Newcastle had its own assay office for over 600 years, between 1248 and 1884. An assay office checks the quality of silver and gold goods produced by local craftsmen, making sure they are the correct weight and made of pure metal. Goods are then stamped with a series of ‘hallmarks’ to show they have passed the tests. There are usually hallmarks showing what type of metal it is, where it was made, the date and who made it. The Newcastle assay office was granted its own ‘touch’ or regional hallmark in 1423. It shows a shield with three castles on it, the same mark which is now on the Newcastle city crest.
The Bayrheed Mazer, about 1600 -1613, by William Bayrheed (late 16th – early 17th century)
Silver and maplewood
Purchased with grant aid from the MGC/ Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, The Art Fund, and The Friends of the Laing Art Gallery, 1997
A mazer is a medieval drinking vessel. The name comes from either the Old English word 'masarm' meaning maple, or the Old German word 'masar', meaning 'spot', characteristic of a maplewood pattern. The 'Bayrheed Mazer' is especially rare, as it is unusual to know the identity of the makers of mazers. William Bayrheed (Barehead) is recorded as a goldsmith of Durham. The Bayrheed Mazer may be the second earliest known example of North-East silver.
Fruit Bowl, 1901, Designed by Richard G. Hatton (1865-1926) for the Newcastle Handicrafts Company
Silver with enamel panels and semi-precious gemstones
Purchased with grant aid from the MGC/ Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, The Art Fund, and The Friends of the Laing Art Gallery, 1995
This rare Arts and Crafts fruit bowl was designed for the Handicrafts Company of Newcastle by its founder, Richard Hatton. The stem of the bowl is decorated with enamelled panels in Islamic style. The semi-precious gemstones set in-between each panel are moonstones and labradorites. The bowl was shown at the first Northumberland Handicrafts Guild Exhibition in 1901. It was also featured in a review of this exhibition in 'The Studio', the leading art journal of the time.