For two weeks each year, London’s eyes fall upon the creations of the very best contemporary British silversmiths at the Goldsmiths’ Fair – a selling exhibition – and I happened to be in the City to take a peek in this last iteration. The event is fab for highlighting new talent. The works presented mix the traditional with modern, and I always come away amazed at the talent of today’s silver and jewelry designers. Here is just a smattering of my favorites.
Using colorful enamels to enhance the visual appeal of silver is an age-old trick. Faberge and Cartier were masters of doing this in the last century, but the 21st just may belong to the work of Ruth Ball (above). This stunning centerpiece combines subtle shades of enamel to contrast with the textured finish of the silver. Anyone who knows me knows that I love the beach and seashells, and I can’t help but to see their inspiration in this piece.
Another designer who draws her inspiration from nature is Abigail Brown. This bowl is the perfect example of how these new designers can take a traditional form and completely transform it into a work of art. This bowl has a striking textured surface that plays with the reflecting light. The organic form is also a juxtaposition of soft, rounded curves and strong sharp lines. It’s little details like this that make a piece unique and every well designed room should have one unique piece like this to act as a focal point.
Contemporary British silversmiths like Karina Gill are often as interested in the finishes that can be applied to silver, as to the forms their creations take. Ms. Gill notes that she is more concerned with form rather than pure function, so her bowls are more objets than receptacles for piles of fruit. Perhaps my favorite of all the pieces shown today, this bowl is exquisitely finished and is again influenced by elements of nature. Here, I can totally see the scales of a coiled snake. The surface of the silver is acid etched with an understated pattern that just helps to elevate this bowl above its peers.
The role of texture and the finish to the silver is also apparent in the last two contemporary British silversmiths I want to highlight here today. The “Fireworks Bowl” by Kate Earlam above uses strong engraved lines radiating from the center that are reminiscent of exploding fireworks. And as light falls on this piece, it reflects and bounces off the contours of the bowl in a dazzling, constantly shifting pattern.
Esther Lord’s collection of faceted and highly stylized vases shifts light in a similar manner. Her works have a modernist industrial feel, but are made from sheets of silver that appear paper-thin giving them an airy feel.
Besides its physical beauty, what I love about silver is that it is a real investment in your home and decoration – after all it IS a precious metal. More often that not, the works by today’s silversmiths are unique which means it’s highly unlikely you will ever see these pieces in anyone else’s home. It’s a very exclusive group of clients that has the foresight and sophistication to invest in art like the pieces I’ve shown today. But when you’re looking to distinguish yourself and create a bespoke home that isn’t just like everyone else’s, a great piece of precious metal design like silver – or for that matter gold – can help you to do just that.
Richard Rabel is a New York Interior Designer and Principal at Richard Rabel: Interiors+ Art, a design studio offering residential design, decorating and art advising services.
image credits from top to bottom: contemporary british silversmiths: Ruth Ball; Abigail Brown; Karina Gill; Kate Earlam; Esther Lord.