George Street is home to some of the finest shops in Scotland but it also houses our workshops high above our showroom at number 87. Over the past 68 years, the workshops have been a hub of activity and whilst their traditional layout may allude to skills of days gone by, the people who create our beautiful jewellery and silverware are very much of the 21st century.
Our youngest goldsmith, Jenna Watson, shares her H&I story…
I have always thought I was fortunate to find a profession I love at such a young age. Now 27, I joined the Hamilton & Inches team in 2018 following a tour of the workshops during my third year at University. I left that day knowing exactly where I wanted to work. The atmosphere and level of talent within the company opened my eyes to the options that could be available to me if I applied myself. Thankfully, two years later, I was sitting at my bench in that very workshop, working with some of the most talented goldsmiths in the industry.
Leaving school, I knew I wanted to go down a creative path, but I wasn’t aware of what options were available. I had the opportunity to undergo an NQ qualification in Jewellery and Silversmithing at Cardonald College in Glasgow and really enjoyed the course; it was practically led with lots of hands on experience.
I studied for 3 years in total and completed my HND qualification in Jewellery and Silversmithing. Cardonald College and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) had an articulation agreement and I was fortunate to be offered a place to continue into the 2nd year Jewellery and Silversmithing course at DJCAD. Having visited Hamilton & Inches previously, I focused my attention on winning a coveted place in their workshops through the H&I Academy.
The role of goldsmithing is not easy. You need a good eye for detail, creativity, precision and patience…a lot of it. The standards set by the company are naturally incredibly high and even when I am at the end of my career, I don’t think I will ever stop learning. It takes years and years to perfect the skills that it takes to become a goldsmith, there is no quick fix. It takes a lot of determination, blood, sweat and tears but it is all worth it in the end when you start to see the hard work pay off.
The traditional art of goldsmithing has not evolved much over the years. We have been using the same processes and techniques passed on through generations. That puts even more onus on our abilities – there is no tool to help better my craftsmanship. It is through extensive training from Hamilton & Inches’ Master Jeweller Chay McClory and goldsmith, Alan Sewell that has helped me continually improve and progress.
Jenna and her mum Jane, at her H&I Academy Graduation
Whilst we still use rudimentary tools and techniques, that doesn’t mean that digital advances aren’t welcome in our field of work. The recent developments in Computer Aided Design (CAD) allows us to create a fully rendered image of a customers’ design. It brings the item to life before their eyes and before we have even started work at the bench.
In 2019, I was lucky enough to create part of our exclusive 22ct Scottish Gold collection including the Holyrood Palace Cuff. It was a huge privilege to be able to create this piece and be involved with the whole process from beginning to end, knowing that the gold had come from such a special source. It was a fantastic opportunity to create exquisite fine jewellery at a larger scale and it challenged different aspects of my skill set.
With thanks to one of our showroom team, Sarah Donaldson, I met the lovely couple who purchased the cuff and talked them through the creation process. I was able to show them photographs at different stages and was so ecstatic to see it going to a wonderful client. They were as passionate about the creative process as the finished product.
That type of situation is what helps make Hamilton & Inches unique. Customers aren’t just buying an item of jewellery; they can be involved in the whole process and get to meet the craftspeople that lovingly created their precious piece. They are buying from a company with over 150 years of experience and from a team who strive for excellence.
Goldsmithing is not a typical job. I was lucky enough to find a career that otherwise may have remained hidden to me had I not visited Hamilton & Inches that day. I think schools need to make their students more aware of the variety of creative industries that are available. I wish I had been given more knowledge at that stage of my life but through social media and partnering with education establishments, we can help make young people more aware of the craft and what it entails.
At Hamilton & Inches, young people can join the prestigious the H&I Academy, offering graduates the chance to win a traineeship at the company. We also continue to invite groups of students to tour the workshops to help offer insight into what we do. It is important to us that we help plant a seed to further the future of craft in Scotland.
Yes, Hamilton & Inches is my place of work, but it is so much more than that. With around fifty people working for the company – from accounts to marketing to sales to craft – we are a family. Our people are as unique as our products and it is very special to know that we are all a little part of Hamilton & Inches’ history.
Find out more about our story.