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Diary of a Silversmith


A sterling silver vase, or a crystal vase with a detachable sterling silver base. The choice is yours and to help you decide we are just about to put a set of new inspiring photographs onto the website, complete with flowers and arrangements suitable for the coming winter and Christmas season. Have a look at our website now to catch a glimpse of the autumn collection and then again in a couple of days to see the winter ones. Here is a sneak preview!!  

Tusk Silver Trophy

A local engraver to us, Steven Alexander, asked if I could fit an additional silver plate to the above mentioned trophy. Commissioned in the 1950's it had run out of space to engrave further winners names. Quite a bizarre object, it appears to be made from a hollowed out top end of an elephants tusk with the handle made of what looks like Rhinoceros horns. A glass bottom enabling it to be used as a mug. The making of an additional plate was quite tricky given that the only means I had of fixing it to the tusk was dress making pins which although good at driving into the wooden plinth. They r... [More]

Silver Mine Visit

I was invited to visit a silver mine museum in France by a couple of German/Canadian friends a few weeks ago - how could I - a silversmith even think of refusing! The abandoned mine, of which there are many in the Vosges Mountain area of France, has been turned into a museum. This one is quite near to Strasburg. The excursion is split into different sections, above and below ground. It starts with a film about how a silver mine was bought and then all the different workers gathered together. The next part is to take a group of people into the old mine workings, through a series of tunnels -... [More]

Precious Metals - Conservation

As a Silversmith I am, and always have been, careful not to waste any silver or gold which I handle on a daily basis. In common with others in the industry, we cut, file, saw, grind, turn and polish precious metals. All these processes could lose some of the precious metals never to be seen again. In our case the clean cutting we collect to use at a later date for our silver castings. The less clean (which could have some oil or dirt present) is collected and returned to our supplier for melt and assay. The fine silver element of this is then credited to our metal account with our supplier. ... [More]

A Hallmark request

A few weeks ago I had an unusual request from a repeat customer. Did we have in stock something suitable for a belated Christening present? But it had to have the date letter 2015. I had a rummage through the safe and found three items and offered him a choice. One of the items was a Directors Whisky Decanter. We both agreed that this was a rather unusual Christening present but probably more useful (in later life of course!) than a baby rattle for example which is only useful during the early life of a child. On the other hand it could be passed from generation to generation??? However a... [More]

Britannia Silver

I needed to order a considerable amount of standard (sterling) 925 silver sheet recently. After I placed my order the supplier informed me that they had insufficient in stock to fulfill my request. An alternative was to take some of it in Britannia silver (958). It is many years since I have used Britannia but to use it on this occasion would solve the problem. I knew it was softer so it should be easier to spin – in theory. Well this was the case. It was nice to spin, it seemed to be a more “slippery” metal than standard (925 copper alloy) which can feel a bit “gritt... [More]

Silver Bangles

A lady phoned a couple of weeks ago and said that she had found us on the internet. She had been going round the local shops in the Brentwood area trying to find someone who could make 2 silver bangles for her two daughter’s birthdays. Colin, who took the call, suggested that she bring in her example of what she wanted. She arrived. Not having been party to these telephone conversations I had to explain that I was a silversmith and what she needed was a jeweler. She said “what is the difference?” I tried to explain that that there can be big differences between jewelers and s... [More]

Silversmith's Speaker Stands

My training and life as a Silversmith have also given me the basic skills and confidence to tackle other projects. For example, when we bought a new sound system and television. It came supplied with contemporary light wood speakers. Co-incidentally the same colour as our Ercol furniture. Unfortunately we could not find suitable wooden stands for these speakers that would also match our furniture. I though it would be quite an enjoyable experience to make a pair. First I did a scale drawing, then sourced some maple wood (which is nice to turn) from our stocks and cut out the necessary blanks,... [More]

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... [More]

Out of Silver Egg cups!

In the morning at work we usually sit down for breakfast before we start the days work. It normally consists of half a grapefruit or a freshly squeezed orange followed by an egg of some sort with fresh bread from the local bakers and some homemade jam.  As we have limited cooking facilities the eggs are fried, scrambled, poached or boiled. We like to have a bit of variety. On a boiled egg morning it is often quicker to find something from the workshop rather than search for a proper finished Silver Egg Cup. Today it is a decanter top with a test engraving on it. Works well! Looks quite... [More]