The terms goldsmith and silversmith are in most respects interchangeable, although until the eighteenth century a goldsmith might be someone whose business either wholly or partly involved banking.

A silversmith might be a man who made things, or who specialised in one aspect of the craft, or he might be the head of a large workshop effectively managing a business, or he might run a retail shop.

Sadly, with very few exceptions, the big name silversmiths are now little known outside those who make a special study of silver. But it was not always so. Until a distinction was drawn between the fine and decorative arts, a silversmith could be considered the equal of any painter or sculptor – and indeed may have been trained in any of these disciplines.

There are few monographs devoted to an individual goldsmith, but research for exhibition catalogues and books, particularly those that detail marks, is steadily expanding our knowledge of the lives of many of the most famous names and lesser-known figures, in the subject.

Rod Kelly, seen here, is one of Britain’s leading silversmiths. Like many others he has his own workshop; few today run a business employing more than a very few craftsmen. The manufacture of silverware for a mass market has almost ceased.

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