How I became a Jeweller

From time to time someone will ask how I got into making jewellery.

There is a short answer; I did an apprenticeship in Hatton Garden!

Then, there is the long answer!; How long I'm not sure as I'm thinking this through as I write. Anyway you can stop reading when you get bored!

Horton Kirby Primary School

Swanley County Secondary Modern had the pleasure of educating me.

2nd from right seated on bench.

They, and I, soon discovered that woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing were the only things I was any good at!

As we went into our third year the A, B, C, D streaming was abandoned in favour of Commercial (brain skills) Technical (hand skills) Rural (manual skills) and

'The others' who had none of the above!

No surprise where I was put. No, not in 'The Others'!

3Tech. With the emphasis on the lessons I was good at.

Our Form teacher was the metalwork master. (How's that for sexism. This was a mixed school. The class was 50 50, the girls were going to be seamstresses, hairdressers etc.)

At the end of the school year, 1960, I won the senior Woodwork prize and a Metalwork Certificate!

In1961 I was awarded 'Certificates of Merit' for Woodwork and Technical Drawing.

Summer of 1961 was to be the end of our education. As this approached our form teacher told the class the route he took to get into the teaching profession.

From school (probably Grammar), before going to teacher training, he went to Art School for a course in Silversmithing.

He asked would anyone be interested in doing that course, which could, lead to an apprenticeship? He went into a lot of detail about silversmithing all of which interested me and many boys. (A few years later girls would be responding also, but then, it didn't happen..)

Having had such a good response he promised to look into the possibility of visiting such a school.

A few weeks passed and he announced that there would be a trip to the Gravesend School of Art on Wednesday (the whatever). Whose names should he put down?

I was probably the first to respond, especially as the alternative was staying in class for double maths, history, R. I. and double English!!

I can't remember how many of us went but it wasn't the number that had shown initial interest.

As soon as I saw the workshop I knew that this is what I wanted to do. (Up until then it had been motor mechanic, I was crazy about cars)

Out of our group three of us went to do the entrance exam.

When I hear what it takes to get into Art College today I wonder what there is for kids that aren't academic. Why do they want essays on art, photography, design etc? What's wrong with just getting on and DOING it?

Well, nothing like that then. (at least not for the smithing course).

Turn up on the appointed day (I think even that carried some marks)

Test 1: Draw the objects put in front of you.

Test 2: Write about a book you have read... Oh bother I couldn't even remember reading a book!

However, raking through the sawdust I remembered a book, read to us, at primary school.. The Wooden Horse. What I couldn't remember I made up!

Love to read today what I wrote. It was sure to have been full of spelling mistakes, bad grammar and punctuation. ( bad grammar and punctuation probably still exists but there shouldn't be too many speling mistakes)

Test 3: (was in the workshop. Hooray). File a piece of hexagonal rod at one end so the six sides come to a point in the centre.

That was it. Go home. We will let you know.

A few weeks later a letter arrived for my parents. 'We are pleased to inform you your son has 'done well' in the entrance exam and we will be pleased to except him at the beginning of next term'

Done well! Must have got points for turning up..

The other two also passed; although they hadn't been friends at least I had people I knew to start the next stage of my life.

What a year I had on that pre-apprenticeship course. I never wanted to leave.

It was no longer just a silversmithing course. A retired jeweller from Hatton Garden had been taken on to do jewellery as well.

Interestingly the silversmithing master had gone from school to a course in silversmithing to teacher training to arrive at the school to teach. God was he blinkered and narrow minded?

On the other hand having been in the 'real world' the dear old boy that taught jewellery was completely opposite. How they got on I don't know.

Looking back on it I don't think they did.

At the end of the year nobody went into silversmithing! Doesn't that tell you something?

On the board of governors was a 'Master Craftsman' from Hatton Garden.

The reason? He got the pick of the students whenever he needed another apprentice!

In 1962 it was me....

There are many different aspects to the jewellery trade;

Diamond Mounting: (this is the path I was about to embark upon) Metal. platinum, gold, silver, in its basic form, sheet or wire, is fabricated by milling, cutting, filing, hammering, bending, soldering, drilling etc. into an item of jewellery.

If it has been made to contain gemstones it will then go into.

Setting: here the stones are 'secured' into the metal either by claws, raised grains (pavé) channel, blind etc. A setter will also do a 5, or even 6, year apprenticeship. From here it goes for.

Polishing: using a series of brush, mops and compounds a bright finish is put on the surface of the metal. Not so many skills so only a 3 year apprenticeship.

Engraving: using a series of highly sharpened, hand held, steel shafts the engraver will pattern, letter, number etc. on the surface of metal or incorporate all in a coat of arms.

Again 5 years training.

Casting: if the mounter wishes to produce multiple items, exactly the same, it will go through the 'lost wax' process (if you want to know more about that you will have to 'google' it far too challenging for me to describe!)

Then there are the Diamond Dealers, Coloured Stone Dealers, Lapidaries, Die Makers and others.

(You might, or might not, have noticed. No mention of watches! Different trade entirely. So don't come wanting repairs, batteries, straps etc.....)

On the 2nd June 1962 I signed my indentures. (Very Dickensian, could have been dated 1862.

THIS INDENTURE Witnesseth that Raymond Perry of Windermere, Horton Road, Horton Kirby, Dartford in the county of Kent, an infant of the age of not over 17 years, of his own free will and by the consent of his Father who testifies his consent by executing these presents doth put himself Apprentice to Maurice Barnett of 40 Hatton Garden, London, E.C.1. and with him (after the manner of Apprentice) to serve as from the 2nd day of July (1962) One thousand nine hundred and sixty two unto the date of his twenty first birthday. During which time the said Apprentice his said Master shall faithfully serve, his secrets kept, his lawful commands gladly do. He shall do no damage to his said Master nor see it done by others. He shall not waste the goods of his said Master nor lend them unlawfully to any person. He shall not absent himself his employment on working days (except through illness) without the consent of the said Master. He shall behave himself in all things as a faithful apprentice towards his said Master or his representative during the said term.

AND it is herby agreed that the hours of business for the said Apprentice shall be from Mondays to Fridays inclusive 8.30 a.m. o’clock in the morning till 6.30 p.m. in the evening he being allowed therout 1 1/2 hours each day for meal hours.

AND THE said Raymond Perry hereby covenants with the said Maurice Barnett that he will properly instruct and teach or cause to be instructed or taught the said Apprentice the art of Working Jeweller and in the manner agreed between the Federation of Master Goldsmiths and Jewellers and the Society of Goldsmiths, Jewellers and kindred Trades, by placing the said Apprentice – as the only charge – under qualified craftsman.

IT IS hereby further agreed that the Apprentice’s wages shall not at any time be less than the minimum wages agreed from time between the Federation of Master Goldsmiths and Jewellers and the Society of Goldsmiths Jewellers and Kindred Trades.

Such wages shall be paid weekly at the following rates:-

Indentured between 15 to 16 years of age Aged 15 to 16 and until 17th birthday £2. 10. 8 per week

17th birthday £3. 16. 0 “ “

18th “ £5. 1. 3 “ “

19th “ £6. 15. 0 “ “

20th “ £8. 12. 3 “ “

21st “ Completion of Apprenticeship.

HE ALSO agrees to allow the said Apprentice to be absent from the Master’s for such periods as may be reasonable, not exceeding two half days a week, for the purpose or the Apprentice’s attending Technical Classes of Instruction on the said craft of Jewellery and on things incidental thereto. These attendances shall only be compulsory for the first 3 years of the Apprenticeship. In no case is the period of apprenticeship to end before the Apprentice is 21 years of age.

HE ALSO agrees to allow the period spent on trial or probation to count off the Apprenticeship period.

AND for the true performance of all the said covenants and agreements either of the said parties bindeth himself unto the other by these presents.

IN THE WITNESS whereof the parties above named to these indentures interchangeably have put their hands and seals the 26th day of March One thousand nine hundred and sixty two.


of the above named MauriceBarnett

Starting wage was £2 10s 8d, by the time I had paid the train fare and mum for keep I think I had the 8p!!.)

I was now committed. I started work at 40 Hatton Garden.

The street c1860. Until I arrived, it changed very little, apart from the obvious.


No, there is no Garden that disappeared about 200 years ago!

Hatton: from Sir Christopher Hatton 1540-1591 a favourite of Elizabeth I.

Garden: from the grounds that had once surrounded the Bishop of Ely’s palace.

‘The Garden’ when I started was a manufacturing area. I can only remember two shops a tobacconist and an antique jewellery dealer.

Now high rents have driven out nearly all the workshops being replaced by retail outlets, offices and flats.

Not the workshop I was in but very typical. Unchanged in centuries. (Thanks to Lionel Wiffen)

Very typical first year apprentice Cleaning, running errands, preparing metal for the craftsmen etc.

16th of June 1967 was my 21st birthday and the end of my apprenticeship.

I had finished!!! 5 years of good and bad experiences but mainly good.

To Whom this may concern

Raymond Perry has completed his apprenticeship and has proven himself reliable, trustworthy and very honest.

He can be truthfully considered a first class craftsman with every recommendation we can offer. 16th June 1967. Maurice Barnett

I had come away having had a fantastic training. I could make, re-make (any old bit of grannies, aunties jewellery you can't or won't wear?) repair, re-claw, re-shank anything!

The workshops main customer was Boodle and Dunthorn who, at the time, had their shop in Liverpool. In the early 1960’s they opened in Chester. They have now gone on, trading under the name ‘Boodles’, to be one of the most established and regarded retailers in the country.

But you don’t have to go to them. I can make it!!

Another question people ask is ‘What are you doing here in Barmouth? (if you reckon you are that good!. But they don’t say that bit. Just imply it) But that is another story!

This year l will have been making jewellery for 55 years (when l got back from Australia I had a year out helping to build part of the M2 motorway, would you believe. That was very enjoyable as well) As well? Yes I have enjoyed my 'trade' and I do as much today as ever.

When I started I never believed that I would progress to retailing as well as manufacturing.

Making jewellery is very rewarding but what makes it complete is the contact with my lovely customers.

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