British Silversmith Tim Chilcott (August 9, 2000)


Tim Chilcott is a British designer and maker of contemporary silver. An executive committee member of the Association of British Designer Silversmiths, he was recently granted the Freedom of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Tim lives and works on the north bank of the Thames Estuary. Having worked in a small architect's practice for several years, Tim decided to find a more creative outlet for his skills and enrolled at Medway College of Design to study silversmithing. He graduated from Medway in 1988, having won many awards for design and craftsmanship, and was successful in several graduates' shows. For the next five years he worked in two of the top workshops in London to develop his skills. During this time he worked on many major international commissions including large dinner services and highly prestigious one-of-a-kind pieces. In 1994, Tim set up his own workshop in Westcliff-on-Sea and started work on some major projects for the Middle East and the Home Market, including work for the Goldsmiths' Company and St. John's College, Cambridge.

Jeff Herman, Executive Director of SAS: How's the silversmithing atmosphere in England?
Jeff: Is the cottage industry (like you) surviving?
Tim Chilcott: It's been pretty lively for the millennium and will probably continue for a year or two yet.
Jeff: Then what will happen? Work will fall off?
Tim: I hope that it has revived a more general interest.
Jeff: Are collectors buying more utilitarian pieces?
Tim: They seem to be. But its difficult getting the publicity
Jeff: What kind of advertising do you do?
Tim: Apart from the site, which is starting to bring in more inquiries, a small church magazine but not much else.
Jeff: Does Goldsmiths' Hall get involved, like DeBeers?
Tim: Yeah, but they've got their favorites and I'm not it at the moment.
Jeff: Why not?
Tim: Most of the work I do is for other designers who can't make so I haven't had that many new pieces for a while. I guess they think I'm not too current.
Tim: I do love just sitting down at the bench and making and have not been good at getting my publicity machine moving.
Jeff: The designers aren't smiths themselves?
Tim: Mostly makers who have given up the bench.
Jeff: They don't take in help?
Jeff: If you're a good craftsman, it shouldn't matter!
Tim: The market here has moved away from supporting much more than cottage industry workers, running a workshop is too difficult here.
Jeff: Why should you be excluded?
Tim: Sorry, from what?
Jeff: From being promoted by the "Hall."
Jeff: As long as the smith has been accepted into SAS, everyone gets the same treatment.
Tim: They do a lot of work on promoting the trade as a whole. There is a big exhibition there at the moment. I get attention from the guy who runs the library, where the inquiries come in.
Jeff: Beasley?
Jeff: Does the Hall have a referral service?
Tim: That's the chap. He bought some work from me a while ago.
Jeff: So, without the Saudis, smiths are still doing okay?
Jeff: I would image there are much fewer masterpieces being created.
Tim: Yes, most go abroad.
Jeff: Good thing for the organizations in the UK. Fish mongers and such, commissioning chains of office, trophies, etc.
Tim: All the liveries commissioned work for 2K. I made a suite of candlesticks for the Clothworkers. About 14 months of work.
Tim: You don't need many more customers like that.
Jeff: Clothworkers! That sounds pretty extravagant!
Tim: Have you heard of the tarnish proof silver.
Jeff: I have. I'm going to be the technical guy for the company that will be importing it.
Jeff: I forged a ladle from an ingot of the sterling/germanium alloy.
Tim: Hey good stuff. How did you find it worked.
Jeff: Just a bit softer that traditional sterling. Absolutely no firestain after annealing 20 times and hot forging...without  flux!
Jeff: It finished sterling.
Jeff: Just a bit whiter, though.
Tim: Was it from one of the UK companies.
Jeff: It was from Finland.
Jeff: The company I'm dealing with is looking for a fabricator on this side of the pond to produce it.
Tim: The big suppliers were slow to even look at it Here.
Jeff: I think it's the greatest development for the trade since silver was discovered!
Jeff: I was laughing I got so excited!
Tim: Yeah. It should be a good selling point. I've not used it yet I must confess. Waiting for others to test it out ;-)
Jeff: A far as its tarnish resistance, it really can't be quantified.
Tim: What has been the public reaction to it over there.
Jeff: I'm waiting for some sheet to play with. I've been told that you can't use hard silver solder. The color is different as well when soldering/annealing...not as red.
Jeff: It's not available over here commercially. I think I was the first to forge it in the US. Some casters have used it and approve.
Tim: Big rewards for the makers who start using it first I would say.
Jeff: Imagine making a square box and not having to worry about going nuts finishing the inside corners?
Tim: Heaven!
Jeff: It's going to be marketed to SAS Artisans first to bring more prestige to the alloy.
Tim: The ABDS showcased it at a spring fair in London and got a lot of press interest. When I was on the stand there was lots from the public as well. It was thought to look a bit steely.
Jeff: Do you think it will revitalize the industry over there?
Tim: I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Jeff: I think it looks closer to fine silver.
Tim: People are so used to seeing a fine tarnish on silver it will take some getting used to I think.
Jeff: Any tarnish can be removed with a towel and water, I here. I have a piece sitting in a china cabinet next to some regular sterling, seeing which tarnishes first.
Tim: I've offered a communion set to a recent customer and it is taking a bit more to sell it.
Jeff: Why is that?
Jeff: Seems like it would be an easy sell.
Tim: Commissioning a piece of silver is such a big thing for most people that they are I think rightly cautious.
