A day in the life of: a Holts Goldsmith

Posted on the 26th March 2014

As a goldsmith, I produce the metal mounts for jewellery. My job requires me to melt the metal, carve it and shape it into the designs that you see in the shop. Each piece of jewellery I produce is different, and so is each day. At Holts I get to work with the most beautiful precious stones there are. Each piece of Holts jewellery is designed and drawn by one of Holt's jewellery designers . Each stone is perfectly cut by a Lapidary , and the mount is made by hand by a goldsmith like myself. Sometimes I use computers and the latest technology to produce the piece, but most of the time the jewellery is made the old fashioned way. Producing jewellery requires attention to detail, patience, focus and a mind for three dimensional construction. I'm currently working on a large emerald and diamond pendant. The emerald is in the shape of a leaf, and is set with round brilliant diamonds. I typically start by measuring the stones I'm given, and working out the measurements based on the design brief. When I first was given this commission, I made a mockup of the mount out of wax, to give an idea of what the finished piece would look like. When I start the actual piece, I begin with a lump of cold metal - in this case, 18 carat white gold. I mill the metal into the size and shape to make the settings for the stones. On this particular piece, I'm working closely with one of the Lapidaries here at Holts. We discussed the best way to hold such a large emerald in a setting, and worked out what adjustments needed to be made to the stone to fit the design. We went back and forth a few times in order to get the stone cut just right. I bend and carve the metal until it has the life, form and beauty to match this amazing emerald. Once the mount is complete, It's sent off to be hallmarked - this is like the jewellery's birth certificate. After hallmarking, the mount and diamonds were given to a Setter, whose job it is to secure the stones in the mount. There's a bit of healthy banter between Goldsmiths and Setters, we can't live with or without one another. Once the diamonds are secured in the mount, I carefully fit the mount around the Emerald. After a final polish, the piece is complete, and ready to adorn some lucky girl's neck. Like all the craftsmen in Hatton Garden, I studied for years to learn how to do this. Most people in my position did an apprenticeship for five years under a master goldsmith. I went a different route and studied jewellery and fine art at university in the USA, then learned most of the hand skills on the job as I worked in a variety of jewellery related occupations. I also did a masters in jewellery at the CASS and landed my first job in Hatton Garden the day I graduated. The great benefit of a jewellery district like Hatton Garden is that it attracts a community of specialised professionals. There are hundreds of goldsmiths like myself here, and if I'm having a hard time with a certain piece of jewellery, I can visit some of the older goldsmiths for advice. There are some very talented craftsmen in Hatton Garden. Some of them have forgotten more than I've ever learned. It's great to be a part of such a vibrant, close-knit community. I once ran into another goldsmith I knew on the street. He complained about how he was having a hard time with a large tanzanite piece for a certain high end bond street jewellers. Later on that day, I went to see my setter, and asked him how his day was going. He too complained about a difficult tanzanite piece he was working on. It turned out to be the same piece of jewellery giving everyone involved headaches across the garden. It's a big industry, but it really is still a small world. What I love about my job is getting the chance to work with my hands and use creativity on a daily basis. Getting to produce beautiful pieces that people adore is also a plus. If I did anything else, I'd be missing something in my life.