Interview: Ashley Carson, Sheffield’s Assay Master – hallmarking, history and technology

Ashley Carson in the radio studio

Ashley Carson

The hallmarks on gold, silver, platinum and palladium don’t only prove the validity of precious metals. They tell a story.

And the story of hallmarks themselves (the “marks of the hall”) and of how Sheffield’s Assay Office came to be after an act of Parliament is absolutely riveting.

Sheffield’s Assay Master, Ashley Carson joined me in the radio studio on Friday. There are only four Assay Offices in the UK (Sheffield, Birmingham, London and Edinburgh).

Ashley has served as Assay Master for 25 years and was the youngest-ever to be appointed at the age of just 32.

He oversees Sheffield’s hallmarking: over 100 million articles have been assayed, tested and marked during his period of office. Anyone selling an item made of gold, silver, platinum and palladium must have it hallmarked.

What a captivating conversation this was. Ashley held listeners spellbound – do enjoy the podcast with him, below.

Ashley explained:

  • the history of the Assay Offices in the UK,
  • why Sheffield’s Assay Office was launched in the 18th century,
  • the international reputation of the Sheffield Assay Office, its specialism, and comparisons with the three other offices,
  • how hallmarking has developed,
  • what the symbols in hallmarks mean,
  • how changing fashions and tastes and new technology have changed the way Assay Offices work,
  • who can send articles to an Assay Office for hallmarking?
  • the process of assaying, testing the purity, and then marking each article (this is absolutely fascinating),
  • the skills of his team and how they’ve evolved,
  • diversification into other testing and highly specialised services,
  • his proudest moments of his 25 years as Assay Master,
  • how and why Ashley started work in the Assay Office and developed his career,
  • some leadership advice,
  • his passions outside of his work.

I hope you enjoy this interview with Ashley, I was engrossed.

Podcast (stream or download; or get it in iTunes):


  • 0 – 3:16 introduction and updates, including the opening of Boeing’s factory next to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield
  • 3:16 – 51:42 Ashley Carson

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