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TITLE
John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (4 of 39)
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_SILVERSMITH_04
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
PERIOD
1970s
CREATOR
John Fraser
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2220
KEYWORDS
jewellery
jewelry
craftsman
craftsmen
metalwork
silversmiths
audio

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John Fraser, an Inverness silversmith, served his apprenticeship in the 1930s with Medlock and Craik, watchmakers and jewellers at 6 Bridge Street, Inverness. The firm later had premises in Exchange Place, and Queensgate.

In this audio extract from the 1970s, Mr Fraser acknowledges his success as a jeweller stems from being given the opportunity to learn all aspects of jewellery making: designing, fabricating and engraving. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's pieces - a Luckenbooth brooch, sometimes known as a 'Mary' brooch because of the 'M' shape formed at the top of the heart. Luckenbooths were often worn as protective tokens. They took their name from the jewellery sold in the 'locked booths' in Edinburgh. Inverness had its own style, with loops known as 'double spectacles'.

'After a short time at the engraving bench he said to me one day, he says 'Now look, John, I've been trying to make up my mind what to do with you' he says and I thought 'Well, that's strange, what's he wanting me to do now?' He says 'I would like you to come in, in the morning' he says 'and do your engraving in the morning and in the afternoon' he says 'I'd like you to do work at the jewellery bench'. And I thought, 'Well, that's strange - he's a master himself and yet he doesn't do two things'. My father was upset about it and he went in and remonstrated with him, you know, but it was no use. And my father threw it at him, you know, he says 'Well you yourself' he said 'have said to the boy you can't be master at two things'. But we didn't appreciate it at the time but he went further than that, he said 'You know, John, you get a man who - you make the templates for him and he makes it for you, to your design', and he said 'Let's say he's perhaps not on form - we'll not say he's a bad craftsman but he's just not on form. And there's a few scratch lines on it, and perhaps the scale is off a wee bit at one end. Now' he says 'you've got to go and engrave it, you've got to embellish it. Well' he says 'How would you feel?' 'Oh' I said 'I would feel annoyed' I said 'It would always stick out. I would keep looking and I'd keep saying to myself 'Well the thing's not accurate' . 'Well' he says 'if it's not accurate' he says 'how are you going to do a good job on it? Wouldn't it be better' he said 'if you could do it yourself and then embellish it? Cos' he said 'you wouldn't allow it to do that'.

And so from that, by making them yourself, you made an extra effort because you knew you had to go on and engrave it and you wanted to make sure that when you did any ornamental work on the corners, especially if it was a square job or an oblong, that they matched. And if it wasn't, you know, symmetrically buffed up to begin with, that you couldn't make them match, with the gravers. So that, that was the beginning of the change, where I started on the two things. I would say the whole of my success has been due to that - that move that was made away back in the early days when he decided that he would give me the opportunity - if I could do it - of making the article. In other words, designing it on paper, making it up to the design, ornamenting it as an engraver, and then finishing it and putting it into the case'

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John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (4 of 39)

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

1970s

jewellery; jewelry; craftsman; craftsmen; metalwork; silversmiths; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: John Fraser, Silversmith

John Fraser, an Inverness silversmith, served his apprenticeship in the 1930s with Medlock and Craik, watchmakers and jewellers at 6 Bridge Street, Inverness. The firm later had premises in Exchange Place, and Queensgate. <br /> <br /> In this audio extract from the 1970s, Mr Fraser acknowledges his success as a jeweller stems from being given the opportunity to learn all aspects of jewellery making: designing, fabricating and engraving. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's pieces - a Luckenbooth brooch, sometimes known as a 'Mary' brooch because of the 'M' shape formed at the top of the heart. Luckenbooths were often worn as protective tokens. They took their name from the jewellery sold in the 'locked booths' in Edinburgh. Inverness had its own style, with loops known as 'double spectacles'.<br /> <br /> 'After a short time at the engraving bench he said to me one day, he says 'Now look, John, I've been trying to make up my mind what to do with you' he says and I thought 'Well, that's strange, what's he wanting me to do now?' He says 'I would like you to come in, in the morning' he says 'and do your engraving in the morning and in the afternoon' he says 'I'd like you to do work at the jewellery bench'. And I thought, 'Well, that's strange - he's a master himself and yet he doesn't do two things'. My father was upset about it and he went in and remonstrated with him, you know, but it was no use. And my father threw it at him, you know, he says 'Well you yourself' he said 'have said to the boy you can't be master at two things'. But we didn't appreciate it at the time but he went further than that, he said 'You know, John, you get a man who - you make the templates for him and he makes it for you, to your design', and he said 'Let's say he's perhaps not on form - we'll not say he's a bad craftsman but he's just not on form. And there's a few scratch lines on it, and perhaps the scale is off a wee bit at one end. Now' he says 'you've got to go and engrave it, you've got to embellish it. Well' he says 'How would you feel?' 'Oh' I said 'I would feel annoyed' I said 'It would always stick out. I would keep looking and I'd keep saying to myself 'Well the thing's not accurate' . 'Well' he says 'if it's not accurate' he says 'how are you going to do a good job on it? Wouldn't it be better' he said 'if you could do it yourself and then embellish it? Cos' he said 'you wouldn't allow it to do that'.<br /> <br /> And so from that, by making them yourself, you made an extra effort because you knew you had to go on and engrave it and you wanted to make sure that when you did any ornamental work on the corners, especially if it was a square job or an oblong, that they matched. And if it wasn't, you know, symmetrically buffed up to begin with, that you couldn't make them match, with the gravers. So that, that was the beginning of the change, where I started on the two things. I would say the whole of my success has been due to that - that move that was made away back in the early days when he decided that he would give me the opportunity - if I could do it - of making the article. In other words, designing it on paper, making it up to the design, ornamenting it as an engraver, and then finishing it and putting it into the case'