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Diary of a Silversmith

Broken Restaurant Decanter

The silver decanter collar in the picture below has been in daily use at a well known Notting Hill restaurant for over 7 years. It is one of several in use there and they do occasionally get broken.   At JA Campbell we keep adequate stock of all decanter bodies in our range and can fit a new body onto an existing silver collar or Claret Jug. This is providing the silver is not damaged substantially. Minor damage to the silver can be rectified prior to fitting to the new crystal body.It will look like a new decanter again.   Most of the decanters in our range are highly suitable for use in a demanding restaurant environment being thick enough to withstand minor knocks. However the Admiral and the Chalice decanter and Claret Jug are the exceptions.   What looks really smart and elevates the restaurant image is to have the name or logo engraved onto the crystal body. This is just one of the many services provided by JA Campbell.  

Silver Coaster - a new addition

When I had the Chalice Claret Jug re-shot a couple of years ago (both in the silver and in the gold version) I inserted a small coaster into the picture just as a prop, to get a bit of lifestyle. It had not occurred to me to that this shot may actually create a sale for the coaster. We have now had several requests for this particular coaster.     Unfortunately we did not make one of a suitable size! we have previously sold the middle size coaster from the "appetite" range which was not quite ideal, being a little too big and rather on the expensive side. Last week when a Claret Jug sold the lady requested the coaster to match but could not afford the above mentioned one so I bit the bullet and set about making one of exactly the correct size and thickness to come in at a suitable price. That evening when the workshop was quiet I prototyped one, did a quick costing £275 and put it to the lady the next morning. She said "yes" so the first one was produced and went off to the Assay Office for hallmarking. Not something I like to do too often as the minimum charge makes it quite expensive. However needs must on this occasion. The lady took delivery of her Claret Jug (which was to be presented to a retiring colleague) complete with prominent inscription and newly designed coaster. Delighted!!      

Claret Jug City - Part Two

Following on from Part one the story of production continues. However it may be worth seeing how all the components fit together in a small area before work begins. To continue the story The batch is then passed to the polishing shop where using several grades of compound the body and handles have all the file marks, emery marks and spinning lines polished out. This is much easier while they are still in two separate parts. Next soldering on of the handle: Firstly painted with argotect (the fire stopping solution) and set into a soldering jig, this will support and hold the handle centrally on to the body while it is being made red hot prior to applying the silver solder. This is a bit tricky as one has to get in close with the stick of solder trying to stop it shaking while the hand is close to this red hot object. A few burnt fingers have been known at this stage!! The target site for this solder is quite precise too, occasionally one misses the target and the solder splodge gets inside the lip and makes the polishers life a bit more difficult. After cooling the fully assembled silver section is once more pickled, rinsed and dried. It is then inspected and the soldering area dressed. Next with a felt tip pen a line is marked on to indicate the hallmark position and the sponsor’s mark JAC in a triangle is punched into the surface. They are now sent to the London Assay Office for testing and hallmarking. Upon return from the Assay Office and provided the items have passed the test of better than 925 parts of pure silver out of 1000 (the other 75 parts being copper) the item will be checked that the hallmarks are in order ie. that nothing has been missed. The resulting dents caused by the punches are removed. The JA Campbell London punch is also applied at this stage. This is to make it easy for anyone needing repairs or service at any time to be able to find us. The items are then polished up to the final bright finish using the finest two grades of compound, ultrasonically cleaned and dried. The next stage is to fit each jug on to it's crystal body, this usualy involves a slight bend of the handle to ensure a snug fit against the crystal body. Because both the crystal and silver parts vary slightly in size and shape due to their handmade nature, individual fitting is necessary. A small tapered mandrill is then inserted into the silver neck from the underside, this will both align holding the silver and body central while the plaster filling sets. Next the plaster filling stage: the silver body is upturned and the plastic mandrill inserted through the body, this prevents the wet plaster falling through the hole. The plaster is then pumped into the body void using a large syringe and all the air bubbles tamped out. Next the crystal body upturned is fitted into the plaster filled top. Surplus squeezes out. After about an hour the now hardened surplus plaster is broken off and the nearly finished claret jug thoroughly washed and dried. Next the crystal is polished using a soft towel and the silver "flicked off" (our in house term for a light final polish to remove any water stains.) Last but not least, the point of sale labels are fixed and the claret jugs fitted into their distinctive white and lilac JA Campbell presentation boxes.