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This is a page of A Small Collection of Antique Silver and Objects of vertu, a 1000 pages richly illustrated website offering all you need to know about antique silver, sterling silver, silverplate, sheffield plate, electroplate silver, silverware, flatware, tea services and tea complements, marks and hallmarks, articles, books, auction catalogs, famous silversmiths (Tiffany, Gorham, Jensen, Elkington, WMF, Reed & Barton, Mappin & Webb, Bateman Family), history, oddities ...


Gerald Benney was one of the most outstanding and influential British goldsmiths of the second half of the 20th century. During a career spanning more than 50 years, he was the first British craftsman to hold four Royal Warrants simultaneously. His work has had a major impact on the survival of domestic silver in Britain.
Adrian Gerald Sallis Benney (April 21 1930 - June 26 2008) was taught from 1946 to 1948 by Dunstan Pruden, the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical arts and crafts silversmith, at Brighton College of Art, where his father was Principal. At this period his work was initially influenced by the arts and crafts style of his teacher and later, for a brief period, by pre-Second World War modernism.
After military service, from 1948 to 1950, Benney studied at the Royal College of Art and in 1952 a four-piece tea service and tray secured him the Prince of Wales Scholarship.
In his last term at the RCA he purchased a plating business off Tottenham Court Road, as the premises were ideal for a workshop.
In this period, trying to create pieces totally new and identifiable as being of his time, Benney was influenced by the purity and minimalism of Scandinavian design. For him this translated into a range of domestic silver notable for its clean, simple lines.
By the early 1960s, the style of Benney's work became instantly recognisable obtaining commissions in the specialist (Christie's, ICI, British Oxygen, Oxford and Cambridge universities) and in the mass market, developing a range of bestselling cutlery for Viners of Sheffield where he was Consultant Designer in the period 1957-1969.
Technically he was highly innovative, inventing the "no scrap blank", which enabled Viners to produce items in great quantities without waste, as well as devising a method of texturing silver with tiny striations, initially achieved by a bent hammer. This process eliminates tarnish and fingerprints and creates an attractive "bark finish" which became his signature. He was financially shrewd too, arranging royalty payments for his work.
In 1969 he moved his London studio to Falcon Wharf, Bankside and by 1973 was at warehouses in Bear Lane, Southwark.
In 1974 he had to let most of his 19 staff go and moved everything to Beenham House, his home in Berkshire, where he stayed until 1998.
In 1993 his son Simon opened the showroom Benney in Walton Street.
Gerald Benney had one man exhibitions at Goldsmith's Hall in 1973, enamels in 1994 and another in 2005.

Gerald Benney, London hallmark, date 1979
Gerald Benney, London hallmark, date 1979

Gerald Benney silver Gerald Benney silver Gerald Benney silver
Gerald Benney silver Gerald Benney silver

Gerald Benney silver Gerald Benney silver Gerald Benney silver Gerald Benney design


Gerald Benney was commissioned to make three ceremonial maces for Australian universities: in 1956 for the University of New England; in 1966 for The University of Newcastle; and in 1969 for The University of Adelaide.
While the first and third maces are constructed fully of sterling silver, the second mace - for The University of Newcastle- has a wooden shaft between its silver head and foot knop. The wood was supplied from Australia and shipped to the UK for this purpose.
In characteristic style, the design and construction of many Australian maces has broken away from traditional British mace designs with wood and gemstones local to the universities often being used, rather than precious metals being used exclusively.
A study of the full complement of the 40 ceremonial maces of Australian universities has been published recently by Christine Erratt under the umbrella of Parker Press (Australia). It reveals the diversity of mace designs and materials used in their construction with full details covering description, dates, donors, designers and makers.

For further information

Gerald Benney: University of Newcastle mace Gerald Benney: University of New England mace
University of Newcastle mace (left) and University of New England mace (right)
Gerald Benney: Flinders University mace
Flinders University mace

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English home page
This is a page of 'The What is? Silver Dictionary' of A Small Collection of Antique Silver and Objects of vertu, a 1500 pages richly illustrated website offering all you need to know about antique silver, sterling silver, silverplate, Sheffield plate, electroplate silver, silverware, flatware, tea services and tea complements, marks and hallmarks, articles, books, auction catalogs, famous silversmiths (Tiffany, Gorham, Jensen, Elkington), history, oddities ...

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