Glasgow-based watch dial enameller Sally Morrison has won the inaugural Precious Metalworker of the Year Award sponsored by The Royal Mint, including a £2,000 prize and trophy awarded at a special presentation at the College of St George, Windsor Castle, on Wednesday 15 November 2023.
Heritage Crafts was set up 13 years ago as a national charity to support and safeguard heritage crafts skills, and has become well known for its Red List of Endangered Crafts, the first research of its kind to rank traditional crafts in the UK by the likelihood they would survive the next generation.
This new award sponsored by The Royal Mint celebrates a heritage craftsperson who has made an outstanding contribution to working with precious metal over the past year. It recognises a contribution that is far beyond the ordinary, based on a proven dedication to a particular metalworking skill.
Head of Coin Design Paul Morgan inspecting the Precious Metalworker of the Year Award
Sally Morrison is a graduate of the Edinburgh College of Arts jewellery course and specialises in engraving and enamelling watch dials at the watch company anOrdain. Her interest in champleé enamelling, the art of applying translucent enamel over a usually textured and precious metal background, has made her the best of a very small and elite group of craftspeople working in this field.
The Precious Metalworker of the Year trophy presented to Sally was made by the team of coin designers and craftspeople at The Royal Mint, led by Head of Coin Design Paul Morgan. The piece is intended to take viewers on a journey of metalwork from its molten stage, through hammering, planishing, repoussé/chasing, and finally through to texture and engraving.
Judges for the new award were Leighton John (Director of Operations at The Royal Mint), Dr Rebecca Struthers (the only watchmaker with a PhD in horology), and Paul Morgan (Head of Coin Design at The Royal Mint).
The two other finalists for the award were Rauni Higson, a silversmith whose commissions include the Goldsmith’s Cup for HMS Prince of Wales, and Warren Martin, one of the few remaining silver spinners in Sheffield, a craft that has been listed as critically endangered. Read more about Rauni and Warren here.
The Royal Mint and Heritage Crafts launched their partnership earlier this year, announcing four bursaries at an event held at the House of Lords. Since then, five bursaries have been awarded to those wanting to train or further develop skills in precious metals. As an exemplar of British craftsmanship, The Royal Mint is committed to protecting and celebrating craftspeople and developing skills wherever possible.
Heritage Crafts and The Royal Mint have announced the finalists of the inaugural Precious Metalworker of the Year award, including a silversmith, a silver spinner and a watch dial enameller.
This new award celebrates a heritage craftsperson who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of precious metalworking over the past year. It recognises a contribution that is far beyond the ordinary, based on a proven dedication to a precious metalworking skill.
The three finalists for this year’s award are (in alphabetical order):
- Rauni Higson – Rauni’s silversmithing commissions include the Goldsmith’s Cup for HMS Prince of Wales, a wedding gift for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the processional cross for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. She currently has her first solo exhibition at The Makers Guild Wales, titled ‘Illuminating Silver’, supported by the Arts Council of Wales.
- Warren Martin – Warren is one of the few remaining silver spinners in Sheffield, a craft that has been listed as critically endangered. He spins for a number of silverware companies and designer makers. He has spun trophies for top flight sporting competitions including football, Formula 1 and horse racing, including the Champion Stakes at Ascot.
- Sally Morrison – Sally is a graduate of the Edinburgh College of Arts jewellery course and specialises in engraving and enamelling watch dials at the watch company anOrdain. Her interest in champleé enamelling, the art of applying translucent enamel over a usually textured and precious metal background, has made her the best of a very small and elite group of craftspeople.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday 15 November at a Winners’ Reception at Vicars’ Hall, St George’s House, Windsor Castle. A Young Metalworker of the Year will be announced at the same time.
Heritage Crafts is the national charity set up to celebrate and safeguard traditional craft skills as a fundamental part of the UK’s living heritage. It launched its partnership with The Royal Mint earlier this year, announcing four bursaries at an event held at the House of Lords. Since then, five bursaries have been awarded to those wanting to train or further develop skills in precious metals, along with expert support from the team at The Royal Mint. As an exemplar of British craftsmanship, The Royal Mint is committed to protecting and celebrating craftspeople and developing skills wherever possible.
The winner will be selected by a panel of judges made up of renowned advocates of craft skills:
- Paul Morgan, Head of Coin Design at The Royal Mint;
- Dr Rebecca Struthers, watchmaker and author of Hands of Time;
- Leighton John, Head of Operations at The Royal Mint.
Photo of Rauni Higson by Rebecca Oldfield.
About The Royal Mint
The Royal Mint’s expertise in precious metals spans over a thousand years. Known as the home of precious metals in the UK, The Royal Mint offers products including gold, silver and platinum commemorative coins, bars for investment, and a digital gold saving option, backed by metal held in their vault.
As part of their commitment to sustainability, last year they announced plans to build a factory to recover precious metals from electronic waste, currently active at lab level. Recovered metal is being used to create beautiful jewellery pieces in their latest business venture, 886 by The Royal Mint.
Watch dial enamelling
Making watch dials using vitreous enamel on a metal base.
|Historic area of significance
|Birmingham and London
|Area currently practised
|Glasgow and Birmingham on a very small scale
|Origin in the UK
|Current no. of professionals (main income)
(6 at AnOrdain )
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|5-10 fine art and jewellery enamellers who have worked on watch dials from time to time.
|Current no. of trainees
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
Enamel watch dials appeared in the UK in the mid-18th century, gradually gaining popularity over the earlier chased and repoussé and chased metal champlevé dials. The UK made most of the world’s watches until the second half of the 18th century, and the manufacture of vitreous enamel watch faces was a widespread craft. Today it’s a very highly prized technique amongst collectors but the only master craftsmen producing them are in Switzerland and Japan.
There are what’s called ‘soft’ or ‘cold’ enamel dials, which aren’t enamel at all, they’re resin, and people make those in the UK, but it has nothing to do with enamel other than in name.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- The watchmaking industry in the UK is tiny, so there is a limited number of watchmakers to sell them to. It is possible to supply overseas watchmakers, but historically enamelling would normally form part of a local watch part supply ecosystem. The Swiss make some amazing enamel dials so they probably wouldn’t source from the UK even if it were an option.
Craftspeople currently known
- anOrdain, Glasgow – the main company making vitreous (or ‘grand feu’) enamel watch faces in the UK.
- Struthers Watchmakers and Deakin & Francis, Birmingham have worked together to make enamel dials but on a small scale.
- Robert Loomes has made enamel dials on a small scale.
There is one maker in England who comes from a family of enamellers and has enamelled dials in the past, but he is no longer doing so due to illness.
There may be some ‘leisure’ dial enamellers, but it’s not something you can easily do well without investing more time than a hobbyist could (in my opinion).
The difference between watch dial enamelling and jewellery enamelling is down to tolerances. To fit within a watch the enamel dial needs to be perfectly flat, of a uniform thickness down to a tenth of a millimetre and have a completely consistent finish. The dials also need to be much thinner than that of jewellery enamel.
It took almost 4,000 hours over three years at the bench for anOrdain to perfect their first enamel dial.