Dear Peter, believe it or not, a lot of those 1" wide platinum,
diamond encrusted bracelets and the like were made by individual
craftsmen - and some are still being trained in that tradition to
(I hate this next part, it makes me feel so old…) When I was
apprenticed in the early fifties, I was fortunate to be
apprenticed to an English jeweller in the old Hardy Brothers
workshops. This might not mean much today, but Hardy Brothers
were the vice-regal jewellers in Australia and while I was there,
were appointed jewellers and silversmiths to the Royals.
Hardy Brothers brought a number of very talented jewellers and
engravers from England to Australia just after WW2. Each one of
these craftsmen could make anything from a diamond ring to a
tiara on their own, unaided by anyone but a diamond setter and
the final polisher.
Proud men, but wonderfully generous in sharing their skills if
the apprentice showed respect and a keen willingness to learn.
The jeweller who trained me was proud of the fact that he’d
learnt from a master who had worked for Cartiers. They insisted
on their title of Master of apprentice and took the
responsibility of training the neophyte very seriously. There
were a number of occasions when I was summarily reminded that I
wasn’t taking it seriously enough!
Looking back on it, I realise that it could be seen as
uncompromising in many ways, but the level of training justified
the wholehearted dedication that those master jewellers demanded.
I still love making fine jewellery, although it’s a while since I
made a diamond tiara. Now that I’m teaching as well as making, I
realise how much more I have to offer my students as a result of
those “old world” apprenticeship and journeyman years. The
satisfaction of showing and guiding my students how to make a
properly jointed bracelet, without compromising or diminishing
the most avant-guarde modernity of their own creative designing,
is wonderful. Time and time again, the knowledge of an old but
sound technique stimulates them to even greater heights of design
Young jewellers’ enthusiasm for sound technique and skill is
heartening. Being a jeweller is a wonderful and important thing.
I like to make them aware of at least two things which are a
constant background to their skills:
The first is that in a world of mass production there is a great
hunger for the unique, hand-crafted item. Just imagine, I remind
them, if your car or your stove or even your toaster was made
with the same care and attention we give to making a piece of
The second is to have respect for what they do. Perhaps
jewellery is the only individually designed, handmade thing that
many of us can still afford to buy.
What genuinely saddens me is the contemporary Gadarine rush to
mass production for the dubious benefits of a “global economy”.
The consequent diminution and loss of so many skills, whose only
fault is that they were time-consuming, is tragic. However, hope
lies in forums like Orchid where generous sharing seems to be a
point of honour.
Today the Internet, tomorrow - perhaps - the Matter Transmitter.
All we need now is for some brilliant scientist to create a
network of matter transmitter portals a-la-“Star Trek” and we’ll
all be able to flit back and forth for a bit of good
old-fashioned, hands-on, show-how! Feel good about your “small
steps”, Peter, that’s how we all get to where we’re going in this
Kind regards, Rex from Oz