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Goldsmiths’ Fair 2015 Q&A with David Mills Communication and Marketing Director

The 2015 Goldsmiths’Fair spanned over 10’000 visitors in two weeks from September 22nd to October 4th. The event took place inside the magnificent Goldsmith Hall located in the Barbican neighbourhood where the fair has benefited a modern revamp where 168 jewelers and silversmiths presented their pieces.

Jane Sarginson
Earrings, Floret Collection, 18ct gold with dark and white pearls peridots and diamonds / Images © The Goldsmiths’ Company. Photography by Richard Valencia

Ornella Iannuzzi
Fleur de Cristal earrings – Azurites set in palladium with sapphires (1.41cts) and diamonds (0.25cts).

Fei Liu
Green Tourmaline Beaded Necklace, large green tourmaline beaded necklace with diamond feathers / Images

Olivier Dupon, author of several books on Jewelry and based in London took the opportunity to interview Mr David Mills, Director of Communications & Marketing and Chairman of the Selection Committee, and get his post-fair feedback about a 2015 edition that certainly augurs well for the future of the event considering that the majority of the visitors where women above 40.

What makes you passionate about what you do?
I appreciate fine craftsmanship and traditional skills passed down through generations. For hundreds of years goldsmiths and silversmiths have been crafting precious objects. Many of the techniques used today are identical to those used by the earliest craftsmen. I find that fascinating.

What is your vision of the Antique & Art market at the moment?
I’m a ‘less is more’ person. I’d be happy to see a less crowded, higher quality market in every sense.

Do you have a best memory about the Goldsmiths’ Fair 2015?
I was pleased to see the selection of our two winners of Best New Design = Sylivia Weidenbach and Rhona McCallum. Their work is marked by such mature yet distinctive signatures. Their notoriety will only increase.

Is it possible to know what the attendance of this 2015 Fair has been? How does it compare with previous years?
We had just over 9000 attendees over the two weeks of Goldsmiths’ Fair which is comparable like-for-like to 2014 attendance figures.

Is there a breakdown by country of origin / gender or age group for the visitors?
Attendees are overwhelmingly British however we are seeing increasing numbers of Chinese and Americans. At this time we don’t know if they are living in the UK or abroad.

What was the breakdown (in terms of presence) between Siversmiths/ Jewellery designers in this 2015 edition of the Goldsmith Fair?
One third of the exhibitors are silversmiths (though many of them also exhibit some jewellery). The rest exhibit only jewellery.

How does The Goldsmith Fair London differ and benchmark with other fairs of the genre and other exclusive Art shows around the world?
It’s the only fair to focus on contemporary precious metal jewellery of its kind in the UK. It’s also a showcase for independent small-to-medium-sized makers. None of the big brands are invited. In this way it’s unique to other fine jewellery fairs internationally.

What is the decision process behind the selection of the jewellery names in attendance?
The Selection Committee is made up of knowledgeable figures in the contemporary jewellery and silver world. The Committee is looking for the highest standard of craftsmanship, excellent design and innovation.

John Donald
Brooch JAD_002, 1967, 18ct gold, radiating textured square tubes, rutilated rose quartz. Collection: The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths

Mark Soley
Florentina ring with central amethyst

Martyn Pugh
Tropical Sunset Ring

Melanie Georgacopoulos
Flow Double Pearl Bangle, 18ct yellow gold & 10mm grey water pearls / Images © The Goldsmiths’ Company. Photography by Richard Valencia

For a jewellery House to be able to join this exclusive group, what are the key elements its DNA should have?
UK based; no more than 6 people ‘at the bench’; work must include precious metal and be hallmarked; work must be of the highest standard design and craftsmanship; a strong signature and real innovation preferred.

What is your personal take on the contemporary high-end jewellery market today?
I think it’s healthy. Of course we need to educate younger buyers but the trend is away from big brands and mass production to the bespoke, crafted and individual. Goldsmiths’ Fair exhibitors stand to thrive as this trend grows.

Does each piece of jewellery presented at Goldsmith have to have a strong narrative behind its creation?
Narrative is of course a strong selling point however narrative can be expressed in many different ways. Some of the strongest narratives are the subtlest.

How does Goldsmith Fair secure it will get the most sought-after pieces of silversmithing or ‘Heirloom of the future’ pieces to present?
We aggressively encourage exciting and innovative silversmiths to apply. We are always on the lookout for new talent and encourage our more established exhibitors to apply with new work.

Who typically buys the contemporary jewellery presented at the Fair?
We have a varied clientele from experienced collectors to impulse shoppers. We are seeing more international clientele – particularly Chinese – as the allure of ‘branded’ jewellery fades and an interest in the distinctive signatures catches on.

What is your personal highlight amongst the entire jewellery selection this year? Why?
I have many. One of Louise O’Neil’s strikingly minimal gold brooches generated lots of compliments when she persuaded me to wear it at an evening event. I love Lucie Gledhill’s low-tech, gold rope chain necklaces. Mark Nuell’s watery gemstones are set in gold rings that emphasise their striking beauty. I could go on! Of course I love my silver bracelet by Sarah Herriott, which I wear proudly throughout the Fair.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in buying into jewellery at the Fair?
Take your time and have a good look around. It’s easy to get swept away by the first thing you see. If you’re buying as an investment, don’t neglect the emotional value. Find something that engages both your heart and your head.

What does the future holds for The Goldsmith Fair London? And for the contemporary jewellery section in particular?
I think we’ll continue to champion new and emerging talent along with the best-established UK talent. I’m hoping to build more partnerships with the wider UK design world as a way to increase the profile of the Fair. I’d like Goldsmiths’ fair to be as much a part of the ‘cultural calendar’ as Frieze Art Fair.

In other terms, how do you intend to bring the Fair into the 22th century while keeping the core aspect of expert craftsmanship embedded in tradition?
This dialogue between the traditional and the contemporary is at the heart of everything the Goldsmiths’ Company does. We’re committed to ensuring traditional techniques and practices are maintained in goldsmithing and silversmithing while constantly championing new approaches, technologies and talents. The Fair will remain a showcase focused on how the traditional and the contemporary can work together in jewellery. Going forward means delving even deeper into this conversation.

The award winners have now been announced:
– German designer Silvia Weidenbach won the Best New Design Award for her Granny’s Chips collection of cutting-edge jewellery
– South Korean designer Kyosun Jung received an Honourable Mention for her jewellery and silver, a wonderful marriage of East and West.
– Glaswegian jeweller Rhona McCallum won the Best New Design Award for her highly textured collection inspired by Scotland’s dramatic landscape
– Sheffield silversmith Juliette Bigley received an Honourable Mention for her quirky, contemporary works bringing together sculptural and functional elements.