Golden Rules - who are the best goldsmiths now?
The ruddy charm of September makes it one of my favourite months not least because of the two lingering weeks of gilded dreamland at the annual Goldsmiths’ Fair. If you’ve not been yet then here’s a spoiler alert: white gold has moved out of the limelight for good. It’s all about rich tones now, so the opulent glow of gold is everywhere. The look, you’ll be pleased to hear, is less Mr T and more Queen of Sheba - texture and artisanal skills lend the best pieces with fascinating depth and detail.
Who are the best Goldsmiths?
Seek out pieces from these top Goldsmiths (not in any order)
Romilly Saumarez Smith
Where chunky gold chains are in evidence they are a celebration of handcraft, for example those by the talented goldsmith Lucie Gledhill who aims for a feeling of “time worn rope” allowing “slips of the hand or unconscious gestures” to give each repetitive gold link an individuality. She also uses other traditional techniques such as acid to rough up the surface of some pieces so the gleam of gold is warm and worn, not mirror bright. The piece shown below, Swap, won the best new design at Goldsmith’s Fair first week.
2. Alison Evans
Precious pieces created in chain mail for modern-day warrior queens are presented by Alison Evans. Rolling on a gold chain mail cuff by Alison, you can’t help but feel a link with the brave heroines of legend, it’s a very ennobling sensation. With a piece of golden chain mail on you’d be armoured against all foes and fates.
3. Teri Howes
In a similar fairytale vein modernist Rumplestiltskin jewels are spun from gold wire by Teri Howes. She uses the same needles and crochet hooks as knitters to produce each piece, but instead of yarn, the filaments of gold are knitted and purled into wide cuffs, chokers and curling earrings. Her pieces are breathtakingly fascinating and the homely origin of her techniques just serves to elevate them further. When I met her at the Goldsmiths Fair she showed me the dolly she uses to create skeins of knitted gold rope - it reminded me of a relic from my childhood when some well meaning female relation gave me one just the same, along with a ball of hideous yellow wool. Here decades later I finally saw the value of it!
Yen designs and creates gold jewellery for grown up women who are not afraid to flaunt their glamorous jewels but in a subtle unflashy way. Even if you were laden down with her gold pieces you’d never look like a preppy princess. The secret is in the articulated gold segments she links together in fronds and tassels which insouciantly weave around precious stones. A genius amongst jewellers, my favourite piece at the Fair was this pearl and gold V fringe ‘Statement’ necklace - how easy it would be to wear with everything from a crisp white shirt for a day look to a glamorous plunging evening gown.
5. Hannah Bedford
Hannah Bedford is another excellent goldsmith whose revival of the ancient art of granulation is married to her modernist aesthetic. Settings and surfaces dance with the tiny gold beads produced by her skill in a delightful naturalist way. Her promotion of Fairtrade gold also ensures that everyone involved in the gold supply chain will benefit fairly, and she also will recycle and reuse clients’ gold in bespoke orders if requested.
6. Ute Decker
Ute Deckers ethical credentials as a leading proponent of FairTrade gold need no emphasis. She has long been a leader in this field by producing one of her collections entirely in FairTrade gold from Sotrami collective in Peru and claims that the “terroir” of this gold lends a special flavour to her pieces much as her artisanal wine growing parents would have said of their carefully stewarded vines. Her wearable sculptures in gold are a juxtaposition of clean lines and flowing forms with soft slubby gleaming surfaces. If gold nuggets could be sliced into clean spirals they’d look like her gold jewellery.
7. Romilly Saumarez Smith
The most unusual goldsmith of all no longer has the use of her own hands. Romilly Saumarez-Smith works with other Goldsmiths to realise the ethereal visions in her mind’s eye to produce captivating jewellery made from gems, fossils and metal detectors’ ‘grots’. Each piece is therefore unique and has its own magic and mystery. Shown here are brooches formed from fossilised ammonites - shells that spiral in the proportions of the golden ratio and are revitalised and frozen for all time in gold.