50 Years of Grant Macdonald London: Loving Cups 1960-Present

One of the defining strengths of the Grant Macdonald London workshops over the last half-century has been our commitment to tradition. This isn’t just expressed through the traditional silversmithing skills of our craftsmen, but sometimes in the pieces we produce, pieces that are so specialist, there are very few workshops with the skills and experience to take the commission.

A classic example is the Loving Cup, a ceremonial object that can be traced back to the chivalrous traditions of the Norman knights of the 11th Century, first recorded at Corfe Castle in Dorset (a favourite hunting spot for William the Conqueror, and Henry I & II). Loving Cups were part of a ritual greeting ceremony, where people would share wine from the cup, the person passing it then protects the back of the person drinking, and so on. It is possibly where the phrase ‘I’ve got your back’ came from (or at least, one of the many possible roots of having someone’s back).

Our many Loving Cup designs have been the result of our long partnership with the great Livery Companies of the City of London, who will often display their Loving Cups in their halls, dating back to the foundation of that particular company. There is an ongoing requirement for appropriate new cups, usually because the cost of insuring a cup from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries can become prohibitive as usage at formal ceremonies naturally risks accidental damage to these important, rare historical pieces of silverware.  

Newer Livery Companies, which adopt the Loving Cup ceremony at formal dinners, also need new cups from time to time. They can find the passing of a standing cup with two handles from one person to the other can pose problems, so they need to add a third handle or adjust the balance of the cup to make it more stable. Other adjustments include a need to create new heraldic forms to decorate the cup and cover (never called a lid, always a cover), or increase the capacity of an older cup that has become too small for the Company.

Whatever the reason for needing a new Loving Cup, Grant Macdonald London is one of the few places in Britain where a cup of the required quality, decorated with heraldic designs, chasing, enamel and engraving (the options are as varied as the Livery Companies themselves) can be made. Fashions, tastes and demand for fine silverware can change, but the Loving Cup represents a constant in the workshops over the last 50 years, and as long as there are Livery Companies in the City of London, there’ll be more of these ancient, beautiful cups lovingly created by Grant Macdonald London.

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