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Laboratory Services


A unique combination of cutting edge science and age-old skills

Laboratory Services

Our laboratory provides a unique range of services, from smelting and special assay to nickel testing and antique silver dating. "Special Assay" is an intensive scientific process carried out in a laboratory.  It takes a minimum of five working days to complete.  If you have a technical query about this service please email customerservice@assayofficelondon.co.uk

Using the most sophisticated modern techniques, state-of-the-art equipment and rigorous procedures - while drawing upon expertise acquired over the centuries - we offer our customers standards of accuracy and reliability that are second to none.

Our laboratory is fully independent. To further underline the quality of our services, we are selected by the Trading Standards Authorities to examine and witness the authenticity of metals.

All Laboratory Services should be submitted to Goldsmith's Hall.

Full costs can be found in our Pricelist found in the Downloads section.

To use this service, you can submit items at Goldsmiths' Hall by post or courier, or in person. This work is then undertaken by our partners in Sheffield.

To keep pace with the evolving needs of the modern jewellery and silversmithing industries, we are constantly developing our portfolio of expert laboratory services. 

Download Your Special Assay Hallnote here
XRF Analysis

X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry Analysis

We offer complete compositional analysis of metal alloys: for gold, silver, platinum, palladium and other elements,using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF).

This will give you a written report of the breakdown of the alloy.

This usually takes 5-10 working days.

Assay Services

Assaying is the analysis of a metal article's composition. This is a destructive test where a physical sample is taken from the piece and tested. We do this using a variety of techniques, some ancient and some modern:

  • Gold cupellation - A 2000 year old small refining process where the pure gold portion of a gold alloy is separated from the base metals in order to calculate the % gold content overall.  The process involves collection of the precious metals in Lead, removal of the base metals by oxidation and then separation of the silver by dissolution in Nitric Acid to leave the gold at the end.
  • Silver titration - Analysis of the pure silver portion within a silver alloy of > 700ppt by means of an acid/base titration. This involves dissolution of the silver alloy in Nitric Acid, addition of Sodium Chloride to precipitate Silver Chloride and subsequent calculation of the pure silver content based on the volumes used and the sample weights.
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy - Platinum and palladium are analysed using a technique called ICP-OES. This involves dissolution of the sample in a strong acid reagent, Aqua Regia, in order to form an analyte that contains all the elements of interest. The solution is then introduced into a high energy plasma source which is able to excite the atoms of each element such that they give off UV and visible light radiation at certain wavelengths. With this information we can identify the particular element and quantify it by its intensity. 

 

Gold and Silver Assays take typically 5 working days.

Platinum and Palladium Assays take between 5-10 working days.

Any Multi-element Assay will be the length of time of the element with the longest timeframe.

Volumetric flasks in the laboratory

Smelting process

Melt

Smelting - a comprehensive service for precious metal scrap.

Scrap Gold and/or Silver can be submitted for smelting, assaying and certification up to 10kg per bar. Platinum and/or Palladium up to 2kg per bar.

Timeframes as mentioned above.

Additional Services

Antique silver dating: we are the only organisation in the world to offer this service. The dating process occurs four times a year. Please contact us for more information on this.

Plating thickness measurement: applying different techniques, depending on the item. 

REACH Regulations & Nickel Directive

The EU REACH Regulation has been brought into UK law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The key principles of the EU REACH Regulation have been retained. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol the EU REACH Regulation continues to apply to Northern Ireland . This is now know as UK REACH. More information can be found here with the REACH Statutory Instrument found here.

These regulations mean that precious metal items need a high level of protection to human health and the environment from the use of chemicals. There are certain metals within alloys which can cause harm to human health.

Our services below allow you to adhere to this legislation.

Nickel Testing

Nickel is a well known allergen and as such is subject to the laws set down in the Nickel directive.

This states that any manufacturer, retailer, importer etc. will commit an offence if they sell or supply post assemblies to be inserted into a pierced part of the human body unless the rate of Nickel release is less than 0.35ug/cm2/week.  Similarly, if they sell or supply jewellery items, precious or base metal that come into prolonged contact with the skin unless the rate of Nickel release is less than 0.88ug/cm2/week.

There are no restrictions on the Nickel content that may be in the metal alloy to be supplied.

 Nickel testing includes:

  • Nickel content – British Standard reference test method for the measurement of nickel content.
  • Nickel durability – British Standard reference test method for the simulation of wear and corrosion.
  • Nickel release – British Standard test method to ascertain the release of nickel from products intended to come into direct and prolonged contact with skin. 

The Nickel test is a destructive test where a physical sample is taken from the piece for testing and this sample cannot be returned.

This service takes at least 10 working days.

Lead and Cadmium Testing

The ability to detect lead and cadmium in jewellery items is becoming more important due to the harmful effects that these toxic elements can have. Cadmium and lead are restricted by REACH regulations. Our laboratory provides a lead and cadmium testing service for precious metal and costume jewellery in line with REACH regulations.

Cadmium & Lead – These are considered as toxic metals. The regulations state that items may not be placed on the market if the Cadmium content is equal to or > than 0.01% and if the Lead content is equal to or > 0.05%.

Lead and Cadmium testing - testing for precious metal and costume jewellery in line with REACH regulations.

Lead and Cadmium testing is a destructive test where a physical sample is taken from the piece for testing and this sample cannot be returned.

This service takes at least 10 working days.

  • Scrap poured into the smelter

    Scrap poured into the smelter

  • Scrap poured into the smelter

    Scrap poured into the smelter

  • Molten metal at 1100 centigrade

    Molten metal at 1100 centigrade

  • Molten metal poured into the crucible

    Molten metal poured into the crucible

  • Gold bar left to cool

    Gold bar left to cool

  • Bar is turned out of mould

    Bar is turned out of mould

  • Bar is turned out of mould before washing

    Bar is turned out of mould before washing

  • Drilling gold bar to test samples

    Drilling gold bar to test samples

  • Gold bar ready to be certified

    Gold bar ready to be certified