Gerald Benney The Silversmith
The goldsmith Gerald Benney was one of the most influential figures in his trade. Born in Hull, East Yorkshire in 1930, Benney’s career lasted more than half-a-century. He was the first British craftsperson to ever hold four Royal Warrants at the same time.
He attracted a series of key patrons during his career including Christie’s and the Oxford and Cambridge universities. One of his other most notable patrons was the businessman Sir Nigel Broackes, who he would go onto train. Benney not only produced specialist commissions but was also behind a series of acclaimed mass market pieces for Viners. Benney is credited in playing a pivotal role in the survival of British silver.
Silver Design Skills
Benney’s design and manufacturing skills were highly innovative. He was known for creating the “no scrap blank” which enabled items to be produced in vast swathes. Consequently without waste being created. He also created a special technique of silver texturing by using a bent hammer.
This method eliminated fingerprints and resulted in his “bark finish”. A finish with which he became synonymous. His skills as a businessman were also astute, with royalty payments being made to him. Something not usually associated with silversmithery.
Where Was Benny The Silversmith Born
Benney was born in Hull but moved to the south of England when his father was made the principal of the Brighton College of Art. His mother was also a silversmith, and he enrolled at the College of Art in 1945 and trained under the silversmith Dunstan Pruden. A silversmith of the Guild of St Joseph.
After completing National Service, Benney headed to the Royal College of Art in London. Quickly being granted a Prince of Wales scholarship. It was in this period that he liaised with a number of future silversmiths such as David Mellor.
Benney married Janet Edwards in 1957, with his first notable private client Charles Clee being in attendance. Who had given two silver bowls made by Benney to London University. Benney made a number of signature large bowls during his career. Subsequent patrons would include construction figure Alistair McAlpine, who offered Benney the chance to work on a site he owned by the Thames called Falcon Wharf.
Scandinavian Design Influences
Benney had become known for its minimal, Scandinavian-esque design and the clean simple lines of his work.
In the 1960s, Benney became a leading figure in his trade. Consequently with his texturing techniques being emulated by various craftsmen.
He began to incorporate enamelling into his work during this era and worked alongside the famed Norweigan enameller Berger Bergensen. Berger taught his techniques to Benney and his team. Benney was appointed Professor of Silversmithing and Jewellery at the Royal College of Art in 1974 until 1983.
Gerald Benney Retirement
When Benney retired in 1998, his son Simon was trading his father’s silver at his shop in Walton Street, Knightsbridge. Gerald Benney died in 2008, but Simon inherited a number of his father’s skills and is now seen as one of the leading designers in the world today. A master at working with precious metals and the owner of his own Benney Watches, having achieved three Royal Warrants.