Jeff: You're speaking about the new alloy?
Tim: I will have to make two pieces, one in sterling and one in germanium alloy to illustrate the point when making a sale.
Jeff: Are people buying more cheap silver imports?
Tim: That has always been a problem here with lower grade silver available from the European market.
Jeff: How much more are you paying for the new alloy as compared to the sterling? Say, a 12" x 12" sheet x .040. Sorry it's not metric!
Tim: It's about 7% more expensive.
Jeff: So about another $20.
Jeff: That makes it worthwhile. You actually save more time because of the finishing.
Tim: I buy by the Kilo, and the price fix alters so much at the moment the increased cost is almost lost.
Jeff: No more dangerous chemicals to deal with.
Jeff: I just soak off the flux in hot water.
Tim: I find the finish silver has when it comes out of acid helps when hammering; you can see where the hammer is going more easily.
Jeff: Do you have anything new on your site I should see?
Jeff: Do you use citric acid?
Tim: I've got a new thing called StudioWatch. Corny I know but it shows people what is involved in making their work.
Jeff: What's the URL?
Tim: There is a link from my home page:
Jeff: Nice! I like the educational aspect; something too often neglected.
Tim: There is a lot of interest in the way things are made in our craft and is a powerful selling point.
Jeff: I use propane & compressed air as well.
Tim: I use sulfuric acid.
Jeff: Citric is safer...try it. Look on our Safer Alternatives page:
Tim: It's only about 10% solution and is heated to 80 centigrade so not very dangerous. Hurts like hell if you have a cut hand, though.
Jeff: Do you have Sparex over there?
Tim: What is it?
Jeff: It's safer than granular form.
Tim: I used a 'safeflux' in one of the workshops in London when I worked up there. It was very slow.
Jeff: Try the Superior flux #6. It gives off organic chlorides or fluorides.
Tim: It depends I think on the kind of flux you use. I still use primarily Borax and have not found anything that stands up to long soldering operations.
Jeff: Regarding soldering, I get in and out as fast as I can. If I do get firescale, it can be removed with alumina polishing compound.
Tom Sandretto: Hi, Tim and welcome to the Colonies!!
Jeff: Tom's a silversmith as well as a caster.
Jeff: Tom, I'm still waiting for the Vaasa alloy to arrive from Finland in grain form.
Tom: I'm just back from 3 days in London June 19- ?? What a great environment for silversmiths!
Tim: Do silversmiths over there use outworkers for polishing and casting and engraving and the like
Tim: Tom Did you see the Exhibition at the Goldsmiths Hall.
Tom: Yes, I'd say so. That's where I've been able to "fit" over the years.
Tom: Tim, I wasn't able to visit Goldsmiths but had a wonderful morning/afternoon at the V&A. And the balance of the
  afternoon on Bond St. with like minded silversmithing firms.
Tim: The V&A has been good. Recent demonstrations by silversmiths in the galleries.
Jeff: Tim, we tend to most of the polishing ourselves. Casting gets farmed out as well as engraving.
Tim: This may be where I don't find firescale too much of a problem. That is the polishers problem
Jeff: We don't plate our sterling prior to polishing.
Jeff: But why remove detail?
Tom: Tim, by way on introduction, I trained in the US with a guy from the Jensen factory.
Tim: How long have you been in the trade, if that's not a rude question.
Jeff: Tim, you can find Hans Christensen here:
Jeff: That's who Tom trained with.
Tom: Tim, I began as a student in '70. Opened a shop in '74.
Tim: Do you find your work selling from stock, or do you make up 'specials?'
Tom: Tim, as my design and retail marketing skills are minimal, our production in exclusively for other clients in the trade.
Tim: Tom, that is where most of my work is at the moment. Playing someone else's tune ;-)
Tom: Tim, we cast sterling for companies and individuals who don't want to tend to that part of their production.
Ned Foulkrod: Hi Jeff! It's Ned from West Chester PA trying to figure out how this thing works and almost forgot about the chat.
Tom: Tim, if it weren't for the other guys tunes I'd be in another line of work. I like to keep a hand in silversmithing if only for my children's future decor!
Ned: Do you have any examples of your work on-line? forgive me if Jeff has already addressed this.
Tim: Ned, take a look at
Ned: will do....thanks!
Tim: Tom are you looking forward to getting you hands on the Fire free silver.
Ned: fire free silver? For casting only?
Tim: Jeff referred to it earlier.
Jeff: Ned, It will be imported in sheet form from Finland in a couple of months.
Tom: Tim, about your 'pitcher' (on the home page) are the indentations raised or applied?
Tim: They were ground into the surface using a ball fraze.
Jeff: Ball fraze?
Tim: A dental burr!
Tim: Sorry I think I forgot which pitcher was on my Home page. Those were applied.
Tom: Freehand ??
Jeff: Is England seeing more imports from other European countries to compete with your work?
Tim: There has recently been a harmonizing of our trade links with Europe. The imports are picking up, more so for the jewelry trade than the silver trade.
Jeff: Are you concerned about the cheaper competition?
Tim: Not really. English work is still held in high regard. Rightly so of course ;-)
Tom: Tim, is a set of 1mm high alphabet stamps available in the UK?
Tim: I would have thought so. I don't have an address to hand, sorry. I have 2mm number punches.
Jeff: Tom: You can order them from Microstamp. They can make a stamp with characters as small as .010"!
Tom: I was taken by the work on the edges of British coinage.
Tim: I would have thought some custom made letter punches could add a nice touch to the right piece.
Tom: You're right I have seen advertisements but didn't make a connection to an entire set. Thank you.
Tom: My thought also.


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