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Last update : 26/10/2016

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Cyprus Delegation with SC Chairperson, from left to right: Ch. Kiayias (Cyprus Assay Office), T. S. Lambrianou (Cyprus Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry & Tourism), D. Yarom (SC Chairperson, Israel) &  E. Ioannou (Cyprus Assay Office)

SC Meeting in Larnaca

 

Geneva (21 October 2016): The 79th SC meeting took place in Larnaca (Cyprus) on 26 September 2016 and was attended by 49 officials representing 24 countries of which all 19 Contracting States, 2 Applicant States (Croatia, and Serbia) and guests from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Moldova.

The meeting was chaired by Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel). In her welcome address, the Chairperson thanked Cyprus for their warm welcome and the organisation of several events. The Chairperson also emphasised the importance of basing all decisions on the Convention's rules and showing goodwill during discussions.

Members reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.  Croatia and Serbia provided updates on the status of accession. In Croatia, new elections took place on 11 September which may further delay the ratification process. In Serbia, a new government has been recently formed and the ratification process requires parliamentary approval.

Regarding the Czech objection to Italy's accession, the Chairperson has written to the Czech Government to reconsider its position and remove its objection to the accession of Italy. However, the Czech Government has maintained its objection. During the meeting, the Czech Republic provided information on its exchanges with Italy including its intention to conduct a visit to the Italian laboratory in Vicenza. The SC agreed to wait for the outcome of the visit.

Switzerland has been in contact with Ukraine on behalf of the Convention and has received information from the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance that Ukraine is preparing a draft law to recognise international marks. It would be only after the draft law is accepted that Ukraine could take part in SC meetings. Switzerland agreed to continue to exchange with Ukraine and communicate progress to the SC.

Sri Lanka informed the SC that it was ready to be re-inspected. Sri Lanka's results from the previous Round Robins (RR) have been improving, particularly for gold.  The Chairperson called on volunteers to conduct the re-inspection noting that a high level of technical expertise would be needed.

On the recommendation of the Standing Technical Group (STG), the SC discussed the revision of the Convention's Annexes and related Compilation of Technical Decisions. Four issues were discussed in depth by the SC: (1) the number of minimum marks and the shape of the Common Control Mark (CCM); (2) XRF testing; (3) intermediate base metal layers in silver articles; and (4) equivalence to accreditation.

The SC accepted introducing a dual system for the CCM, which would include the existing system in parallel with a new system. The existing system would be modified to make the fineness mark optional (this mark is already comprised in the CCM). The new system would consist of a single and unique "conformity" mark thus reducing the number of punches necessary to apply the CCM. This could be particularly useful for smaller Assay Offices as well as for laser marking. Members noted the importance of having some indication of the metal under the new system. The design option for such a mark will be further discussed by the STG.

On XRF, the SC asked the STG to draft a SOP for XRF testing and review the conditions under which XRF testing can be used under the Convention.

For intermediate base metal layers in silver articles, the STG will circulate a questionnaire to better understand the demand and concerns amongst stakeholders.

The SC also agreed on a consultation on accreditation via a questionnaire so that variations in costs and other barriers to accreditation can be better understood before any decisions are made regarding possible alternatives to accreditation.

The SC discussed the compliance of authorised Assay Offices to the Convention's requirements.  It expressed satisfaction with the steps taken to ensure the independence of the Irish Assay Office and welcomed the steps taken by the Norwegian Assay Office to stop subcontracting chemical testing now that it can test silver articles.

The SC reviewed the draft results of this year's Round Robin, the inter-laboratory proficiency testing scheme, which was on gold and silver.

Ms. Valentina Valestany (Sweden) provided an update from the 2nd meeting of the Working Group on Vision and Strategy. The Group's activities are continuing and the results will be presented at the next SC meeting.

Statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) in the first quarter of 2016 show a 26% increase. The Chairperson welcomed this change in trend compared to previous statistics which had shown a decline. 

The Secretariat reported on the financial situation of the Convention.  Members noted that the membership fees for 2017 would remain the same as in 2016.

The Netherlands reported on the new legal entity for its Assay Office in Gouda, called WaarborgHolland B.V., which uses the same marks and is accredited to 17025 and 17020. The Netherlands will inform the Depositary of these changes.

