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Sarah Ainslie’s Hatton Garden Portraits

April 14, 2023
by the gentle author

Russell Lownsbough, Designer, Wax-Carver & Goldsmith

I enjoyed the privilege of accompanying Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie into a number of high security workshops to meet some of the most skilled craftsmen and women working in the creation of precious jewellery in Hatton Garden and Clerkenwell.

Russell Lownsbough

Dave Merry, Hallmarking Expert at the Assay Office, Goldsmiths Hall“I am responsible for training and apprenticeships at the Assay Office but I am also a maker and a sampler. We employ twenty-two people and test six thousand articles every day. An exciting part of my job is going out on raids with the police to shops where they are selling counterfeit jewellery.”

Dave Merry “The phrase ‘up to scratch’ derives from the ancient practice of testing precious metals by rubbing them against a touchstone and applying aqua regia – known as ‘the acid test.’ I have had this stone for forty-seven years, since I was given it when I first walked in the door.”

John Taylor, Gemstone Cutter

John Taylor

Pete Rome, Gemstone Cutter

Pete Rome

Steve Goldsmith, Polisher

Steve Goldsmith

Niall Paisley, Diamond Setter “I’ve been in the trade twenty-seven years, I started at sixteen. You learn a lot by heating stones, the hardness of the stones and the stress they will endure – diamonds can take any level of abuse whereas emeralds are brittle.”

Niall Paisley

Jennifer Bloy, Designer of Jewellery, Silverware & Objet d’Art “I wanted to be a smith but they wouldn’t let me because I am a woman, so I started making reproductions – but then there was a job going as a designer in Hatton Garden and I got it. Because I worked as a maker, I know how things are made, so I can design for making.”

Jennifer Bloy – “I bought this stone, I love stones and I love colour.”

Ingo Henn, Master Goldsmith, Henn of London“My great grandfather started in 1900, he was a stone cutter. He came from a family of fifteen and at twelve years old he was sent to be trained. When I was seventeen, I started as an apprentice in the family company but I have been designing since I was sixteen and I have been in London twenty-two years now. Any gemstone is valuable but it is not just down to its monetary value. The key is never to overpower a stone if the setting is too big or the design is too busy.”

Wayne Parrott, Master Engraver “In 1908, the security engravers at the Bank of England earned more than the governors. I began at thirteen years old, attending evening classes at Sir John Cass College and I was taught by George Friend. Later, I returned to the Cass as a teacher and lectured for over forty years. We are all artists in what we do and I have produced countless designs.”

Wayne Parrott “I specialise in designing seals.”

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. April 14, 2023

    I often walk through the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham on my way to visit a school nearby and it is a mirror image of Hatton Garden. My Mum had a cousin who made a ring as part of their training in Hatton Garden. It was silver with a flawed, square cut emerald and two tiny diamond chips. They gave it to my Mum as a present but she didn’t wear a lit of jewellery, and it was too large, so gave it to me. I loved that ring and wore it a great deal. Years later, I took an evening class in silversmithing and also made a large nickel silver piece which I was really proud of. It really did look like a huge gold band but was actually worthless in monetary value. Nevertheless, we were burgled and they took the lot. I do feel a slight sense of amusement to think they would have tested their haul only to find the ring I made of cheap, fake gold and the emerald so flawed that it wouldn’t have been very valuable. Sadly, their sentimental value was far greater.

  2. April 14, 2023

    When craftsmanship comes together with the artistic capabilities, it always leads to wonderful results, as shown here photographically well. Hats off to these professionals!

    Love & Peace

  3. Jan Jones permalink
    April 14, 2023

    This article is fascinating. My great great grandfather was a watchmaker and jeweller: William Parker of Parker and Stone, Clerkenwell, London. One of his sons, George, came out to Australia in 1847 as a 17 year old and became a merchant, I think..

    I live in Tasmania!

  4. Paul Loften permalink
    April 14, 2023

    Some of these names I know well . Although compared to these master craftsmen I am just a hobbyist that took up a bit of silversmith and Jewellery work after I retired from my work . I have an excellent book on polishing by Stephen Goldsmith .
    So I can appreciate their skill and dedication . It truly is a wonderful craft that absorbs your mind and exercises your imagination. Even in this trade technology ,computer and machinery have taken over where hands and brains once ruled. Some people say it’s progress personally I don’t think so.

  5. Debra. E. Sewell permalink
    April 14, 2023

    Spectacular article. I’m amazed at their skill and work.

    Thank you for a peek into their lives.

    Debra Sewell

  6. Carolyn Hooper permalink
    April 17, 2023

    Totally absorbing post, gentle author. Thank you so much to bring this story across the ether to me in Australia. Of course, I know very few in the UK would be allowed into some of these spaces.

    So pleased that one woman is included in this story as I’m sure, had she been permitted to join the men, she would have achieved wonderfully. But, hey…..she has!!!

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