Trades of Edinburgh – Incorporation of Goldsmiths
In 1457/8 the first act of parliament that laid down rules for assaying and marking precious metals also required the appointment of a deacon of goldsmiths, whose job was to conduct the assays and apply the marks. However, the goldsmiths associated with the Hammermen until about 1490-92, when they broke away to form their own Incorporation. Their original seal of cause is lost but they received a subsidiary one on 31st January 1525/6, which is still in their possession; it relates principally to the Goldsmiths’ altar and side-chapel in St. Giles’, dedicated to St. Eloi, the patron saint they shared with the Hammermen. A new seal of cause was granted to the Goldsmiths in 1591, the original having been lost “in time of war with foreign nations”, probably during the Rough Wooing in 1544. A Royal Charter from James VII followed in 1687.
Subsidiary seal of cause granted to the Incorporation of Goldsmiths on 31st January 1525/6.
From its earliest days the Goldsmiths have always been (and still are) charged with administering the Edinburgh Assay Office, whose task it is to assay and hallmark silver and gold wares before they can be offered for sale. The members of the Incorporation were principally silversmiths, goldsmiths and jewellers. In early times, from 1136 until at least 1633, they also operated the Mint, since the coinage was made of silver or gold. They also acted as bankers, pawnbrokers, money lenders and general finance facilitators until the founding of the Bank of Scotland in 1695.
The coat of arms was matriculated at Lyon Office in 1987. Previously the Incorporation had been using an unofficial version which was based closely on those of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London.
The Incorporation still has a Hall, where the Assay Office is situated, though it is no longer the original building of that name in Parliament Square. Since 2000 it has been in Broughton Street. The Incorporation still operates the Edinburgh Assay Office and it appears to be the oldest trading body in Scotland that is still performing its original function, all the older incorporated trades having either become extinct or else reinvented themselves for other purposes. It is currently one of the largest assay offices in Western Europe. Its work is international, accepting wares of gold, silver, platinum and palladium from all over the world for assaying and marking.