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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!!      

Summer Garden Produce

This may seem a strange title for a blog from a Silversmith workshop? By now if you have read my blogs before then you will not be suprised how my mind wanders from subject to subject and always finds a link with my work. It is at this time of year when the garden calls. It would be nice if it was a call just to sit and enjoy the summer weather - but we are in England! The weeds grow, the grass needs cutting, but if like me you enjoying growing your own produce then this is when things really start to happen. Picking the first tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse, runner bean plants at the top of the poles and the first boiling so tender and succulent. Digging up potatoes, picking fruits and that is a task that leads on to yet another. Loganberry jam from our garden, blackcurrant jam and cherry jam courtesy of next door's kind offering for us to pick from their plants and tree. All in exchange for a couple of jars. Later in the year of course we have still to come our own grapes from the vine in the greenhouse. Well I am sure I am not alone in gathering all the produce above and many of you also enjoy eating the fruits of your labour. After taking all that care and attention to detail I am sure you too will want to display all your produce in the best possible way. When you have company for dinner the talking point will be your gardening achievements and what better way to show off your jam, for instance, than in a Silver & Crystal Preserve Dish. How about your homegrown potatoes and runner beans in a Silver Vegetable Tureen with lid. If your tomatoes form part of a salad then the Silver & Crystal Salad Bowl and a set of Silver Salad Servers will be just perfect. Whilst the grapes in the greenhouse may not be ready yet (they are best for eating anyway) in the meantime a glass or two served from one of our Silver & Crystal Decanters is the best way to enjoy your chosen wine. JA Campbell Silversmiths have everything you need to set the perfect table to impress your guests or simply to enjoy yourself! Browse our website and order online or give me a call if you prefer the personal touch. John Campbell.


Christmas is here once again - well nearly - and yet again the most popular items in our range are Silver & Crystal Decanters.  We have a large selection to choose from and hopefully something to suit everyone's tastes. White wine, Red wine, Port, Spirits - all look so much better when served from an elegant decanter. Have a look on our website now as there is still time to order and have one delivered for Christmas. It can be for a present or simply for your own use to enhance your Christmas table. There is even one that holds two bottles of wine - the Magnum - if you are having a large gathering. See the sparkle of Silver and Crystal together!!!!!

Sterling Silver Flower Vase

On return from a recent European sales trip I decided to leave a sample sterling silver flower vase at home. I have recently started making this vase after many years and thought it would be a good idea to do some testing. This is always a good policy as it gets the product used in a real day to day environment and any minor issues can be sorted out before a customer uses it. Some years ago the same was done with one of our pepper grinders and guess what?? It did not work properly.Despite containing the best Peugeot mechanism it would not perform as it should have done. A small spacer was added as a temporary measure until a permanent solution was added to the tooling. This vase is performing perfectly and looks good with some simple flowers from the garden, roses, sweet peas and a small hydrangea head. The combinations are endless and can be whatever looks good on the day. Pop it next to you while working away on your keyboard or it will grace any diner party table.                                                              

Pepper Mill refurbishment

Six of our Sterling Silver Capstan Pepper Mills recently came back for a refurbishment from a retailer in Oxford, England. They were owned by one of the local colleges. Although in surprisingly good condition, in that there were very few dents, they had some structural problems mainly surrounding the aluminium drive shafts. These were corroded which had caused three of the finials to seize on and so breaking the threads off. After a complete dissemble, three new knobs, six new spindles and a good ultrasonic clean and re-polish they looked like new again. Question: How did the aluminium spindles become corroded? I suspect they have been allowed to get and remain damp, probably from a dishwasher. Tip: If a dishwasher has to be used ensure the cap and knob are removed and these parts stood on absorbent paper in a warm place such as the top of a central heating radiator or boiler for a couple of days to ensure all the hollow spaces are thoroughly dry. Give them a good shake to check before re-assembling. Repeat the above if any water drops are seen. If any users have any questions on the subject please give me a ring personally on +44(0)1277 217 829 John Campbell

