Norwich goldsmith wins commission to create new civic chains

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Local goldsmith Sonkai Jewellers won the commission to create new civic chains for Norwich’s Lord Mayor and Sheriff.

Since 1757 the Lord Mayor and Sheriff have been wearing special civic chains to important events. However, due to the historical importance of these chains and the fact they are not practical for everyday wear, Sonkai Jewellers was asked to create new chains which could be worn on a daily basis at civic functions.

Sonkai, a family business working in the centre of Norwich, won the commission with a design telling a story of Norwich through motifs depicting significant cultural aspects of the city.

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“We are honoured and very proud to have been responsible for the design and manufacture of these new civic chains,” comments Sonkai owner and goldsmith Craig Snape. “The historical importance of this commission is incredible and a little overwhelming! The design process in itself was very unique, incorporating trips around Norwich from the Castle to the Council, taking in the history, architecture and symbolism; fuelled with facts, tidbits and stories from everyone along the way.”

The new chains have the flexibility of adding new motifs. They can be worn with robes, day dress or eveningwear by any gender, in three different ways, whereas the old chains were designed for male Lord Mayors wearing the robes of office. The crests of the Sheriff and Lord Mayor have been retained within the new design.

“From a technical aspect, the chains have enabled us to show not only our skills on a personal level but also how well the expert use of new technology used within our industry can work so well alongside the more traditional – producing a truly unique and one-off bespoke commission,” adds Snape.

He continues: “The original designs were hand drawn by our junior designer Mallory Wilkinson and then re-drawn on Matrix by head designer Susan Blackler. We give special thanks to Weston Beamor for their consistently high quality of the castings that have captured the intricate detail of the pieces. They are very knowledgeable and always stay in contact throughout the process to explain any technical issues and provide advice and assistance where needed, taking pride in every job. Last but not least we need to mention F Sinclair for completing our largest and most complex plating job in record time.”

The new chains, crafted in solid sterling silver with 18ct yellow gold plate, were presented to the Mayor and Sheriff of Norwich at the city hall with representatives from the Freemen of Norwich who have funded the project along with new civic robes.

Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Marion Maxwell says: “The Sheriff and I couldn’t be more honoured to be the first, in what I hope will be a very long line of civics to wear these truly stunning new pieces of history.

“We would like to thank Sara Sweet, Craig Snape and their team at Sonkai for rising to the challenge of capturing the rich history of Norwich so beautifully, as well as the Freeman of Norwich and their Town Close Estate Charity for making this possible through their generosity.”

The original chains, presented by Freemen Matthew Goss 256 years ago, will now be residing in the Norwich Castle for people to enjoy as part of the cities heritage.

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