Improvised Egg Cup

If you think that the egg cup in the picture below is a bit unusual, you are correct.

Egg cup

It is not actually an egg cup (although it works very well as one). It is in fact a Silver Claret Jug component.

It is bad isn’t it when a silversmith has not got a proper egg cup and has to make do! It is a bit like the shoemaker’s children – usually poorly shod.

The good news is I am busy actually making a batch of Silver Claret Jugs – the real thing in which to serve your favourite wine.



Al fresco is coming

An essential piece of the al fresco summer table is the stylish sterling silver and crystal salad bowl. The sterling silver salad servers seen in action during one of my recent evening meals complement the bowl perfectly. Still in the dining room at the moment- but I have high hopes for some warm summer weather to come soon!!

Salad bowl

You may wish to add other important items such as the sterling silver oil and vinegar set and the sterling silver salt and pepper mills not forgetting a sterling silver and crystal decanter for your chilled Chablis.

Enjoy the summer soon to come!

A serious consideration – to engrave – yes or no?

If the item is a present for say a wedding, a retirement, a christening, a birthday, even as a thank you then a short message is a must. Not a great long rambling story, just a few words and probably a date.

If you own a super yacht, hotel, restaurant or just an exceptional home you might like your family crest, logo or ship’s name engraved on said piece/s

If the piece is for your own personal use and enjoyment then the choice is yours – probably do not engrave.

Our engravers Stewart Morris for the silver and Richard and Monica for the crystal are all experts in their fields. They can advise and will bring to attention any spellings which they suspect are incorrect and advise on size, placement and layout of the engraving required. Both firms can re-draw (if necessary) from existing artwork into digital format.

Several items from JA Campbell are used as trophies and have been customised by engraving. Indeed we supplied Grand National trophies several years ago. The Zetland Gold Cup was made by JA Campbell.

Made up to a standard and not down to a price

The above statement while not unique has been coined by myself John Campbell to describe the principles applied when making our products. The intention of this statement is to try to appeal to the more discerning people in society, for these are our target market.

JA Campbell’s only retail outlet is its website and the studio workshop in Brentwood, England. With almost no other high street presence this makes it difficult for potential buyers to “touch and feel” Because of this we have to try and get our message across using the written word, photography and word of mouth backed up by the real comments on both the home page and individual product pages of our website.

We also get numerous phone calls (about one per sale) from people asking questions about the product and/or delivery. These calls I suspect are also being used to ascertain more about JA Campbell, such as do they actually answer the phone?, do they sound as if they know their subject?, can they answer technical questions?, can it be engraved on time and where is the best position?, could it be a bit taller/decorated?, could 50 be delivered in 3 weeks?. How well these questions are answered gives the questioner confidence – or not.

We all get caught occasionally buying something which turns out to be poor quality, often using the internet. Even me. A few weeks ago I thought I did not have time to go shopping for a new colander for the kitchen so I ordered one on the internet. Before even opening the packet I realised by the weight, or lack of it, that the article inside must be thinly made. Exactly right. It was so cheap it went straight to the charity shop. I did not want it in our kitchen.

Back to the JA Campbell case: my general business principal is to make an article as good as I can, one which will not break in use but last a lifetime or even many lifetimes. A product that will not cause me personally or my company any embarrassment. We then try to make a profit out of it.

The same cannot be said however for many other manufacturers. Modern house builders are a prime example. Most new houses and apartments today are made as cheaply as possible to maximise profit using the smart bathroom and kitchen to woo the potential buyer. Many are built on a flood plane or in a poor part of town or near a busy main road or railway. These builders or developers, as they prefer to be called, should use the moto “built poor in quality and high in price”

When making a batch of square decanters last week I realised they were taking far too long to make for several reasons and that profitability was probably suffering. So be it I thought! They had been made up to a standard. I am proud to have the name JA Campbell stamped on this item. It will not just please but will delight any recipient. A word of warning though, if you have a bad head the morning after it is probably the contents to blame – not my decanter!

Ice Bucket or Claret Jug?????

The week after the Christmas break I decided to replace the ice bucket we had sold in December. Not having made one of these for a couple of years I had to stop and think how? The main difficulty with the making of this piece is the very long solder seam in the body which is about 10″ long and if it is to be perfect in every way including strong and invisible it will surely test the skills of any silversmith.One thing if you are doing this regularly, but another matter if not!

This ice bucket was no exception in that the solder seam failed miserably. It was weak (broke at every attempt to move it) and highly visable. After several attempts to repair it I decided not to proceed and to scrap it.

All was not lost however as most of the area was good it was only the seam area which was bad, mainly due to the thinness from subsequent repair attempts. After cutting out the seam area the ice bucket was returned once more to a flat sheet and 4 x 4″ diameter discs were cut from it. These discs became claret jug neck components therefore saving 80% of the ice bucket material.

Such a malleable metal silver, especially if purchased from a reliable source, in this case Cookson Precious metals.

Same Claret Jug broken twice

Last week I had a phone call from an Army officer saying that he had had an accident with one of our chalice Claret jugs – yet again! Could we repair it?

He and his wife had bought it from one of the London department stores in 2000 (millenium hallmark) when they were “flush” his wife quipped. Sometime after that she had accidentally knocked the crystal body with the stopper and broken the body. We fitted a new crystal body back on to the original silver mount.

The next and current occasion was when one of her children was laying the table. Somehow it had been broken again. This time it happened in Belgium and he hand delivered the silver mount minus most of the crystal to our Brentwood workshop.

