Birmingham’s Assay Master announces intention to step down

THE chief executive and Assay Master of The Birmingham Assay Office, Michael Allchin has announced he will retire next summer.

Mr Allchin has spent his entire career in the jewellery industry and during the past 45 years has travelled most of the world, buying and selling for companies ranging from small private concerns to Signet Group Plc, where he was Buying Director for H. Samuel for 14 years.

Despite the Assay Office having been in operation for nearly 240 years, Mr Allchin is only its 12th Assay Master.

He joined the business in 1998 when there was controversy over an EU plan to scrap the UK’s independent statutory hallmarking. His brief following his appointment was to fight the EU Directive and drive diversification to ensure the business could survive without statutory hallmarking.

Now, 14 years on the challenge has been met. The EU Directive was fought off and eventually scrapped in 2004.

As a result of his restructuring, the Assay Office now has four additional successful trading divisions, The Laboratory, AnchorCert Gemmological Laboratory, SafeGuard Jewellery and Watch Valuations, and Heritage & Training.

In a statement, the Assay Office said: “The dangers of loss of consumer confidence in our trade due to malpractice in the supply chain are very real and Michael’s contribution to the Responsible Jewellery Council and CIBJO (The World Jewellery Confederation) has been significant.

“He has also been concerned about the loss of skill from the industry and has worked with the British Jewellers’ Association and the Goldsmiths’ Company to encourage the re-introduction of apprenticeships, while also supporting the work of the Birmingham School of Jewellery.

“Michael leaves The Birmingham Assay Office with his most significant legacy still in progress, the move to a new purpose built building, a project which Michael considers vital to its future.”

Mr Allchin has also campaigned for the long term survival of the city’s historic Jewellery Quarter and has been very active in the foundation of the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust, a Community Interest Company which enables the local community to drive the regeneration of the area.
He said: “We all regard ourselves as temporary custodians of this unique institution. The Birmingham Assay Office is only still here because of our great team of people with their innovative thinking and classic Brummie entrepreneurial spirit.

“The jewellery industry has changed incredibly and unexpectedly over the last 10 years, largely due to the drastic increase in precious metal prices. Through the commitment and enthusiasm of the whole team we have successfully retained Hallmarking and delivered four new strands to our business model, developing new niche services for the wider jewellery, watch, precious metal and gemstone industry.

“It is time for me to move on and let a new chief executive and Assay Master bring in a fresh approach and a new burst of energy and enthusiasm to the office. I feel very privileged to have been in a position to move The Birmingham Assay Office forward into the 21st Century and am grateful for all the support I have received both from my team here and many friends and colleagues in the trade.”