December 5, 2022

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Goldsmiths’ Fair In London Celebrates 40 Years Of Jewelry-Making Talent

Goldsmiths Hall is packed. Assorted press, private clients and supporters of independent jewelry makers rub shoulders underneath its gilded ceilings and jostle to see the latest offerings from the exhibitors. The magnificent venue is playing host, for the 40th time, to the Goldsmiths’ Fair, a two-week showcase for the talented metalworkers and jewelers supported by the Goldsmiths’ Company, London’s 700-year-old guild for gold and silversmiths. The contemporary jewels are on show alongside rarely seen items from the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection, which charts the history of UK-based jewelry and metal working.

The Fair began in 1983, and soon became the guild’s main platform for launching and supporting studio jewelers and silversmiths. “Goldsmiths’ Fair is unique in bringing together craftspeople with a thrilling combination of vision and ingenuity,” says Harriet Scott, Head of Fair. “Over 40 years we have witnessed the incredible evolution of the UK’s silversmithing and jewelry industries, and we have the privilege of showcasing and celebrating the finest and most innovative craftspeople working in the UK today. The event has burgeoned into one of international importance… the Fair’s original remit to provide an opportunity to meet he makers in person and buy handcrafted items directly from he individual who created them, remains its unique appeal.”

The breadth of skills on show is impressive. Guests enter via an exhibition of 40 pieces from the Goldsmiths’ Collection, chosen by Curator Dr Dora Thornton to represent the past 40 years. On show is emblematic work from influential makers, including an acid-dipped bowl from silversmith Adi Toch, and a sculpture by Nan Nan Lui, made from fine silver wires, each on spot-welded to its neighbor.

The works are taken from the Goldsmiths’ Collection, 11,000 pieces of silverware and jewelry dating back to 1493. “It’s rare to have a strong contemporary and also historic collections, especially silver,” says Dr Frances Parton, deputy curator at The Goldsmiths’ Company, “our Collection promotes living skills and tells the story of the craft, trade and the Goldsmiths’ Company. It enables people to make meaningful connections with the past and the present.” Including, for example, the dialogue between the work of mid-century jeweler Andrew Grima, and that of contemporary maker Jo Hayes Ward. The collection is soon to be digitized, enabling an international audience to access and be inspired by works of art of world-class importance.

The Fair throws into relief the ingenuity of today’s makers, many of whom combine ancient, hand-working methods with modern technique to create wholly contemporary work. Lucie Gledhill’s intricate handmade chains require hours of work at the bench, while Ella Fearon-Low’s lucite and gemstone brooches combine modern and ancient materials. Ellis Mhairi Cameron’s new collection, Dusk, features a cooler take on her usual warm palette of diamonds, created using traditional wax carving, while Emefa Cole, who was recently appointed Curator for Diaspora Jewelry at the V&A Museum, showcases skills learnt alongside the personal jeweler to the King of the Ashanti people in Nigeria, in her distinctively sculptural gold and silver jewelry.

Elsewhere, Romilly Saumarez Smith’s delicate jewels are like something from a dreamscape. Her work is a celebration of the natural world in salvaged and repurposed materials, and the Shore pin evokes rocks, pebbles and grasses, while the Surf brooch features repurposed antique seed pearls sewn around the edge of a sliver of gold. In contrast, Ute Decker’s bold swirls of metal are created instinctively, forms born rapidly in her studio, followed by careful work on brushed and polished planes and edges.

With 138 creative showing across two weeks, all tastes are catered for. Week Two will see Britain’s only BCorp jeweler, Shakti Ellenwood, showing her traceable gemstone and Fairtrade gold amulets and rings for the first time at the Fair, as well as Ruth Tomlinson, whose WondeRings collection features gemstones and other minerals found and collected over her 20 year career in her characteristically organic style.

Both makers are featured in [email protected] one of two other exhibitions paying tribute to Goldsmiths’ makers. Rachel Garrahan, watches and jewelry director at British Vogue, has selected 40 pieces in the Fair for the [email protected] exhibition trail, including garnet rings by Disa Alsopp, whose work is also currently on show at Sotheby’s Brilliant & Black selling exhibition LINK; while Roxane Simone, who co-founded Crucible, an organisation for LGBTQIA and global majority makers, has curated a show in Week Two spotlighting ten innovative women/womxn designers.

Now, more than ever, such a spotlight on, and contact with, the makers themselves, is important. “The struggles experienced by independent craftspeople over the last few years are not to be underestimated,” says Harriet Scott. “It takes great tenacity to pursue a vision and set up a business on your own, even in calmer waters.” Through the Fair, Goldsmiths’ is demonstrating its commitment to craftspeople and their art, and it will be exciting to see what the next four decades hold.

The Goldsmiths’ Fair is open until October 9, tickets can be purchased on the Goldsmiths’ Fair website.