INCM is the result of the merging in 1972, of Imprensa Nacional (The Official Printing Office) and Casa da Moeda (The Mint). The long history of these companies makes INCM the repository of some of the oldest industrial establishments in the country.

D. João ID. João I

D. LuizD. Luiz

Regulamento das Contrastarias, 1886Regulamento das Contrastarias, 1886

Santo Elói, padroeiro dos ourivesSanto Elói, padroeiro dos ourives

Caixa de PunçõesCaixa de Punções

Antiga Contrastaria no Campo das Cebolas - LisboaAntiga Contrastaria no Campo das Cebolas - Lisboa

Edifício da Contrastaria de GondomarEdifício da Contrastaria de Gondomar

Edifício da Contrastaria do PortoEdifício da Contrastaria do Porto

The control and marking of precious metal articles is regarded as the oldest form of consumer protection. The counterfeiting of gold artefacts was in the past, a crime severely punished by law, similar to the counterfeiting of currency.

Already in the first dynasty were established penalties for those who counterfeited currency or precious metals. D. João I (1357-1433) regulated the profession of goldsmith and its trade. Later laws, as the Ordinations Afonsinas (1446) or the Ordinations Filipinas (1603) increased the penalties for counterfeiting, which went from exile to the death penalty. With D. Pedro II, the minimum fineness (amount of precious metal in the composition of an alloy) became 20 carats. in the reign of D. João V, in the seventeenth century, it was ruled that articles in gold should have 18 carats and had to be examined by assayers. Nowadays, the Penal Code states, moreover, penalties for the forgery of the assay office punches.

In the Middle ages, the control of the fineness of precious metals, i.e., the percentage (or per thousandth by weight) of precious metal in the alloy, was a responsibility of the guild in which the artificers were grouped. There were the Confraria dos Ourives de Lisboa (Brotherhood of Goldsmiths of Lisbon), the Confraria dos Prateiros de Lisboa (Brotherhood of Silversmiths of Lisbon) and their Oporto counterparts which followed very strict regulations to ensure quality of manufactured items. The Mint, acting in the name of the king, supervised this activity.

With the loss of importance and subsequent disappearance of corporations (1834), it was handed over to municipalities the responsibility to assay the articles of precious metal; was the era of so-called "municipal assayers" or "gentlemen assayers", goldsmiths of recognized competence whose function was to ensure the quality of the products of other goldsmiths.

This system has, however, deteriorated. As the assayers fees were charged by article marked, there were more demanding and more permissive assayers. As a result, Portuguese Assay Office marks and jewellery lost credibility.

In 1881, after complaints from the City Council of Oporto, the Goldsmiths' Association and the Auriferous Society on the negligence of some municipal councils and the lack of laws against abuses and irregularities in the fineness of articles of precious metals, the king D. Luís I decreed the uniformity of the fineness of gold and silver throughout the country. However, these measures were not enough, and in July 27 of 1882, Fontes Pereira de Melo, being chairman of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Finance, extinguished the municipal assayers and ordered the creation of the Lisbon and Oporto Assay Offices, subject to the Mint.

In 1886, the Assay Office Department of Braga was created (Government Journal no. 171, July 26) and in 1887 three assay office marks began to be used (Lisbon, Porto and Braga). The Assay Office Department of Braga would be extinct in 1911 (Government Journal no. 70, March 17).

In 1900 the government was requested to establish a new assay office department in Gondomar, given the number of manufacturers that there existed. However, only a delegation of the Oporto Assay Office was open in October of that year and closed a few months later by political and economic reasons. By Law no. 85, on July 26 of 1913 was finally created the Assay Office Department of Gondomar, replacing the delegation while the conditions of communications between that municipality and the city of Oporto were not changed.

By the Assay Offices Regulation of 1932 (Decree no. 20740 of 11 Jan) we can see the size of the three assay offices in terms of staff: 11 people in Lisbon, 16 in Oporto and 12 in Gondomar. The Lisbon and Gondomar Assay Offices are of similar size, while the Oporto Assay Office is larger.

The Decree no. 26115 later withdraws the class of department to the Lisbon, Oporto and Gondomar Assay Offices. By the Decree no. 28902 of 8 August 1938, are entrusted to the Oporto Assay Office the assaying services until then borne by the Gondomar Assay Office - exclusively from this municipality - but leaves in Gondomar a reception and delivery post for articles, assuming the State the burden of delivering the works to the Oporto Assay Office.

With the creation of the Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda (Portuguese Mint and Official Printing Office), by Decree-Law no. 225/72 of 4 July, the Assay Offices were integrated into this government-owned company as services directly linked to its administration.

Finally, on May 1st, 1986, was created the current Assay Offices Department of the Portuguese Mint and Official Printing Office, incorporating the Lisbon and Oporto Assay Offices, with the later including a delegation in Gondomar, which remained with Decree-Law no. 170/99 of 19 May that transformed INCM into a corporation (SA) with state-owned capital only.

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