Chancellor Rishi Sunak passes the annual Trial of the Pyx
- Rishi Sunak has passed the Trial of the Pyx - as Master of the Mint he is held responsible for the result of the Trial - one of the UK’s oldest judicial processes that protects consumers and ensures the quality of the nation’s coinage is upheld.
- A Jury, made up of members of the Goldsmiths’ Company, confirmed that British coins had once again met regulatory standards
- 16,000 coins from The Royal Mint went on 'trial' at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London in June this year, before further laboratory tests were organised by the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office to assess metallic composition.
- The Verdict is the last stage of the Trial, which is presided over by the Queen’s Remembrancer, an ancient judicial post.
- The Trial of the Pyx is the oldest form of independent quality control with the first public Trial held in the 13th
- The Goldsmiths’ Company has been exclusively responsible for proceedings for the Trial of the Pyx since 1580.
November 19, London: The Queen’s Remembrancer, Barbara Fontaine, today announced that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has passed the annual Trial of the Pyx – one of Britain's oldest judicial processes – which ensures the quality and accuracy of the nation’s coinage produced by The Royal Mint.
This year’s Verdict – usually scheduled for late April, or early May – was postponed due to a later that normal Covid-delayed Trial in June.
Prime Warden (Chairs the Board) of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Dame Lynne Brindley, commenting on the Verdict today said: “It is the proud responsibility of the Goldsmiths’ Company to protect consumers by assessing and testing the nation’s coinage. We work with The Royal Mint to uphold the highest standards of quality and excellence, and to ensure the public can always depend on the integrity of coins.”
The Verdict marks the end of a three-stage process, which started in June, when a jury of goldsmiths carefully counted and weighed a selection of new coins. The Trial is usually adjourned for three months to allow the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office time to test the coins, which involves taking samples via drilling, and analysing the composition.
16,000 coins were brought to the Trial this year at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London, the home of the Goldsmiths’ Company – a membership organisation that supports craftspeople, protects consumers and improves lives – who have been exclusively responsible for proceedings since 1580 and for testing the quality of precious metals since 1300.
Historically, failure to pass the Trial of the Pyx can result in a prison sentence or a fine of the equivalent deficiency for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Hervey de Stanton and William de Everden found out in 1318 and 1349, respectively, following poor test results.
The Trial fulfils a legal requirement imposed by an Act of Parliament (Coinage Act 1971) to conduct an examination by jury to ascertain that the coins of the realm, produced by the Royal Mint, are of the correct weight, size and composition.
Anne Jessopp, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint said: “The Trial of the Pyx is steeped in ancient tradition as one of Britain’s oldest judicial ceremonies, and one of the earliest forms of consumer protection. For hundreds of years our coins have been submitted to the trial on behalf of the nation – becoming a symbol of the quality and craftsmanship customers can expect from The Royal Mint.”
Notes to Editors
The Trial today
- The purpose of the annual Trial is to check that UK coins produced at The Royal Mint are within the statutory limits for metallic composition, weight and size.
- Officials from The Royal Mint bring chests (pyx) to Goldsmiths' Hall, the venue for the Trial since 1870 containing coins put aside in the course of manufacture during the previous year.
- These coins, normally no more than 50,000 in total, represent one coin from every batch of each denomination minted.
- During the opening proceedings the coins are counted and weighed, and a selection put aside for testing by the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office.
- The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office has three months to test the coins.
- The benchmark against which the coins are tested is called a Trial Plate.
- The trial jury, which must consist of at least six members of the Goldsmiths’ Company, is a formal court of law, summoned to Goldsmiths’ Hall by the Queen’s Remembrancer, the oldest judicial post in England and Wales.
- Origins of the Trial of the Pyx go back as far as circa 1180, when some form of trial may have been ordered by Henry II who instigated various control initiatives.
- The first record of a public trial dates from 1248. Twelve citizens of London and twelve goldsmiths of the City were selected to examine the money.
- In 1279 Edward I published an ordinance called ‘The Form of the New Money’ which described how a sample of the work produced each day at the mint in the Tower of London should be placed in a box, or ‘Pyx’.
- Up until the reign of Elizabeth I the juries of the Trial of the Pyx were composed of a mixture of goldsmiths and other citizens of the City of London. Elizabeth gave the Goldsmiths’ Company entire responsibility for the Trial in 1580, and all jurors were nominated from its members from then on.
- 1707 also saw the production of new trial plates following the Act of Union between England and Scotland, to bring the Edinburgh Mint into line with the Tower of London
- Although previous Trials had occasionally been held at Goldsmiths’ Hall, it became the permanent venue by law after the Coinage Act of 1870.
- The first Trial in Goldsmiths’ Hall as the permanent venue was held in 1871.
- The master of the Mint – a role held by the Chancellor today – went to prison for six weeks in 1318 after poor tests.
More information on the Trial can be found here
For more information contact:
- Curtis McGlinchey, Communications Manager, the Goldsmiths’ Company
e: Mcglinchey@thegoldsmiths.co.uk m: 07541 213 253
About the Goldsmiths’ Company
The Goldsmiths’ Company is a membership organisation that has contributed to national life for 700 years. We train and support jewellers and silversmiths, protect consumers by testing and hallmarking precious metals and work with charitable, educational and cultural partners to help people in need.
In a pre-welfare state society, trade guilds like the Goldsmiths’ Company provided a safety net protecting craftspeople, their communities and people who had fallen through the cracks in society. The giving of alms, or financial relief, is mentioned in the first pages of the Company’s earliest minute book in 1334.
- The Goldsmiths’ Centre: Trains and supports jewellers and silversmiths and those in the allied trades.
- The Assay Office: Protects consumers and the trade by hallmarking precious metals.
- The Goldsmiths’ Company Charity: Works with charities to help improve people’s lives.
Website: thegoldsmiths.co.uk IG: @TheGoldsmithsCompany
Website: goldsmtihs-centre.org IG: @GsmithsCentre
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The Royal Mint has an unbroken history of minting British coinage dating back over 1,100 years. Based in the Tower of London for over 500 years, by 1812 The Royal Mint had moved out of the Tower to premises on London’s Tower Hill. In 1967 the building of a new Royal Mint began on its current site in South Wales, UK, to accommodate the minting of UK decimal coinage.
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