The UK reported on the merger the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) and the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) into a single Directorate under the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Chairperson bid farewell to Mr Peter Edwards (NMRO) who attended the SC Meeting for the last time.

The SC agreed to reconvene in Geneva (Switzerland) on 30 March 2017.

 


From left to right: Ch. Kiayias & E. Ioannou (Cyprus Assay Office), D. Yarom (SC Chair, Israel), P. Edwards (UK)

Dates of Next Meetings

 

Geneva (21 October 2016): The next meetings of the Standing Committee (SC) and the International Association of Assay Offices (IAAO)* will take place as follows:

- 30 March 2017: SC meeting in Geneva (Switzerland) 

- 23-24 October 2017: SC & IAAO meetings in Porto (Portugal) [subject to confirmation] 

- Spring 2018: SC meeting (Sweden) 

- Autumn 2018: SC & IAAO meetings (Latvia) 

- Spring 2019: SC meeting (Slovenia) 

The attendance of all above-mentioned meetings is restricted to Members, Observers and Guests.

* At the 18th IAAO Meeting in Larnaca (Cyprus) IAAO Members agreed to hold 1 meeting per year in the autumn.

 


SC Meeting in Lisbon

 

Geneva (21 March 2016): The SC meeting took place in Lisbon (Portugal) on 9 March 2016 and was attended by 51 officials representing 24 countries of which all 19 Contracting States, 3 Applicant States (Croatia, Italy, and Serbia) and guests from Mauritius and Mongolia.

This was the first meeting chaired by Ms. Dalia Yarom (Israel). In her welcome address, the Chairperson emphasized the importance of the Convention for facilitating trade of precious metal articles between countries. For the Convention to continue to be relevant into the future and facilitate trade globally, solutions had to be found and innovation to be embraced in order to see the Convention's global membership expand beyond Europe.

Members reviewed the accession of Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.  Representatives from Italy introduced the amended law on the rules concerning fineness and marks identifying precious metals (Presidential Decree n.168/2015), which is essentially based on the Convention's technical requirements. A letter will be sent to the Czech Ministry to provide information on the amended Italian Law and request a response on the implications of the new regulations on the potential accession of Italy. Croatia and Serbia provided updates on the status of accession. In both countries a change in government has delayed the ratification process. Switzerland has contacted the Ukraine on behalf of the Convention and a reply is expected from the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance.

The SC also discussed a revision of the Convention's Annexes and related Compilation of Technical Decisions, including rules on the compliance of authorised Assay Offices and on a proposal to have a single CCM possibly combined with the Assay Office mark. The Chairperson called on the STG to prepare several papers for the next SC including on: (1) a single conformity mark for the benefit of both Assay Offices and consumers; (2) how to ensure that laboratories, which are not accredited to ISO 17025, demonstrate and maintain an equivalent level of competence; (3) the technical justification for base metal layers in silver articles; and (4) the review and clarification of the conditions for XRF to be used as a testing method.

The SC discussed the compliance of authorised Assay Offices to the Convention's requirements.  It reviewed the independence of the Irish Assay Office and expressed concern that currently the Norwegian Assay Office does not fulfil the requirements of the Convention. A letter will be sent to Norway to emphasize that the ability to subcontract chemical testing to the Swedish Assay Office can be for a limited time only and that the outsourcing of a core competence such as chemical testing is not possible.  The SC noted that this year's Round Robin inter-laboratory proficiency tests on gold and silver had been launched.

Ms. Valentina Valestany (Sweden) provided an update from the 1st meeting of the Working Group on Vision and Strategy. The SC approved the mandate and working methods of the Group. Highlights of the preliminary strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities of the Convention were presented. The Group has been expanded to include the SC Chairperson.

Statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) in 2015 show that the UK continues to mark the most articles with CCM (3.248 million articles) followed by Switzerland (1.918 million articles) . The total number of articles marked in 2015 with the CCM was 5,302,143 articles. This represents an 11% decrease compared to 2014.  

The SC discussed the finances of the Convention and expressed its satisfaction with the quality of service provided by the Secretariat.

During updates from Members, Hungary reported new national hallmarks were introduced on 1 January 2016. Finland has appointed Labtium Oy as its authorised Assay Office under Article 5 of the Convention. Portugal now recognizes palladium as a precious metal.

