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Introducing the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths

Published on Tuesday 22 September 2020

Introducing the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths

Goldsmiths Fair 2020

Goldsmiths Hall main staircase

I’m excited and delighted to be part of the Goldsmiths’ Fair 2020 – the first time in its 38-year history that this prestigious event has been held online. From 24 September to 6 October, you can view the new pieces I’ve made especially for the fair alongside work from 129 other exhibitors drawn from a fantastic array of experienced and innovative makers, as well as recent graduates from the company’s bursary scheme. I really hope you’ll join us.

Goldsmiths Hall 19th century engraving

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths 

The Goldsmiths’ Company – has a long and prestigious history that I’m proud to be associated with. One of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London, it was granted its royal charter by Edward III in 1327, giving it the right to set standards within the trade not just in London but throughout the country.

The Goldsmiths Company logo

Gold and silver that met the standards agreed by members of the company was marked with a leopard’s head (the first hallmark) that was taken from the royal arms. The company’s patron saint is St Dunstan, a tenth-century Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury who had worked as a silversmith making plate for church services.

Goldsmiths Livery Hall dinner setting

Freeman of the Goldsmiths Company

I was thrilled to be accepted as a member of the Goldsmiths’ Company in 2001 after I was put forward by Anthony Elson, a renowned silversmith who set up a design and prototype studio in Clerkenwell, London, where I had an atelier from 1998. At the time I was pregnant with my first child, and this seemed a very positive omen as membership of the Goldsmiths’ Company can be passed on to your children, following the medieval tradition where professions were often passed from father to son. As well as hereditary membership, you can also be nominated, as I was, either by a member with whom you have served an apprenticeship or by your work being approved by the selection committee. Being a member of this historic society is a great honour.

Goldsmiths Hall Drawing room

Charity and education

As well as organising the annual Goldsmiths’ Fair, the Goldsmiths’ Company has always helped its members to survive tough times. This year they have offered a grant to makers whose businesses have been affected by the Covid epidemic, in the same spirit as they set up Goldsmiths' Almshouses and schemes to help members who were injured at work in the mid-nineteenth century.

Goldsmiths Centre Clerkenwell

They also help to train new makers to uphold the profession’s high standards, most recently by founding the Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell in 2012, with workshops, training facilities and spaces to hold exhibitions. Of course, this is only the latest in a line of training initiatives and apprenticeship schemes stretching back to the 1490s!

Goldsmiths Livery Hall long table dinner

Glorious Goldsmiths' Hall

I adore the Goldsmiths’ Hall and will miss being there physically this year. The current building (the third on the site) opened in 1835 with a grand dinner attended by the Duke of Wellington. The staircase is lined by ten different kinds of marble and the ceiling of the Livery Hall has elaborate mouldings finished with gold leaf, dramatically lit by four wonderful chandeliers that were part of the original décor. It certainly appeals to my love of the theatrical!

Goldsmiths Livery Hall chandeliers

Drapers' Hall

Other members of the Twelve Great Livery Companies have equally grand premises and I was delighted to be invited to dinner at Draper’s Hall in March 2019 by my great friend Polly Meynell, an ecclesiastical textile designer.

Catherine Hills and Polly Meynell at Drapers Hall dinner 2019

As we wined and dined beneath the painted ceiling of the Livery Hall, surrounded by royal portraits hung between marble columns, it was both reassuring and humbling to realise that today, as when they were founded almost 700 years ago, these wonderful Livery Companies are still supporting makers whose work adheres to their high standards. And that we are among them!

Drapers Hall dinner 2019

Find me at the Fair

Do find time to visit the Goldsmiths’ Fair online or to look at the pieces I’ve created for 2020 here. Above all, let’s all continue to appreciate the work of makers in any discipline who give a contemporary spin to the tradition of fine craftsmanship.

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