Rae Gellel
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Precious Metal Grant: Winners Swap Skills with Goldsmiths' Company Apprentices

The Goldsmiths’ Centre’s Precious Metal Grant awards selected final-year jewellery and silversmithing HND, FDA, BA and MA students up to £750 of precious metal bullion each year.

A panel of judges identify the leading designs from across the country, with recipients able to utilise the grant to elevate and enhance their final-year projects. Personalised certificates and exhibition opportunities, such as the chance to participate in Shine, the Centre’s yearly showcase for new talent, are also open to winners, whose designs are selected on their originality and quality.

In 2019, the Centre developed the Grant, not only providing students with the means to create their winning designs, but also offering practical guidance throughout the making process where possible. With this in mind, three 2019 winners were invited to the Centre in Spring for a special ‘skill-swap’ session in our state-of-the-art workshops; Trudi Mcvey, of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Estelle Burton, from the University of Hastings, and Belle Park, from the Glasgow School of Art.

Jeweller Paul York gives the students an introduction to the Skill Swap session.


The session paired the three students, who’s designs contained challenging elements like hinged parts and hand raising, with current Goldsmiths’ Company Apprentices, Will Sullivan and Sam Hunter.

The participants get to work in one of the Centre's state-of-the-art workshops.

Though the Centre’s accomplished tutors would be on hand to oversee the day, having the apprentices lead the session offered the chance for both parties to ‘swap’ their skills - with Will and Sam being very technically adept and at a later stage in their professional development, but Belle, Trudy and Estelle being more design-based. Thus the hope was that all students involved would learn something from the exchange - since both learning and collaboration are key to the Centre’s charitable mission.

After the session ended, we reached out to all three winners for their feedback on the experience.

Paul York works with Precious Metal Grant winner Belle Park on a brooch design.

Belle, in London alone for the first time for the skill swap, was awarded the Grant to develop an intricate brooch design, adorned with twenty-three flowers. The brooch was inspired by her Grandmother, and represented the twenty-three years they’d shared. She said of the day;

Belle Park's notes and sketches for her brooch design.
Belle's final piece.
“In the beginning, I did not know where to start or how to practice and make samples with my design. But being able to communicate with an apprentice gave me a head start of where I could begin to put my design together step by step. Also, the apprentice was able to show me how to do certain processes rather than just explaining it to me so it was easier for me to follow and understand.”
Apprentice Sam Hunter working closely with Precious Metal Grant winner Trudi McVey.


Trudi, who is inspired by the relationship between light and shadow, and natural phenomena like electro-magnetic fields, vibration and refraction, was also working on a complex design - a silver necklace made of sharp, reflective segments. Joining each piece securely in a way that allowed for fluid movement proved to be challenging, but Trudy was able to reach a solution;

Trudi & Sam working on Trudi's design.
Trudi's completed statement neck piece.
“I think as well as a learning experience, it was a great opportunity to be in a well established hub of design and craftsmanship. This in turn builds a confidence in me to pursue unique designs knowing there is a community who wish to support this.”
Apprentice Will Sullivan guides Precious Metal Grant Winner Estelle Burton through the process of hand raising.

Like her fellow skill-swap participants, Estelle’s work is drawn from a deep well of inspiration, such as the Japanese theory of ‘wabi-sabi’, the nature of imperfection, decay and transition. Unlike her fellow skill-swap participants however, Estelle’s focus for the day was on silversmithing rather than jewellery, and hand-raising of a vessel in particular - something that was entirely new to her;

Estelle Burton at work.
Estelle's completed hand raised silver vessels.
“I am undertaking something at a much larger scale than I would normally have attempted. Hand raising is a new skill for me and has made me determined to master it. I am now building up my strength and technique as a direct result of this experience. Going through the process of developing the concept and research, technical drawings and costings for the entry also helped me boil down the concept and think about what was important to retain within the work. A good discipline!”

Applications close on: Monday 20 January 2020 for BA and MA students and Monday 17 February 2020 for HND and FDA students.