Silver Feast or Famine

How many times do you hear this phrase - Feast or Famine? Twice yesterday and if I count JA Campbell - three times. The first was our crystal engraver Monica who quoted one very busy week and then several quiet ones. The second was a fellow passenger on a train journey (someone in the "city") He said pretty much the same and then at JA Campbell. We have gone from having insufficient production during the early part of July to overdrive in the second half. An interesting order for tennis competition trophies sponsored by a national newspaper and an order for some Campbell dishes for ununknown presentation. No complaints however!!! The changing situation with the daily fix by the LME is an interesting one with no one knowing what if anything will replace it. This is an historic piece of financial theatre whereby a group of people (representatives) of banks and traders would gather together at noon each day and depending whether their firm had more buyers than sellers would raise a little flag. If the majority were raised the daily fix price would go up and the reverse if not. With the volume of silver traders now being lower there is a reduction in the number of traders being prepared to partake in the ceremony. For more information on this topic see The Times Newspaper 17 July 2014 Business section page 36 Watch this space. In the meantime JA Campbell are producing a range of silver tableware that needs to be seen to be appreciated. Have a look on my website and I am sure there is something that will catch your eye John Campbell Master Silversmith 

Want to buy a surprise SILVER present?

I took a call from a lady yesterday who was initially checking stock and availability of a product and then asking if we would take the order over the phone using her credit card. The reason she gave was that if she ordered on the website confirmation emails would be sent and she wanted to keep the purchase as a surprise wedding anniversary present for her husband. She obviously did not want him to see any evidence on their home computer. She also asked for it to be delivered to a relatives address for the same reason. I was also asked not to phone and check any details!!! and so give the game away. This senario is not unusual, it often happens with quite a lot of purchases. Anyone preferring not to order via the website please just give a call to John or Colin. We like to talk to people!!! We take great pride in our work and everything we make we do with enthusiasm and care. 

Tarnish Free Silver - revisited

At breakfast this morning I noticed that the silver was in need of a polish. (I really dislike tarnished silver.) It doesn't seem long since I did it last, possibly only a fortnight.  Our kitchen diner where our every day silver lives seems to be especially susceptable to tarnish. I suspect it is the gas cooking coupled with the sometimes steamy conditions (sulpher/water vapour) This led on to thinking that if anyone invented a "genuine" tarnish free silver it would increase sales of silver considerably. Unfortunately - to date - this has not happened and maybe never will. Some years ago (8 maybe) when an old fellow college student of mine, Peter Johns discovered his tarnish resistant silver, which was subsequently produced by Thesco in Sheffield, England, I had great hopes for a transformation of sales. This I regret to say never materialised as when I laid down a sample "tarnish free" decanter top next to a normal 925 copper alloy one I was amazed and dissapointed to find that the tarnish free version of the same thing tarnished quicker than the ordinary silver. Whether it would ever have gone to the same blackness level I do not know, but certainly the first stages of tarnish happened sooner than on the ordinary.  Luckily I had stopped short of booking advertising space, promotional material, POS etc., however it was a bitter dissappointment. Then Cooksons, my precious metal supplier announced they were starting to produce a tarnish resistant silver. I organised some trial batches of various popular items. When I mentioned this to a retailer in Germany her eyes went skywards, indicating disbelief.She was right to be skeptical, this proved to be the same as the previous, plus it couldn't be handled when red hot which can be a problem for a silversmith.  Consequently I have given up looking, it looks unlikely to happen in my lifetime. There is another solution to the problem, rodium plating. Whilst being very tarnish resistant it is rather chromy in its colour. Another downside with rodium is that ever the article becomes damaged it can be difficult or sometimes impossible to repair. So in my opinion is an option not worth considering. Just continue with hand polishing with the likes of silvo, my preferred silver polish. If the tarnish is dealt with early (not allowed to get too discolored) however it is easy to buff up, using a soft cloth and no polish.  This will be effective for a couple of times after which it will start to become more stubborn and need a proper polish. This task is best done when you are not too busy, for example on a Sunday morning after breakfast, when you can do it in a more relaxed manner. You might actually enjoy the experience! It will look like new again. Note: It is worth reminding that when polishing salt grinders etc (1) to one keep shaking the cloth to remove the salt particles and (2) do not use it on another item it may spread the contamination.

John Campbell Master Silversmith

From an early age I was always interested in making things and this has continued throughout my life. I trained as an apprentice, worked for several companies before deciding I had the skills and desire to design and create my own range of sterling silver tableware. My first workshop was in a shed in my parents garden. My business grew and I moved several times before settling in my Brentwood studio. A glimpse below of just one of the rooms.