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TITLE
John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (35 of 39)
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_SILVERSMITH_35
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
PERIOD
1970s
CREATOR
John Fraser
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2264
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 compares the jewellery trade in the 1930s with that of the 1970s. 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'.

'The method of work in those days was much slower: you were allowed a certain amount of time for soldering; a certain amount of time for making up; a certain amount of time for engraving; a certain amount of time for finishing. You perhaps couldn't do the same thing today; the overriding factor is the difference in the actual financial structure.

In those days, for instance, you could buy, say, a kilt pin, a brooch, a small christening mug in silver, for perhaps two pound, three pound. That was considered a lot of money. Well, if you work that back to what you were costing your metal at - your metal price in those days would be about 1/3d an ounce - it's about £2.75 an ounce today so that gives you an idea of the difference in the way of working.

Silver you used like brass or copper; if there was a bit of waste you didn't bother. Cut round a thing if you were taking a circle out, perhaps by about a tenth of an inch, and then you just filed it down. You couldn't afford to do that today. You'd have to find out how much silver you wanted and get as much of the job out of the sheet that you could get so that the waste - you could take something else out of it, like you could take spoon bowls out of it or you could take sections for making up a napkin ring, you know? You'd all that type of things but nowadays you'd have to do that whereas in those days you didn't bother.

If you wanted to do - a menial task in those days was to go and make a ferrule for a broken pipe. You couldn't afford to do that today 'cos your customer would be horrified if you charged him something like £15, whereas in those days you did it for 7/6d. If you came in and you wanted a crest engraved on a brush set for instance - if you wanted the full brush set done - you'd probably get the whole job done for a pound. Well, I mean, if you were going to do that today - a four-piece brush set - you would have to charge something in the region of £15 - £20. If you were putting a crest on a signet ring you'd have to charge about £15 today. We used to do it in those days for about 10 shillings'

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John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (35 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 compares the jewellery trade in the 1930s with that of the 1970s. 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 /> 'The method of work in those days was much slower: you were allowed a certain amount of time for soldering; a certain amount of time for making up; a certain amount of time for engraving; a certain amount of time for finishing. You perhaps couldn't do the same thing today; the overriding factor is the difference in the actual financial structure. <br /> <br /> In those days, for instance, you could buy, say, a kilt pin, a brooch, a small christening mug in silver, for perhaps two pound, three pound. That was considered a lot of money. Well, if you work that back to what you were costing your metal at - your metal price in those days would be about 1/3d an ounce - it's about £2.75 an ounce today so that gives you an idea of the difference in the way of working. <br /> <br /> Silver you used like brass or copper; if there was a bit of waste you didn't bother. Cut round a thing if you were taking a circle out, perhaps by about a tenth of an inch, and then you just filed it down. You couldn't afford to do that today. You'd have to find out how much silver you wanted and get as much of the job out of the sheet that you could get so that the waste - you could take something else out of it, like you could take spoon bowls out of it or you could take sections for making up a napkin ring, you know? You'd all that type of things but nowadays you'd have to do that whereas in those days you didn't bother.<br /> <br /> If you wanted to do - a menial task in those days was to go and make a ferrule for a broken pipe. You couldn't afford to do that today 'cos your customer would be horrified if you charged him something like £15, whereas in those days you did it for 7/6d. If you came in and you wanted a crest engraved on a brush set for instance - if you wanted the full brush set done - you'd probably get the whole job done for a pound. Well, I mean, if you were going to do that today - a four-piece brush set - you would have to charge something in the region of £15 - £20. If you were putting a crest on a signet ring you'd have to charge about £15 today. We used to do it in those days for about 10 shillings'