In the early days of the Sheffield Assay Office, it was stipulated that any profits made by the Office had to be used solely for prosecuting those who broke the law on hallmarking.
However, by the beginning of the twentieth century the local Sheffield silver industry was at its height and the Office was making a large profit.
As a result, a new Act was granted in 1906, permitting some of the surplus to be spent on providing a collection of books or objects relating to the silver and gold industry, to promoting technical education in Sheffield especially for the silver and gold industry, and for charitable donations.
Since then, the Office has built up a large specialised library and a magnificent collection of silver, much of it made in Sheffield.
The collection numbers more than 1000 items of silver and silver plate -dating right back to the very first year of the Assay Office in 1773 and spanning the centuries right up to the present day.
Each year a commission is made to add to the collection.
From the most elaborate and ornate historical pieces to the stunning simplicity of contemporary pieces, the collection is lovingly cared for and regulary cleaned.
In the last 25 years The Assay Master has supported the BA (Hons) Jewellery and Metalwork degree programme art Sheffield Hallam University. With the grand opening of the Millennium Gallery opened in the city centre the Office has worked closely with Museums Sheffield sponsoring exhibitions, creating new commissions and donating a piece each year to the designated metalwork collection. A star feature of the metalwork gallery is the Millennium punch bowl commissioned by Sheffield Assay Office in 1999. The Office were conscious of the sharing and continuity of silversmithing skills in the city and in 2002 established in partnership with Yorkshire Artspace the Starter Studio Programme for Designer Silversmiths and Jewellers. This is a two year rolling programme for up to 4 participants a year who have access to fully equipped space, business support, mentoring and technical expertise as well as exhibition and commission opportunities. To date the programme has supported over 30 young makers, and the annual Little Gems commission sponsored by Sheffield Assay Office has produced 25 new pieces of designer led work and Sheffield Assay Office were delighted to showcase this body of work in 2015 at The Goldsmiths’ Centre London. The Sheffield Assay Office collection continues to grow showing the diversity of Sheffield silversmiths past and present.