The historic city of Edinburgh has long been known for its skilled craftspeople and expert makers. One of the finest of these is luxury jewellers Hamilton and Inches, who have 150 years of experience crafting exquisite treasures from the workshops above their George street showroom.
The Araminta Campbell team were privileged to visit their jewellery and silversmithing studios on Valentines day – a happy accident of timing, but what a perfect occasion for it! We arrived in a whirl of snow and icy fingers, and were ushered into their incredible 19th century showroom. After warming ourselves around the inviting fire (framed by no less than an Adam fireplace!), we gazed at the stunning silverware, time pieces and fine jewellery surrounding us.
Hamilton and Inches beautiful 19th Century showroom in Edinburgh. Images courtesy of H&I
Suitably impressed and excited to see where many of these wonderful objects had been made, we were greeted by expert silversmith David Ramsay. He led us up a winding staircase to the hidden floors above the store where a magical world of flames, gems and precious metals awaited us.
Seeing Hamilton and Inches on George street you would have no idea there is a hive of activity happening upstairs.
First stop was the jewellery workshop, where we were amazed by the intricate work of Master Jeweller Chay McClory. As well as carefully restoring family heirlooms and creating bespoke pieces for their discerning clients, Chay and his team also innovate and push the boundaries of fine jewellery, often winning awards for their skill and imagination.
Examples of the award winning fine jewellery hand crafted by master jeweller Chay McClory.
Next was the bright little room of watchmaker and timepiece restorer, Colin Murray. Requiring meticulous care and an amazing eye for detail, Colin’s projects range from fixing modern Rolex watches to restoring a pocket watch from 1860s.
Expert watchmaker Colin Murray works with the tiny specialist tools to restore vintage timepieces.
After marvelling over the patience and steady hands required for such a task, we were taken to the engraving workshop where these qualities were again on show. Watching Dario Batzella at work we were really observing an artist; with the engraver’s eye discerning the right balance of light to set off a design, capturing a landscape scene in solid silver, and creating the most beautiful script free-hand.
The work of hand engravers Ruaridh Malcolmson and Dario Batzella making personalised silverware.
Finally David guided us into the realm of Panos Kirkos the Master Silversmith. In the 30 years he has worked at Hamilton and Inches, Panos has created an amazing array of bespoke pieces for clients, including Royalty, the First Minister for Scotland and J K Rowling! When we arrived he was working on a hand crafted silver Quaich, which had been ‘hand chased’ (embossed) and was about to begin hand piercing a delicate lace-like silver lid.
Master silversmith Panos Kirkos shows Kelsey some of his bespoke commissions and his own unique silversmithing tools.
It is common for jewellers and silversmiths to create their own tools – uniquely shaping them to fit their own hands and particular techniques. In addition to these custom tools, Hamilton and Inches also have built up a sizable collection during their 150 year history, many of which are still in use today.
Silvermith David Ramsay tells Araminta about turning silverware and shows us Hamilton and Inches’ vast collection of old silvermithing tools.
The metal working tools these craftspeople wield are very different to the handweaving looms we use on a daily basis. However their passion for the finest craftsmanship, respect for the knowledge of the past and innovative approach are values we also share. It is so inspiring to see another Edinburgh company so committed to hand making items of the finest quality, and intent on sustaining these skills to be passed onto the next generation of craftsmen and women. Here’s to another 150 years of Hamilton and Inches!
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