Meet the Makers: Paul, Our Master Goldsmith
*This is an archived interview with our former master goldsmith, Paul Savage. In 2021, Paul moved forward on his journey in the jewellery industry but his legacy lives on at Taylor & Hart. We hope you enjoy getting to know this talented craftsman!
Paul Savage is a classically trained goldsmith with over 17 years of experience in creating fine jewellery and art. We speak with Paul to get to know his beginnings in the jewellery industry, and about the journey that led him to become an expert in his field.
Where are you from?
Paul: I’m from Bexley in Kent, but I’ve been in and around London for most of my life.
How did you get your start in jewellery?
P: It was through an apprenticeship after leaving school at 16. I did some research, and managed to find someone that was willing to take a chance on me in London. The business was called Clive Burr in Clerkenwell, a stone’s throw from Hatton Garden. I completed a five year apprenticeship overseen by the Goldsmiths’ Company. Quite a few of the apprentices within the trade go through the fall indentured scheme, which is very traditional. The scheme dates back about six hundred years.
That’s quite a big endeavour for a 16 year old to embark on.
When you were thinking about options, was jewellery the only choice?
P: I was always interested in metal work. At school, I was drawn to art and design and wanted to do something more practical that involved making. I stumbled across some college courses and spoke to a few people before deciding to do an apprenticeship.
In the beginning, how did you find your apprenticeship?
P: It was hard. You’re coming out of school and straight into a workshop with guys that have been in the trade for quite some time. You grow up very quickly. Luckily, the place I was at was nice, they were very fair. I didn’t really have an ‘initiation’ phase, it was good training. There was a mix of men and women in the workshop and the balance was good.
Is it common to find both men and women in the workshop?
P: It’s getting more and more common now. And I think it’s great because it actually balances the workshop, it works very well.
At the end of the apprenticeship, what were you able to do?
P: At the end of your apprenticeship, your final work is meant to be your masterpiece. You must produce a piece that showcases your skills. I made a silver house. It’s actually a real house, a mountain ski chalet. That was a commission piece. Before I started, I kept badgering my boss about what we were doing, what am I doing? And then one day he came in with the plans and said, there you go. There’s your masterpiece.
Was that the first time that you had to manage a project?
P: I had been left to do things myself before, but not on that scale. So there was a lot to try and cram in and, of course, you’ve always got things that don’t quite go to plan or things that pop up.
We had real life photographs and we had architectural plans. One issue was that the photos and the plans didn’t match up because when they built the main structure they changed things.
So you start planning things out and it doesn’t quite go together properly. Well, why is that? It took some problem solving. It was a good life lesson!
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Part of the job is problem solving and finding out how we can make this work in the right way to give someone something that’s different, but also wearable. I enjoy the challenges of the job.
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After working for a few years at the Goldsmiths’ Company, where did you go after that?
P: I then started working for myself, building my own common base. I worked freelance from nine months to a year for my own clients.
As someone who had always been employed in an apprenticeship, going freelance meant that it’s all on you. How did that go?
P: It can seem daunting, but it gave me a little bit of freedom to do what I wanted to do. The most stressful part of it was that I had to earn money. I had to make sure that I could make it work. At the time, I had a young daughter and a mortgage but it all worked out. I started a partnership with another jeweller, we’d both completed our apprenticeship at the same time, so we started working together for three years. It worked well, but gradually we both came to want different things for the business, so we amicably parted ways.
What’s your favourite part of working on bespoke designs?
P: I like working with designers and our customers to develop their ideas and bring something to light. Oftentimes customers will come to us not being sure if what they want is even possible, but we’re here to show them anything is possible. Part of the job is problem solving and finding out how we can make this work in the right way to give someone something that’s different, but also wearable. I enjoy the challenges of the job.
Do you now mostly make jewellery as opposed to objet d’art?
P: Yes. Generally, that’s the way the trade has moved over the past 20 to 30 years. Demand for the objet d’art has really declined. But jewellery is always wanted and needed. I made the decision early in my career to direct my freelance work towards jewellery, as it was easier to find clients. Also, with the objet d’art, they can tie you up for a long time. There’s a lot of work involved.
Do you lean towards clean, modern jewellery, or Art Deco?
P: I like clean, modern jewellery, but keeping with the traditional science of the craft. As a part of my training in objet d’art and boxes, precision and straight cut lines are ingrained into me.
On the other side of things, I quite like organic shapes and natural curves. It’s nice to work with stones as opposed to just basing a design and then finding a stone to fit. If you have a big stone, it’s about finding something that fits that stone.
Do you tend to begin the bespoke process with the stone?
P: Yes. When a customer comes in with an idea, it’s best to begin by marrying their vision with a specific stone and shape. For example, if it’s a trillion cut, you’re not going to be able to create an Art Deco ring because the shape is not quite right. There needs to be a balance between the two, and in the case of opposing ideas and objects, the piece needs to be thoughtfully considered.
What is a coloured gemstone that you have really enjoyed working with?
P: I like sapphires because of their hardness and versatility. I quite like aquamarine rings, you get some really fine colours, nice big sizes and fine cuts. They are usually very clean.
It’s hard to imagine that the aquamarine is in the beryl family, like emeralds, you know?
P: Yeah! I mean, to be fair, you can get some lovely tanzanites too. But again, they can be a little bit temperamental. You have to find a way of working with them too, and cut as much risk out of it as you can.
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Do you use CAD as well as entirely making the jewellery from scratch?
P: CAD is a brilliant tool. I’ve got no issues with using CAD rapid prototyping, laser sintering. New technology is great, but it has its purpose and place. You can produce some amazing things with CAD but you need to understand how jewellery is made to be able to use CAD in the right way. If you get issues with what you’re working on, you need to be able to fix it properly. Same with any casting. Casting is brilliant, but it doesn’t always work out, so you need to know ways to fix problems. You know, I’m not someone that moans and curses about CAD. It’s a great tool to have.
It’s likely to have revolutionised the availability of people having jewellery.
P: Yeah. It hasn’t necessarily cut costs as such, but it frees you up to maybe have three or four jobs that you can work on as opposed to one. It gives you more time. Also, you can design something on the screen and because the renders are so good, the customer will get a nearly perfect picture of what they’re going to receive with the finished product.
Rendering is really amazing.
P: You know, it’s lovely to see paint ups and beautifully designed drawings. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for that, but with a CAD rendered image you can see every single facet and leads out of that piece and you can make a change to it before it’s even gone to production.
Thanks to Paul for giving us a fascinating insight into his life, training, and career. Taylor & Hart would be nothing without our dedicated and highly skilled team in the workshop. Here’s to all the makers in the world, expanding the horizon of possibility through design and creative expression.