and America; from early times to the nineteenth century (London, B. T. Batsford Limited, 1928)
JONES, E. Alfred. The old English plate of the Emperor of Russia Letchworth (Letchworth, priv. print by W.H. Smith & Son, Arden Press, 1909)
SCHRODER, Timothy B. British and continental gold and silver in the Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, 3v., 2009)
SCHRODER, Timothy B. The Gilbert Collection of gold and silver (Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988)
SCHRODER, Timothy B., comp. The Francis E. Fowler, Jr., collection of silver (Los Angeles, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1991)
Collections: Oxford & Cambridge Colleges
CLIFFORD, Dr. Helen M. A treasured inheritance. 600 years of Oxford College silver (Oxford Ashmolean Museum, 2004)
JONES, E. Alfred. (Catalogues of numerous Oxford - Jesus College, Christ Church, Magdalen College, Merton College, Oriel College, and Queen's College)
JONES, E. Alfred. The old plate of the Cambridge colleges (Cambridge University Press, 1910)
OMAN, Charles Chichele. English engraved silver 1150-1900 (London, Faber & Faber, 1978)
GLANVILLE, Philippa & GOLDSBOROUGH, Jennifer Faulds. Women silversmiths 1685-1845 (Washington D.C., Thames & Hudson & The National Museum of Women in Arts, 1990)
GLANVILLE, Philippa & LEE, Sophie. The art of drinking (London, V&A, 2007)
GLANVILLE, Philippa & YOUNG, Hilary. Elegant eating. Four hundred years of dining in style (London, V&A, 2002)
Resources for the Craft and Industry
If you are a student or professional gold- or silversmith, the Library is here to support your research and provide a wide range of useful information.
Whatever your question, please feel free to contact us. If we can’t help you, we’ll try to put you in touch with someone who can.
The Library’s technical manuals provide guidance on many techniques, from setting to patination. We also fully catalogue technical articles in the trade press, letting you quickly find the latest advice on a topic. If you are researching historic techniques, a treasure trove of information can be found in our older manuals and workshop photo files.
Images and Designs
The Library holds more than 15,000 images, illustrating everything from the work of ancient goldsmiths to today’s designer-makers.
Our archives also contain many original 20th century design drawings (including those by leading names such as Paul Brandt or Robert Welch). These provide fascinating examples of rendering techniques, which are complemented by our technical literature on rendering and design drawing. An ongoing digitisation project means that many of these are now available in electronic format.
Subscriptions to all of the UK’s major industry magazines, online journals and a selection of European and American publications provide a comprehensive overview of the precious metals industry.
By monitoring the media the Library also produces detailed subject files on a range of relevant topics, from ethical issues to galleries, trade fairs and competitions. Looking through these is often easier and quicker than searching the internet, as we’ve done the legwork for you.
The Library is more than just a reference resource – whether you are a professional or a student, staff are available to help guide your research and save you time.
Our team are available via telephone or email us to help you find answers quickly, and where possible will supply you with information remotely.
If you need to visit the Library, or want to undertake more detailed research, staff can have relevant material waiting when you arrive and discuss your interests in more depth.
Group Visits & Workshops
Individually tailored Library tours can be arranged for small businesses, workshops or other groups. Special research and writing workshops can be booked by students preparing essays or theses. Groups or individuals are welcome.