The history of the Trial of the Pyx
The Trial of the Pyx is a ceremony that dates back to the thirteenth century, when coins made by The Royal Mint were first put to the test to check they contained the right amount of precious metals.
The ceremony gets its name from the chests that were used to carry the coins to the Trial, and the Pyx Chamber in Westminster Abbey where they were originally kept.
From 1870 onwards the Trial of the Pyx has taken place each year at the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London.
The ceremony in detail
The ceremony today remains very much the same as it was in Henry III’s reign. Throughout the year, coins are selected at random from batches of each denomination struck by The Royal Mint. They are then sealed in bags that contain 50 coins each and locked away in the Pyx chests.
The chests are taken to the Trial of the Pyx. The Jury at each trial is made up of leaders from the financial world and at least six assayers from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, who put the coins to the test.
The assayers are given two months to test that the coins meet the statutory limits for metallic composition, weight and size. They test the coins against what is known as a Trial Plate, which acts as a benchmark. Trail plates are kept by the National Measurement and Regulation Office.
After two months the trial reconvenes and the Queen’s Remembrancer asks the Jury for its verdict. The verdict is given every May in the presence of the Master of The Royal Mint, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or his Deputy.
Did you know?
- The Trial is held every year at London’s Goldsmith’s Hall, in accordance with the Coinage Act of 1971.
- The Trial of the Pyx is overseen by the Queen’s Remembrancer of the Royal Courts of Justice. The Remembrancer is the oldest judicial office in the UK, dating back to the twelfth century.
- Trial plates today are made from pure metals of platinum, gold, silver, copper, nickel and zinc.
- The oldest surviving Trial Plate dates from 1477. It is held in The Royal Mint Museum.
- As well as the Trial of Pyx, The Royal Mint carries out rigorous quality tests during coin production.
- In November 1991, The Royal Mint became the first mint in the world to gain the quality standard accreditation ISO 9001.