Australia Jewels / GERALD BENNEY GOLD CUFF, Circa 1964
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GERALD BENNEY | GOLD CUFF, Circa 1964
Gerald Benney CBE RDI (1930-2008)
Gerald Benney was one of the most outstanding goldsmiths of the 20th century. With works being continuously produced for over fifty years, from private commissions to mass production. Born in Hull, Yorkshire in 1930, he trained at Brighton Art College 1946-1948 as a silversmith under Dunstan Pruden. After two years military service he went to the Royal College of Art under Professor Robert Goodden. Benney found his first workshop at Suffolk House Whitfield Place off the Tottenham Court Road in London during his last term at RCA. It was at the RCA that Benney met David Mellor and Robert Welch. Between them they were to revolutionise post war silver design.
Early in his career Benney discovered, by accident, the distinctive surface texturing of silver that was to become his signature. He inadvertently used a hammer with a damaged head while producing a cup and liked the effect. This surface texturing soon became known as "Benney Bark Finish". The finish was widely imitated and dominated contemporary silver design for almost two decades. Its success was due not only to its new contemporary look, but also to the practical reasons that it almost eliminated tarnish and fingerprints.
In 1963, Benney moved to Beenham House near Reading. It was here that he decided to develop the use of enamels. Starting in 1968 he revived the almost-lost art of enamelling and went on to be one of the world's foremost modern enamellers. In 1969, he moved his London studio to Falcon Wharf, Bankside and by 1973 was at warehouses in Bear Lane, Southwark. Between 1957 – 69 he was a consultant designer for Viners and in 1971 he was awarded Royal Designer for Industry. He was Professor of Silversmithing and Jewellery at the Royal College of Art from 1974 to 1983.
In 1993, together with his son Simon, he opened a shop in London and a year later he was awarded a CBE. Benney received many commissions from the Royal Family and was the first craftsman to hold four Royal Warrants simultaneously, with Royal Warrants from HM The Queen, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. His work can be seen in many collections worldwide, including those of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London and The Goldsmiths' Company, London.