City of Goldsmiths

Despite an unsettling summer and a shaky economy, London’s 2005 Goldsmiths’ Fair enjoyed a successful run, as sales rose 4 percent from the previous year’s figures. The work of 90 jewelers and silversmiths was on display for viewing by the 7,000 consumers who attended. Of those exhibitors, 17 were new to the Fair, which ran Oct. 3–9, 2005.

The Fair is held by the Goldsmiths’ Co. (aka The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths), one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London. The Company, which received its first royal charter in 1327, is the main trade organization for jewelers, silversmiths, and goldsmiths in the United Kingdom. It also maintains the United Kingdom’s rigorous hallmarking standards through the Assay Office London.

In an effort to encourage and support emerging talent, each year the Goldsmiths’ Co. also grants five Fair stands to recent graduates and awards them with £1,000 ($1,721.81) bursaries to help them establish their careers.

The items on display at the Fair were eclectic. Unusual stones, natural themes, and textured surfaces appeared throughout the jewelry designs, and bold, sculptural pieces stood out among the silver work.

ARTISTIC NATURALISM

Organic motifs in particular were prevalent throughout the Fair. Gold- and silversmith Wayne Victor Meeten displayed an impressive collection of his silver and mokume gane work, both in vessels and jewelry. Although originally from Brighton, England, Meeten has lived and taught in Japan and lectured on the mokume gane technique at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is also a tai chi enthusiast, and says that all of his work is influenced by the practice; its soft, flowing movements are evident in the natural forms and textures of his work. The texture of one bowl in particular was inspired by the pattern of birds’ feet in snow.

Jewelry designer Alan Vallis is also influenced by natural forms—particularly those that are marine-related. A dedicated deep-sea diver, Vallis re-creates the creatures he has seen on his dives in the Red Sea. Working in silver, gold, and platinum, Vallis realistically models tiny versions of fish and shells, stacking them above one another in pendant form for his Shoal collection. The placement of the pieces is meant to mimic the appearance of the actual fish as they swim among one another in the sea.

Vallis also featured underwater motifs as the central elements in stacking rings, while offering other, nonmarine options set with assorted gemstone combinations.

Silversmith and jeweler Sarah Hutchison was one the five recent graduates invited to exhibit at the Fair, and her work also stood out for its natural elements. Fashioned in either gold or silver, her pieces featured floral motifs with loose cabochon gemstones caged within the leaves or petals of the blooms. One pair of silver earrings embodied a long-stemmed flower with a center of caged iolite; the stem was designed to run through the ear in long-post form.

Other naturalistic motifs were seen in the silver vessels of Shimara Carlow and Mizuho Koizumi. Carlow is inspired by seed pods, and their rounded, slightly off-center shapes are central to the design of her vases, bowls, and jewelry. Incorporating handmade silk paper forms that also mimic the pod shape, she layers the pod forms—alternating between silver and silk—into long drop pendants, and also uses them individually in rings. By using paper in conjunction with metal, she says she incorporates both movement and sound into her pieces.

Koizumi’s pieces were even more naturalistic. Her sculptural silver vases take the form of branches or leaves, creating an illusion of life when paired with actual flowers or plants.

TONAL ILLUSION

“If I had a dollar for every ‘dainty, delicate’ I’ve heard this week, I’d be a rich woman,” said Emma Atherton, whose silver and colored-enamel Pod collection drew attention. At first glance, her pieces could be mistaken for bezel-set cabochon-cut stones, but in reality they are little egg-shape hollow forms, filled with enamel in a range of shades—pinks, blues, purples, and yellows. “People are always going for the pinks and purples, so I make more of them,” Atherton said. She also noted that her smaller items were selling well—particularly her tiny stud earrings.

Andrew Lamb’s jewelry also prompted a second look. Combining yellow gold, oxidized silver, or platinum, Lamb’s creations change color under the viewer’s nose. His use of multiple threads of precious metal help create a rippling visual effect, resulting in pendants that can appear yellow from one angle and black or silver from another. He, like Hutchison, also employs the “caged-stone” technique, further adding to the unexpected color combinations.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE GEMS

Some unusual gemstones were seen at the Fair. Drusy, chrysoprase, and labradorite were featured in the large and sometimes whimsical designs of jeweler Charmian Harris. One of her pieces, a brooch, consisted of two floral blooms made of zoisite. Both were placed within a square frame of oxidized silver, with each bloom set on a spring stem to generate movement.

Rutilated quartz made an appearance in the large, architectural designs of jeweler Josef Koppmann, who used the asymmetrically cut and gold-flecked stone in a pendant design alongside other pieces in amethyst, opal, and brown quartz.

SHOWSTOPPING VESSELS

Each year, the Goldsmiths’ Fair presents a Best New Merchandise Award, and this year’s title was granted to silversmith Ane Christensen in honor of her Negative collection of silver bowls. Playing with the concept of negative space, Christensen cuts areas out of each silver vessel, overlapping those cuts to create an optical illusion of three- dimensional forms resting within the bowl.

This year’s Fair also featured a charity-related display, as silversmith Alex Bernard exhibited two Ikebana Bean vases that had a history. The English charity In Kind Direct, which redistributes surplus items donated by corporations, had recently received hundreds of obsolete silver staff badges. Instead of simply melting the badges down, the charity asked Bernard to use them in a work of art. He did, realistically fashioning two vases in the form of sprouting bean pods. The pieces sold early in the show, and the proceeds benefited the charity, which the Prince of Wales established in 1996.