50 Years of Grant Macdonald London: Worshipful Company of Barbers Mace 1966

It’s not every day a master silversmith, even one as prolific as our founder Grant Macdonald, is commissioned to create a mace. Grant’s father – Dr. George Grant Macdonald – was the master of this ancient company of doctors and surgeons, founded in the 14th Century. When the Barbers Company needed a new mace, Grant was in the right place at the right time to win the commission.

The mace holds a ceremonially symbolic role denoting the authority for the Master, while chairing the company’s Court (or management committee). Grant was still a student at the Department of Silversmithing and Allied Crafts, at the Sir John Cass College’s School of Art at this point in his career, and so this important commission added considerably to his course essay on ‘the history of the mace’, from a weapon of war in medieval times, through to its more modern ceremonial usage.

Taking such an important piece as an early commission had a huge influence on Grant, and the workshops he would create when he left college. There had to be a level of quality and design integrity that was second to none. The mace was first made as a mock-up in brass sheet. It was 2ft 6inches in length and when made in silver weighed 70 ounces. This approach was one that would be used time and again in the workshops, to ensure a perfected design was properly balanced and tested before being made in precious metals. Today, 3D-printing and advanced CAD design techniques perform a similar role (and offer more agile customer approval processes too).

The design also helped Grant hone his technique of researching heraldry and combining it with new creative forms, another motif found in subsequent work. In this case, the mace featured symbols relevant to the history of the Company, full relief cast figures of the patron saints, Cosmos, Damian, and the Opinicus, a heraldic beast, all of which were pinned securely into square sockets. The shaft was in the form of a traditional barber’s pole and engraved with fleams (blood-letting instruments) that appear on the Company’s heraldic shield.

This piece also made Grant bring together master craftsmen in specific silver and goldsmithing traditions, another approach that has shaped our workshops ever since. Dennis McQuoid, his College’s engraving instructor, was responsible for the coat of arms on the head of the mace and the inscription. The mace was presented on 27 October 1966. The design and manufacture of the mace illustrates precisely all the attributes and qualities, instilled in him by his tutors, that became the template of his unique approach to silversmithing, and the core principles that keep Grant Macdonald London at the forefront of London’s luxury design and manufacturing community today.