I left school at 16 and started as an apprentice indentured with the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (more commonly known as the Goldsmiths’ Company). It’s one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London and received its first royal charter in 1327.
Founded to regulate the craft or trade of the goldsmith, the Goldsmiths’ Company has been responsible since 1300 for testing the quality of gold, silver and, from 1975, platinum articles. The word hallmark originates from the fifteenth century, when London craftsmen were first required to bring their artefacts to Goldsmiths’ Hall for assaying and marking. This requirement continues unchanged today and the Company still carries out its statutory function through the operations of Assay Office London Membership and Governance.
More than half the membership of the Company comprises men and women engaged in the trade, which includes silversmiths and jewellers, and those in allied areas including design, retail and auction. The remainder of the membership incorporates a broad range of backgrounds and experience, with industry, commerce, education and the arts well represented.
As with most other Livery Companies, the membership is made up of Freemen, Liverymen, and Assistants.
Freemen, of whom there are over 1500, enter the Company by one of three routes:
· By Service – on completion of an indentured apprenticeship to a master who is a freeman (the apprentice will have had to bring his or her ‘masterpiece’ to the Hall for inspection by the Wardens)
· By Patrimony – for any person born after the date of a parent’s freedom, having attained the age of 25 and been elected by a selection committee
· By Redemption – by an entrance fee, having been elected by a Selection Committee
What is a Freeman? What is a Freedom Ceremony?
A ‘Freeman’ is someone who has been awarded lifelong membership of one of London’s Twelve Great Livery Companies, of which The Goldsmiths’ Company is one, and thus granted Freedom of the City of London. Earning this honour is an integral part of successfully completing a Goldsmiths’ apprenticeship.
My master was a Goldsmith called Trevor Towner based in Petersfield in Hampshire. Technically I was trained as a Diamond Mounter. Working within a production context or workshop, the diamond mounter produces the mounts, rings, pendants, etc. which hold the diamonds or precious stones.
My apprenticeship lasted 5 years where on completion I was expected to show my skills in a single piece known as a ‘Masterpiece’. A Masterpiece is a piece of work carried out by an apprentice with his or her Master and which, when finished, is presented to the Wardens of The Goldsmiths’ Company for approval in a ‘Freedom Ceremony’ held at Goldsmiths’ Hall. Subject to this approval, the apprentice is awarded his or her ‘Freedom’ becoming a lifelong member of one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies and Freeman of the City of London.
Thankfully I was accepted and the piece remains in my family.