It was just by chance I was drawn into silversmithing. My Mum used to work in the reception at Hamilton & Inches and, at seventeen, I had big summer plans of relaxing and seeing my friends. Mum had other ideas; unbeknown to me she had arranged a summer job at H&I and so my story began.
In the beginning, my role was under the supervision and watchful eye of our Master Polisher, Colin Golder. I had, what I (naively) thought, the simple task of cleaning and polishing the trophies in preparation for the Royal Highland Show. How hard could it be?
I remember going down to the depths of the Hamilton & Inches basement for the first time. The safe door creaked open and I was faced with a scene from the Harry Potter Gringotts Bank! It was full to the brim with trophies and trinkets - all shapes and sizes; bull statues of solid silver, giant cups adorned with horses and almost as big as them too. Silver cigarette boxes, crystal and a couple of Swiss cowbells; I was in absolute awe at the beautiful treasures in front of me.
At that point, the confidence I had shown before swiftly vanished; polishing things of such beauty was a daunting task. Thankfully, under Colin’s expert guidance, I got to work. I cleaned and polished every trophy to the best of my ability, just in time for the show.
This early stage of my career taught me so much. I learned how to care for silver as well as gaining a newfound understanding and appreciation of it. These lessons prove invaluable even to this day, especially when I carry out a repair or restoration of an antique family heirloom piece. Every item is a work of art; the awe I felt when I first saw our precious treasures has never left me.
In our field of work, starting from the bottom is not only important but a rite of passage. Whilst I meticulously polished the Royal Highland Show trophies, I was intrigued at what was happening next door in the silversmith workshops; I just wanted to find out more and have a go myself!
Seeing for the first time a sheet of silver be turned into something wonderful, and the work and effort that goes into each piece was a huge learning experience. From that moment I was fascinated. Wherever you look in the Hamilton & Inches workshops something different is happening. Someone is busy at the forge soldering whilst another member of the team is planishing a bowl or carefully dividing and marking on a template to pierce a Quaich lid. It truly is a hive of activity and I desperately wanted to be part of it.
Luckily enough I was in the right place at the right time and given the opportunity of a 5-year apprenticeship sponsored by The Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh. This meant that I would continue to learn from some of the best craftspeople in the country.
Over the years, I’ve have worked on some truly wonderful pieces that I will never forget. Most recently I was involved with the creation of the Doddie Weir Cup, a trophy played for between Scotland and Wales during the Six Nations to raise awareness for Doddie Weir’s charity MyName’5 Doddie Foundation. I feel privileged to have used my skills to raise awareness for a great cause and such an inspirational man.
Every day there is a new challenge at Hamilton & Inches and I never stop learning. Making a large piece of silver, like a candelabra or trophy, will almost always bring difficulties. As masters retire and I continue to work my way up the ranks, I have had to get out of my comfort zone, push my own skills and build confidence in my trade. With challenges comes pride, however. No piece is ever completed until I am absolutely happy with it.
Silversmithing is not your typical job. I didn’t know what was involved with the role all those years ago when I started and I think that’s probably the same with many young people today. I am sure if the craft was given greater awareness, we would attract so many exceptionally talented young people. That is the aim of the Hamilton & Inches Academy – to promote our ancient craft to future generations. There is nothing more important than the passing on of skills to ensure we continue to protect our industry into the future. We currently have an apprentice and trainee silversmith in our team who is very passionate. I love to teach people who are engaged and have the drive to learn. I will always give up my time to ensure they learn at the same exceptional level I did.
Hamilton & Inches is a true hidden gem in the heart of Edinburgh. The Hamilton & Inches workshops are a bustling hive of activity; from the silversmiths, goldsmiths and hand-engravers to the watchmakers and incredibly talented showroom staff that offer a vast knowledge of the trade. Each member of the team provides the best service for our customers. We are our own little Gringotts Bank; every day dealing in treasures and magic. And every day I think about how lucky I am to be part of it.