The 1970s are often remembered as years characterised by economic problems like the oil crisis of 1973, or high rates of inflation combined with slow economic growth leading to the infamous 3-day week, electricity brown-outs and rubbish piling up in the streets. However, a glance at Grant Macdonald London’s order books from those years – back when we were known under the name Silverform – tells a very different story.
In this 2-part retrospective into the years of brown flared trousers, wide ties and long collars, we take a closer look at what the high street had to offer lovers of fine silver, and discover there was more on offer to suit every pocket than possibly today’s high street.
In many respects, although the big economic picture for the UK, US and Europe was gloomy, silver was extremely popular in the 1970s. It was also relatively affordable for a luxury item. Over 90% of the items listed in our order books between 1972-1977 were accessible items like paper knives, napkin rings, priced between £8.50 and £16 (equivalent to £100 – £200 by 2019 standards). This means they weren’t cheap by any means, but they were also in the right price range for popular gifting, priced to suit a wide range of pockets.
The most popular 1970s silver gift we made was the paper knife, producing over 250 items in the five years between 1972-77. Silver wine goblets were also very popular, selling over 200 items, and of course decorative silver condiment sets and salt & pepper mills (which your parents and grandparents probably have somewhere at home) were a very popular item.
It’s an interesting notion to consider that the era of the paper knife was, of course, coming to an end. We didn’t realise it at the time, but after centuries of postal services, letters and parcels – all of which needed to be opened easily with a paper knife – we would all be sending emails by the 1990s. With the advent of digital mail, letters and their trusty, decorative silver openers would fall from grace. Much like silver blotting paper sets and silver inkwells declined with the advent of typewriters and biros.
However, at Grant Macdonald London, we don’t get caught up in nostalgia for times past. We keep ancient traditions alive, but always look to the future… after all, envelopes and paper knives were the future once.