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first charter complains loudly of counterfeit metal, false bracelets, lockets, rings and jewels made and exported, and also of vessels of tin made and subtly silvered over.
In 1443 they received a special letter from Henry VI acknowledging them as a craft which had at all times "notably acquitted themselves," more especially on the King's return from his coronation in Paris to meet his Queen, Margaret of Anjou. On this occasion they wore bawderykes of gold, short, jagged scarlet hoods," and each past-warden or renter had his follower clothed in white with a black hood and black felt hat.
In this reign, a goldsmith named German Lyas, for selling a tablet of adulterated gold, was compelled to give to the fraternity a gilt cup weighing twenty-four ounces, and to implore pardon on his knees.
In 1458 another was fined for giving a false return of broken gold to a servant of the Earl of Wiltshire, who took it to be sold.
In Edward IV a trial of skill between English goldsmiths and their foreign rivals took place at the "Pope's Head" Tavern. The contending craftsmen had to engrave four puncheons of steel (the breadth of a penny) with cats' heads and naked figures in high and low relief, Oliver Davy, the Englishman, won, and White Johnson, the Alicant goldsmith, lost his wager of a crown and a dinner to the Company, when there lived 137 native, and 41 foreign goldsmiths in London.
Their yearly assay of coin, or "Trial of the Pyx," a proceeding of great solemnity, still takes place. "It is an investigation into the purity and weight of money coined, before the Lords of the Council, aided by the professional knowledge of a jury of Goldsmiths." Their Wardens are summoned by precept, together with their assay master. When sworn, they receive a charge from the Lord
Chancellor, and retire into the Court room of the Duchy of Lancaster, where the "pyx" (a small box thus anciently designated, containing the coins to be examined) is delivered to them by the Mint. The authority under which the mint master has acted having been read, the "pyx" is opened and the coins to be assayed taken out and enclosed in paper parcels under seal.
From every 15 lbs. of silver, technically called "journies," two pieces are taken at hazard, and upon each parcel being opened the coins are all mixed together in wooden bowls, and afterwards weighed. From the whole the jury take a number of each species of coin to the amount of 1 lb. weight for assay by fire. The trial pieces of gold and silver of the dates specified in the authority being produced, a sufficient quantity is cut from either for the purpose of comparing the pound weight of gold or silver by the usual methods of assay. Their perfection or imperfection are certified by the jury, who declare a verdict, in writing, to the Lord Chancellor. If found accurate, the mint master receives his certificate or "quietus." The assaying of precious metals, anciently called the "touch," with the marking or stamping and the proving of the coin at the "Trial of the Pyx," were privileges conferred on them by Edward I. They had an assay office, and their retention of it still makes "Goldsmiths' Hall" a busy scene during the hours of assaying. By the old statute, all gold and silver must be of good and true alloy, "gold of a certain touch," and silver of sterling alloy; no articles being allowed to depart out of the hands of the workman employed until assayed by the Goldsmiths.
The hall mark shows the place of manufacture, such as a leopard's head for London. Duty mark is represented by the head of the sovereign, showing that the
duty has been paid. Date mark, a letter of the alphabet, varies every year. From 1716 to 1755 they used Roman capital letters; 1756 to 1775 small Roman letters; 1776 to 1795 old English letters; 1796 to 1815 Roman capital letters, from A to U, omitting J; 1816 to 1835 small Roman letters, a to u, omitting j; from 1836, old English letters. There are two qualities of gold and silver, and the lower is most in use. The marks for silver are Britannia, or the head of the reigning monarch; and for gold, a lion passant, with the figures 22 or 18, denoting that fine gold is 22 carat, 18 carat only containing 75 per cent. of gold. Manufacturers' marks comprise the initials
of the maker.
The ancient Goldsmiths wisely blended pleasure with profit, and feasted right royally. One of their dinner bills runs thus::
"EXPENSES OF ST. DUNSTAN'S FEAST.
To Eight Minstrels, in manner accustomed.. £2 13 8
Pigeons at 1d., and 12 more Geese at 7d. each."
With "butchery,' fishmongry' " and "miscellaneous articles," the total amount of the feast being £26 17s. 7d.
In the Middle Ages they were very fond of fancy dress. In a notable procession of the London crafts to meet
Richard II's fair young queen, Anne of Bohemia, all wore red and black liveries. On the red of their dresses they had bars of silver-work and silver trefoils, and on the black part wore fine knots of gold and silk, and on their heads red hats powdered with silver trefoils. In Edward IV their taste changed, and the livery men adopted violet and scarlet gowns. In Henry VII they were conspicuous in violet gowns and black hoods. In Henry VIII their hoods were again violet and scarlet.
Goldsmiths' Hall is the most magnificent of all the London Guilds, and their plate is of considerable grandeur, comprising a chandelier of chased gold weighing 1,000 ounces, two superb old gold plates bearing the arms of France quartered with those of England, and a gold cup (attributed to Cellini) out of which Queen Elizabeth is said to have drank at her coronation, and bequeathed to the company by Sir Martin Bowes. At the great exhibition of 1851, this spirited company awarded £1,000 to the best artist in gold and silver plate, and spent £5,000 on plate of British manufacture. They have also recently made a grant of £1,000 for researches in the new diphtheritic treatment.
The eminently commercial race of the Jews were the first English bankers and usurers. To them, in immediate succession, followed the enterprising Lombards, a term including the merchants and goldsmiths of Genoa, Florence and Venice. Blind to all sense of true liberty and justice, the strong-handed king resolved to squeeze and crush them as he had treated their unfortunate predecessors. They were rich, and they were strangerswhich was enough for a king who wanted money badly, and so Edward seized the Lombards' property and estates, their debtors naturally approving of such summary
The Lombards, however, grew and flourished, and in the 15th century advanced a loan to the state on the security of the Customs. The Steelyard Merchants further advanced money, and were always found to be available for national emergencies, as also were the Merchants of the Staple, the Mercers, and the Merchant Adventurers and Traders of Flanders. Up to a late period in the reign of Charles I, merchants usually deposited their surplus cash at the mint, the business of which was carried on in the Tower. But when Charles I, in an agony of impecuniosity, took the £200,000 there deposited, calling it a loan, the Goldsmiths, who since 1386 had been more or less bankers, began to monopolize the banking business. Many, distrustful of the Goldsmiths in such stormy times, entrusted their money to clerks and apprentices, who, too often, quickly left to join Rupert and his pillaging Cavaliers. About 1645 the citizens returned almost entirely to the Goldsmiths, who gave interest for money placed in their care, bought coins and sold plate. Parliament, out of plate and gold, had coined gold and seven millions of half-crowns, but the Goldsmiths culled out the heavier pieces and melted them down for export. The merchants' clerks, to whom their masters ready cash was sometimes entrusted, had frequently the impudence to lend money to the Goldsmiths at fourpence per cent., per day. The merchants, therefore, were often actually lent their own money, and had to pay for the use of it. The Goldsmiths also began to receive rent and allow interest for it. They gave receipts for such monies, and these became marketable as bank notes. Growing rich, they were able to help Cromwell with money as an advance on the revenues, a patriotic act for which they took care not to suffer. When the national disgrace occurred of the Dutch sailing up the Medway and burning some ships,