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Symposium on Precious Metal Skills

Symposium on Precious Metal Skills

When: Tuesday 25 July 2023, 10am to 3.30pm
Where: Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Cost: Entry to this event is free and refreshments will be provided.

Heritage Crafts and the The Royal Mint are bringing together expert practitioners in precious metal crafts from a broad industry base to Somerset House to create a consensus across the industry of what is required to support at-risk skills.

The symposium will aim to raise awareness and drive support for at-risk skills within precious metal crafts such as gold and silversmithing, medal making, metal thread manufacture, gilding, hand engraving and many others.

The day is supported by the Royal Mint and The Pilgrim Trust and will be opened with a keynote address from Anne Jessopp, CEO of The Royal Mint. The remainder of the day will include talks from practitioners, a panel discussion and breakout discussions on issues affecting skills transmission.

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Cutlery and tableware making

Currently viable crafts


Cutlery and tableware making


The making or knives, forks, spoons and other table utensils (see also knife making).


Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance Sheffield
Area currently practised Sheffield
Origin in the UK 17th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 51-100
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Included in the above figures
Current no. of trainees 1-5
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers



Sheffield was the British birthplace of commercial cutlery due its geographical location and natural resources of iron ore and coal. The town was built on hills, well connected by rivers which enabled flowing water to power the waterwheels. The craft began with the production of knives using traditional blade making techniques, before developing into the craft of making The production of knives morphed from blade making, leading to its introduction as kitchen cutlery. By 1640 cutlery production was a major British industry.

During the seventeenth century, cutlery evolved from being a rudimentary functional implement to a decorative item. Cutlery became patterned and shaped, and was sold as sets, with matching hollowware soon following. Sheffield’s cutlery industry peaked in the Victorian ear, but Sheffield remained dominant throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sheffield was home to both mass-scale production companies and small workshops, and goods were sold nationally and internationally. In 1869 one company alone produced 36,000 table knives and 7,000 scissors a week, and by the turn of the century held 15 tons of ivory for handles.

Stainless steel was developed by Harry Bearley in 1913 and was used in commercial production by 1914. Today, cutlery is commonly ’18/10 stainless steel’ the first figure refers to the percentage of chromium and the second to the nickel content.



  • Forging
  • Forming
  • Pressing
  • Linishing
  • Polishing
  • Plating


Local forms




  • Silver plating – over recent years many platers have closed and in Sheffield and there is only one known silver plater left.


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training and recruitment: finding skilled workers remains a challenge for the craft
  • Market issues: overseas cutlery makers are the biggest issues facing the craft.


Support organisations

  • Cutlery and Allied Trades Association (CATRA)


Craftspeople currently known


Other information

In the 1950s there were over 300 cutlery workshops in Sheffield which has dramatically reduced.



  • Steel City Cutlery, About Stainless Steel
  • Peter Machan, The Little Mesters: The Rise, Decline and Survival of Sheffield’s Traditional Trades, March 2023