British Silverware is a top end Sheffield cutlery manufacturer for those who want the very best for their super yacht, plane or chateau.
The firm has a worldwide reputation for handcrafted excellence which is only set to burn brighter as the skills it champions die out.
Tony Morton is reputedly the last ‘flat hammer man and hand raiser’ in England. In premises on Windsor Street, Attercliffe, craftspeople with up to 50 years of experience are busy buffing, gilding, engraving, spinning, drop stamping and casting.
The firm also has a historic library of tooling and dies dating from the early 19th century, acquired following the demise of six companies that fell by the wayside.
It is this uniqueness sells its products to those who want the assurance they are buying the best.
Boss Jacqueline Tear says: “Our customers are people with yachts and private residences who might want 36 place settings of 12 pieces each, plus accessories.
“If you have a plane and it’s got little tables, we have to make the set to fit.
“Royalty sets the standard. British royalty is mindful of what they spend, and they have accumulated a lot of stuff. Perhaps other heads of state and royalty have more income – and they’re playing catch-up. As a business we have made for every retailer with a royal warrant.”
Sheffield’s historic cutlery industry is at its lowest point following the introduction of cheap, mass production in the 1980s, she believes.
“We went higher and higher. We have really highly skilled people, some with 50 years of knowledge competing with someone on less than £5 a week.
“We have to sell our skillsets, so customers aren’t wondering if it’s the best - they know it is.
“People used to dealing with luxury can feel the difference in the finish, the durability and the way it is set.”
She also believes Sheffield still leads the world.
“The French make not bad cutlery, but they were all state sponsored, Germany has a ‘pocket’ of quality.”
The other selling point is the security and discretion of having all the necessary skills under one roof, she adds.
Closer to home, British Silverware donated 350 place settings – of 10 pieces each – to the Cutlers’ Company in Sheffield for banquets and feasts. It also cleans and stores them between events, such as the installation of the new Master Cutler earlier this month.
Ms Tear, a freeman of the company, said she had been moved to replace battered items.
“It would be wrong if replacement cutlery had been imported from China. I think there are certain things you should be proud of. Our guys know when there’s been a big event at the Cutlers’ Hall it’s their products that are being used.”
Business is on the up and the 18-strong firm is trying to recruit, but unsurprisingly it’s a challenge. At the same time, Ms Tear is trying to find ways to introduce 21st century technology without compromising company values.
A computer might show how a coat of arms could best go on cutlery, she says. It would certainly help with the modern desire to have everything tomorrow.
“Over the years we have improved our ability to hit shorter deadlines, but we also have to be honest and manage expectations.”
Today, the firm is also busy making bowls, jugs, trays, candlesticks, ornaments and trophies for international sporting events.
THERE’S NOTHING A GIRL CAN’T DO AND MANUFACTURING IS A GREAT JOB
Jacqueline Tear is the only female cutlery boss in England, she’s certain of that, although there aren’t many cutlery bosses in total.
But, after 30 years in industry, she would like to see more women manufacturers.
“There’s nothing a girl can’t do. I love the versatility, diversity and challenges of producing something.”
Challenges include being submerged in the floods of 2007 – just as they received a huge order. Despite being without electricity for three months they fulfilled the contract.
“I’m proud of that.”