The Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia was formed in 1988 by a dedicated group of Melbourne-based goldsmiths.
1/5 A work by Chris Sherwin showing Makers Mark, Metal Purity, Guild Fellow and Date Marks applied to 750 Gold Sea Horse Brooch.
2/5 A work by Chris Sherwin showing Makers Mark, Metal Purity, Guild Fellow and Date Marks applied to 750 Gold Sea Horse Brooch.
The key aim of the Guild was to initiate a precious metal marking scheme in Australia for all goldsmiths and silversmiths who practised their craft with high ethical standards. The GSGA consulted with the Goldsmiths Hall in London and adopted the same date letter marking scheme as the British but initiated our own unique Australian mark – the image of the kangaroo head in profile – to indicate the country of origin and manufacture.
The Guild maintains and records the Makers Marks of its Fellow and Full members on its silver Touchplates for Australian historical posterity. We follow the fine tradition of Goldsmith Hall in London who have kept records such as these for almost 750 years.
The Guild holds and maintains silver Touchplates on behalf of all makers of precious metal articles in Australia and they have already provided invaluable service to historians, jewellery valuers and members of the public who have contacted the Guild attempting to identify the work of a particular maker. On several occasions in the past few years, our Touchplate records have assisted the police in identifying stolen goods and
helped return them to their rightful owners, articles that otherwise would never have been reclaimed.
What are silver Touchplates and why are they important? The plates are each approximately 8cm wide, 24cm long and 2mm thick. The plates are hand engraved with the sequential number of each member on joining the Guild and their name. Alongside each member’s entry are punched the Makers Marks used by that member in the manufacture of their precious metal work.
4/5 Full member’s mark
5/5 Fellow member’s mark
The plates are important as they provide three dimensional and scientifically testable evidence of the authenticity of a Guild member’s ‘marked work’. The plates cannot be destroyed in a ‘simple fire’ or suffer the normal threat of degradation as is the case with paper and digital documents. They will be held in perpetuity by the Guild and serve as a reference base into the future.
Many of Australia’s respected goldsmiths and silversmiths have had their marks punched onto the plates and by doing so have guaranteed themselves a place in history.
Gold and silversmiths occupy a small, special niche in the fabric of our wider community. In acknowledging the vast and powerful history of First Nations people, as gold and silversmiths we also have to acknowledge the Gold Rush of the 1850’s that vastly changed late Australian history and created the very niche that we work in.
If you are an artisan working in precious metals, the Guild and the silver Touchplates and marking scheme you see in this article are open to you. Become a member and become part of our historic tapestry.
Read below for related stories: