FEATURE: What to expect from the upcoming Goldsmiths’ Fair

laura bangert

Stacey Hailes catches up with the Goldsmiths’ fair’s head of communications, David Mills, to see what visitors can expect from this year’s event.

The 2015 edition of the Goldsmiths’ Fair will kick off on September 22, and hopes are high that it can top last year’s revamped and rebranded showcase that welcomed nearly 10,000 visitors to Goldsmiths’ Hall.

The word ‘new’ can fill people with either fear or excitement. A lot of people don’t like change, so it was always going to be a gamble to overhaul an annual event that collectors and jewellery admirers have been attending for over 30 years.

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The gamble paid off for the Goldsmiths’ Fair though, which attracted 9% more visitors in 2014 compared to 2013. Exhibitors also highlighted a 3% uplift in sales over the course of the consumerfacing event, meaning more jewellery fans were walking away with precious trinkets than ever before.

The event entertained nearly 10,000 visitors over the course of two weeks and had 170 designer-makers and silversmiths showcasing their work. The Fair also hosted the highest number of first-time exhibitors since it went to two weeks in 2007, proving just how coveted stands at the event have become.

Talking about the success of the rebrand, head of communications David Mills comments: “The majority of our clientele are women over 40 but [last year] we saw a marked increase in younger clients and more men than ever. Our strategy is to retain our loyal client base while also reaching out to younger design-conscious audiences.”

Ahead of this year’s event, British luxury brand Mappin & Webb hosted 23 of the Fair’s most innovative and inspiring silversmiths as part of a special exhibition at its Regent Street flagship store. The collaboration was designed to celebrate Mappin & Webb’s 240th anniversary and marked a new wave of support for the Goldsmiths’ Company in the capital.

This year visitors can expect to see 168 designer-makers, including 25 first time exhibitors (10 of which are graduate bursary winners). In addition, there will be two curated exhibitions for guests to feast their eyes on.

The first is Julia Peyton-Jones Selects, showcasing a selection of Fair highlights by the shows guest curator and director of the Serpentine Galleries. Her selection is said to represent an informed perspective on what is contemporary and meaningful in modern jewellery and silver, including an 18ct gold knot ring with diamonds by Laura Bangert, a rope chain necklace by Lucie Gledhill and grey diamond thread earrings by Teri Howes.

On working with Peyton-Jones, Mills says: “Julia is very decisive, which isn’t surprising. Throughout the selection process she was very focused on the construction of the work and whether or not something was made as best it could or if could it be made more effectively. She also appreciates colour.”

Talking about her role as guest curate Peyton-Jones adds: “It has been a fascinating and thorough process. There were so many wonderful pieces to look at and I was introduced to the work of makers whose work was unfamiliar to me.

“The quality of the contemporary pieces at the Fair is outstanding and reflects a very high standard in craftsmanship and design. I consider each and every item I selected as a wonderful treasure.”

The second new exhibition, John Donald: Precious Statements, will offer an exclusive selection of jewellery made by British contemporary jeweller John Donald. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Donald’s radical approach to jewellery design and daring creativity made him one of the most celebrated jewellers of his era. Collected by royalty, artists and the discerning public, Donald’s gold and gem-set pieces have gone on to influence generations of jewellers in the UK and abroad. The exhibition coincides with the launch of a retrospective book, which will also be available at the Fair.

A number of breakfast talks will also be given by some leading names in the industry, including jewellery editor at British Vogue, Carol Woolton, jewellery expert and writer, Joanna Hardy, and Geoffrey Munn of Wartski, who will be delivering a talk on Fabergé. Elsewhere, Hazel Forsyth of the Museum of London will discuss the Cheapside Hoard, and John Donald will lead a conversation with art-jewellery expert, Louisa Guinness.

The Goldsmiths’ Fair is a go-to event for those looking for some of the best contemporary jewellery designs that the UK has to offer. Over two weeks the Goldsmiths’ Hall draws collectors, design lovers and luxury shoppers to browse the latest collections of exciting contemporary design talents in Britain. Visitors can also buy directly from the maker or commission bespoke pieces.

Mills says: “There’s no other show specifically focused on the best in precious-metal design and craftsmanship. The fact that it’s founded and hosted by the Goldsmiths’ Company, which has been at the heart of the jewellery and silver trade for 700 years, gives the Fair a credibility that can’t be replicated.

“Meanwhile a constant focus on the contemporary challenges us to reach out to new faces and make space for the newest, most exciting developments in the craft of goldsmithing and silversmithing.”

The Goldsmiths’ Fair is a great place to spot emerging talent. Designers that have exhibited over the years include Fei Liu, Ruth Tomlinson, Ute Decker and Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2014 Nexgems Luke Shimmel, Emma Madden and Monique Daniels.

Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council award winner Laura Bangert and New Designers One Year On winner Flora Bhattachary are two new faces to look out for at the exhibition this year.

With an increase in visitors last year, how is the Fair preparing for this year’s event? Mills answers: “I expect numbers will hold steady but if there are more visitors — we’ll be prepared. We’ve created a bit more space on the floor and we’ve hired more staff to make sure visitors receive the service they’ve come to expect from the Fair.”

Mill concludes: “One of the great things about the Fair is seeing familiar faces among the visitors each year. That said, we want to encourage those who love the Fair to spread the word. If you’ve come to the Fair before and enjoyed it, reach out to a friend or colleague who hasn’t previously experienced the joy of contemporary jewellery or silver at the Fair.

“We find that too many people think they’d never be able to afford anything at the Fair but in fact prices span a huge range. Best of all, you can meet the maker and hear about the original inspiration for each piece and how it was made. Isn’t that more interesting than buying something mass produced and branded?”


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