In the world of fine silversmithing, there are no winners and losers, just talented craftspeople keeping the centuries-old traditions of the masters alive. But, sometimes a bit of friendly competition can be fun. So, when we saw an heirloom piece of Grant Macdonald silverware - a silver and gold plated bowl on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow ‘Basic, Better, Best” segment, we were all glued to the screen to see who’d come away with the gold medal for their silver.
This classic Grant Macdonald 1976 mirror-polished silver rose bowl with finely textured guilt insert holding a quartz geode at the centre was up against some stiff competition. The bowl faced off against a beautiful candlestick by renowned industrial designer Robert Welch MBE, a pioneer of modern stainless steel and silver designs, founder of highly successful Robert Welch Associates design consultancy, winner of many design awards for his work with high profile brands and also featured in museum collections.
However it was also competing alongside a beautiful box with signature bark-textured gilt feature decoration by none other then Gerald Benny CBE. Gerald, who was at the Royal College of Art at the same time as Robert Welch (in the year above) was a legend of silversmithing, the only British craftsperson to hold four Royal Warrants at the same time. When he moved to Berkshire in 1976, Grant Macdonald took over his Bear Lane workshop space - just one year after this Antiques Roadshow featured bowl was made.
The results? Well, the minimalist genius of Robert Welch and the supreme master craftsmanship of Gerald Benny were unable to beat the elegant Grant Macdonald rose bowl as it was voted the judge’s ‘best’ piece. This segment really highlights the huge variety of designs and influences that make silversmithing as vibrant and exciting today as it ever was. In each case, we are also looking back at pieces from almost half a century ago that are still sought after and desirable today. Which means, although we’re delighted to see this vintage GM piece come away in first place, when it comes to fine master craftsmanship we really are first among equals.