Members bid farewell to Mr. Gaspar Lloret, formerly of the KRISOS Spanish Association of Assay Offices and of the Instituto Tecnologico Metal-Mecanico (AIMME), for his long history of support to the Convention. The Chairperson also presented certificates of appreciation for retired SC Members including former Chairman Mr. Ronald W. A. Le Bas (Irish Assay Office), Mr. Eimantas Mitkus (Lithuanian Assay Office), Mr. Arend-Willem Niehof (Waarborg Holland), Ms. Otylia Trzaskalska-StroiÅ„ska (Ministry of Development, Poland)  and Mr. Jan-Erik Gardehall (SP Technical Research Institute, Sweden).  

The SC agreed to reconvene in Larnaca (Cyprus) on 26 September 2016. 

 


Ronald W A Le Bas and Dalia Yarom

Change of Guard: Dalia Yarom succeeds Ronald W.A. Le Bas


Geneva (27 October 2015): After 42 years of work at the Irish Assay Office, 27 years in the Standing Committee (SC) and 9 years as the SC's Chairman, Mr Ronald W.A. Le Bas has decided not to stand for re-election for the position of SC Chairman.  Mr Le Bas has been the longest serving SC Chairman in the Convention's history.  During his successive terms, which cover the period between 2006 and 2015, the Convention's text was successfully amended and the Convention further expanded to include both the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.  Croatia, Italy and Serbia also applied for membership during this period.  Mr Le Bas's entire life has been devoted to hallmarking, as did his ancestors.  The Le Bas family has a long and proud tradition in the gold and silver business going back as far as 1574.

Ms Dalia Yarom is the first Chairman in the Convention's history to come from a non-European country.  She is currently the Head of the Chemistry and Textile laboratories (which includes the Israeli Assay Office and its precious metals laboratory) at the Standards Institution of Israel (SII).  Previously she was the Head of the Israeli Assay Office (1999 - 2010) at SII.  Ms Yarom holds a master in chemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  She is also a certified quality engineer (CQE) by the American Quality Assurance Organization.  She has been a Member of the Standing Committee since Israel's accession to the Convention in 2005. 

 


Standing ovation for the outgoing Chairman

SC Meeting in London


Geneva (27 October 2015): The SC meeting took place at Goldsmiths' Hall in London (UK) on 10 September 2015 and was attended by 73 officials representing 31 countries of which 19 Contracting States, 2 Applicant States (Croatia and Serbia) and guests from Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, France, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Romania, South Africa, and Spain.  The Convention's Depositary, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, also attended the meeting.

As this was the last meeting chaired by Mr Ronald W.A. Le Bas (Ireland), the SC elected a successor.  Ms Dalia Yarom (Israeli Assay Office) was unanimously elected Chairman for a two-year term.  The First Deputy Chairman, Mr Ashley Carson (Sheffield Assay Office), and the Second Deputy Chairperson, Ms. Maria Magdalena Ulaczyk (Polish Regional Assay Offices), were also re-elected for the same period (2016-2017).

The Depository informed Members that no objections had been received regarding the accession of Croatia and Serbia who have now been invited to accede to the Convention. 

Members discussed problems related to the accession of Italy and the Ukraine and agreed on a way forward.  The SC also discussed a revision of the Convention's Annexes and related Compilation of Technical Decisions, which had been prepared by the Standing Technical Group (STG).   The revision will be re-discussed at the next meeting.  The STG, led by Mr Thomas Brodmann (Swiss Assay Office), was also reappointed for a period of 2 years.

A new Working Group was established to look at the future vision and strategy of the Convention. 

Statistics on articles marked with the Common Control Mark (CCM) show that Switzerland is now marking the most gold articles in the Convention.  The UK continues to mark the most silver articles. The total number of articles marked in the first two quarters of 2015 with the CCM was 2,523,451 articles.  This number does, however, not include the statistics from Norway.

Members bid farewell to the outgoing Chairman Mr Ronald W.A. La Bas (Ireland Assay Office): they gave him a standing ovation and presented him with a farewell gift.

The SC agreed to reconvene in Lisbon (Portugal) on 9 March 2016.