The world-famous Goldsmiths’ Fair set to return in a physical format next week, running from 28 September until 10 October.
With that in mind, new Goldsmiths’ Company prime warden Lynne Brindley pens the first in a series of guest columns with Professional Jeweller, this time discussing the event’s enduring appeal – the people who make it tick.
Like many other events and exhibitions, Goldsmiths’ Fair – a selling event held at Goldsmiths’ Hall featuring 120 of the best fine jewellers and silversmiths working in the UK today – transitioned to digital in 2020.
What the Fair lost in face-to-face interaction, it gained in welcoming visitors from all over the world, underlining the global appeal of not just jewellery and silver, but handmaking skills of UK-based craftspeople.
It continues to be a challenging marketplace with many makers still feeling the economic effects of the pandemic, but there is a sense of renewed optimism for the value and importance placed on artisan skills.
This is reinforced by wider trends in ethical consumerism, sustainability and personal service.
Makers had to adapt at speed and become more digitally aware, telling their stories in different ways, to new audiences.
Learning the additional skills needed to make their businesses thrive hasn’t been unique to life in a pandemic; makers today must be multi-talented and wear many hats, from marketeer to manager and everything in between.
The surge of digital activity in the last 18 months has increased trust in the intangible and created more opportunities for storytelling and experimentation which makers have embraced.
Younger audiences in particular have valued these ways to connect with brands and the stories and people behind them, especially on social media.
This presented a chance to project the identity and purpose of organisations and to reconnect with today’s customers – especially important for individual makers and microbusinesses for whom developing loyal and repeat custom is vital and a consistently difficult challenge.
It is against this backdrop that the Fair returns to Goldsmiths’ Hall in 2021.
There is of course no substitute for face-to-face interaction – handling pieces of jewellery and discovering their many qualities is one of the great joys of the buying process.
For those young makers who are exhibiting this year there has never been a better time to return to be with fellow creatives, to make new connections and fill up their order books.
As we return to hybrid ways of operating, the value of face-to-face interaction and learning opportunities for those just starting out in their careers cannot be overstated.
The Fair is proud to support the next generation of makers with graduate places – of which there will be six this year – offering bullion loans, bursaries and grants to support them.
Emphasis on new talent can also been seen at the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s Shine exhibition running concurrently with the Fair, showcasing 13 of the UK’s most promising jewellers and silversmiths, all of whom bring further innovation and bold new design.
Both established and first-time exhibitors need to keep creating anew; to be original and explore stylistic possibilities at the same time as supporting customers to be more expressive and confident in what we wear and what different aspects of our personalities we choose to show to the world.
Men’s jewellery for example has never had so many celebrity advocates who have helped encourage more fluid jewellery wearing.
It is the craftspeople who help translate this emotion into physical one-off pieces that turn popular trends into timeless treasures.
One way to begin exploring new exciting ventures in jewellery is by starting a conversation with a maker and commissioning something truly meaningful – nowhere is this opportunity more accessible than at the Fair.
Aside from the same handmaking techniques, some unchanged for thousands of years, gold and silversmithing is an ever-changing landscape and makers continue to exemplify and welcome this spirit of change.
We look forward to welcoming them all back to the Fair this year and hope that just some of this ethos rubs off on the rest of us. The jewellery and silver are a magnificent bonus.
Tickets for the Goldsmiths’ Fair, running 28 September-10 October, are available now.