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Main image: Goldsmiths' Hall in the city of London

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 Goldsmiths' Hall, the home of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, in the City of London.

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, typically containing around a total of 50,000 coins, are taken to the Trial of the Pyx. The Trial 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.

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 coins submitted are counted and one selected from each batch for testing.

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. Trial plates are kept by the National Measurement and Regulation Office.

22 carat GOLD TRIAL PLATE 1829

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. A sumptuous luncheon in the Livery Hall of the Goldsmiths' Company takes place afterwards.

Paul Johnson the Superintendent Assayer of the Goldsmiths’ Company who served on the jury of the Trial of the Pyx for 31 years with Master Turner the Queen’s Remembrancer in 2001.

A Pictures of England article submitted by Paul V. A. Johnson

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