The remains of the broken crystal body were removed from the mount along wit the fixing plaster. The mount was then cleaned, re-polished and fitted on to a new crystal body.

It is now like new again and winging its way back to Belgium to be reunited with the family. I hope for their sake that we do not see it again.

In theory though there is no limit to the amount of repair this Claret jug can take!

What to make next?

I am sure I have probably written about this before – forgive me if I have but it seems to happen every year. There comes a stage where I am up to date with the current order schedule and I have time to make some items for stock. The question always is what to make this time?

I do wish I had a crystal ball and could predict what customers are going to buy. I have tried many ways before to look at sales trends from previous years, to look at what seems to be popular out in the shops, what are other websites putting forward as special offers or even can I look at the weather forecast!!!!

Well here goes again. Nothing has seemed to work 100% in the past but I seem to be doing reasonably well and will go for the ever popular Salt & Pepper Mills from the JA Campbell “Appetite” range. These silver mills are part of the matching collection that I designed about 25 years ago now.How time flies.

It is a contemporary range  and sits well against the more traditional items in the “Classic” range.

They are quite time consuming to make which is why I tend to always ensure that I have some in stock as they would be difficult items to make in a rush. However complicated things are to produce, as long as I have the time, I enjoy creating beautiful silver tableware.

That is one of the reasons I became a Silversmith and I still enjoy my work today.

Summer Produce

It is at this time of year when the garden calls. Unfortunately not always just to sit and enjoy. The weeds grow, the grass needs cutting, but if like me you enjoying growing your own produce then this is when things really start to happen.

Picking the first tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse, runner bean plants at the top of the poles and the first boiling so tender and succulent. Digging up potatoes, picking fruits and that is a task that leads on to yet another.

Loganberry jam from our garden, blackcurrant jam and cherry jam courtesy of our next door neighbours plants and tree.

Still to come our own grapes from the vine in the greenhouse.

Of course you may be thinking what has all this to do with a blog from a Silversmith?

Well I am sure I am not alone in gathering all the produce above and to take the care and have the attention to detail to do that sort of thing I am sure you too will want to display all your produce in the best possible way.

When friends and family come to dinner the talking point will be your gardening endeavours and what better way to show off your jam, for instance, than in a Silver & Crystal Preserve Dish.

How about your homegrown potatoes and runner beans in a Silver Vegetable Tureen with lid.

If your tomatoes form part of a salad then the Silver & Crystal Salad Bowl and a set of Silver Salad Servers will be just perfect.

Whilst the grapes may not be ready yet (and then they will be for eating) but in the meantime a glass of wine or two served from one of our Silver & Crystal Decanters is the ideal accompaniment.

At JA Campbell we have everything you need to set the perfect table to impress!

Have a look now

John Campbell.

Nothing to do with Silver!

A few of the silversmiths I have worked with are extremely versatile possibly due to the many materials we encounter. The hand eye skills we possess seem to transcend many activities although I personally have to confess to being a lousy billiard/snooker player. This came as a great suprise to me as I thought I was pretty good at angles and details.

Once such multi skilled silversmith I worked with as an apprentice was Harry Birkitt. Not only an excellent silversmith he also made miniature steel armour and miniature working guns in his spare time. He would forge from steel all the tiny parts including the flintlock hammers. All the armour joints to move the visors lifted just like the full size ones.

Another such craftsman Lew Marlow is very good with ornamental plaster work. He replaced some of the intricate ceiling cornice in his town house in Kentish town.

Me, well I am quite versatile too, I re-made the run cornice in the master bedroom of our house in Dalston. The house (being corballed brickwork on to clay) was suffering from a little natural subsidence which had broken the cornice in many places. It would have been impossible to repair successfully.

The old ceiling and cornice basically had to come down and be replaced with new. An old plasterer I had met told me he could do the job. When I asked him to start the job he said he could not do it because of his neck. I did not fully understand. This was in the days before google so I set about making umpteen phone calls to plaster cornice makers in yellow pages. Non of whom could do the job. I then realised I had no option but to learn the technique and do it myself. I bought a book in Foyles which had 2 pages of how to make a run cornice. The straight lengths were all quite easy to do but the corners, internal and external were missing and had to be done free hand – not easy! Each corner took me a day! At the end of the job my neck had seized up completely because of being fixed in the same looking up position for so long. I then realised what the plasterer had meany about his neck.

The latest skill I need to learn is how to re-bristle a brush. Our Meile vacuum cleaner (Revolution 500) has an electrically driven carpet cleaning head containing a cylindrical brush within. Meile tell me they no longer supply this part. Image if the top motor manufacturer told you that they could not supply you with a new gear box for your 12 year old car.

There is nothing wrong with the brush other than that the bristles are worn down and no longer touch the carpet. All I need to do is find a source of new bristles, drill out the old ones and glue back the new longer  ones into the cylinder. Should be easy .

Anyone got the same problem? Contact

Just going outside to repair the lawnmower carburettor. What next?

Silver & Crystal Decanters

At this time of year one of the most popular items in our range are Silver & Crystal decanters.

At the main meal on Christmas day what could be better to really set off your table than by serving wine in one of our elegant decanters. There are a selection of shapes to choose from and even a double size one that holds two bottles of wine – the Magnum decanter– if you have a large number to serve. It saves time refilling the decanter.

Red wine, even white wine, definitely the after dinner port or sherry and all the spirits!!

All our decanters are in stock and there is still time to have one delivered in time for Christmas – as a present or for your own table.

JA Campbell Silversmiths – 24 hours a day – 7 days a week- we can take your order

Check out the selection now!!