I am continuing to run my father’s business which he created in 1969. I am now the seventh generation to be involved in the Goldsmithing trade. My father taught me metalworking techniques from the age of six, my mother, an artist taught me how to draw in perspective and I attended the Sir John Cass School of Art and Design in Whitechapel, between 1976 and 1980, gaining Advanced City and Guilds and a Diploma in The Design and Craftsmanship of Jewellery. I was made a Freeman of the Goldsmith’s Company in 1994 and granted the Freedom of the City of London in the same year. I started my own business, Mike Shorer Fine Jewellery in Essex in 1990 and took over Historic Jewellery Reproduction after Dad passed away in 2010. I have now linked the business with several more Museums, English Heritage and film and TV companies to make bespoke historically-themed pieces as well as replicating museum pieces using similar techniques to the ones Dad pioneered and perfected over 50 years ago. He wrote the following copy which outlines, in typically very detailed form, his history in the trade and how HJR came into being. I hope you find it interesting and enlightening.
Five previous generations of gold workers and jewellers instilled an interest in myself. My Grandfather made the metalwork, of gold or silver, into which the gems were set. My father was a setter of such gems in such gold, silver and platinum metalwork, including re-setting gems in the Coronation Crown.
I attended the Central School of Arts & Crafts, Southampton Row, London, in 1938, apprentice course of Jewellery design and manufacture, and silver-smith procedure. The following year, January 1939, I was selected by the British Museum, London and employed as a ‘boy learner to learn to work with antiquities’. Within six months the Sutton Hoo Treasure was excavated but was packed away until after WWII, from which I returned in 1946, helped to unpack the Sutton Hoo treasure, and design and make supports for the many pieces to be exhibited. Then the Mildenhall Treasure of large silver dishes and bowls. So my introduction of ‘learning to work with antiquities’ began. Archaeological excavation of other treasures were included in my experience, and conservation instruction by the Research laboratory Scientists and Chemists under Dr. H.J. Plenderleith ensured that due attention was given to any ‘antiquity’ whether Bronze Age Pottery, clocks and watches, porcelain, glass, Romano-British gold hordes, Mediaeval Reliquaries, that were on my list for attention.
Professor Grimes, Director, Institute of Archaeology, London, commissioned me, 1947, to reproduce for him a Bronze Age Bronze Bracelet with inverted Pyramid Terminals, as an electroform, for study purposes. The mould was made using Gutta Percha, which produced an excellent impression although difficult to use.
Replaced in the late fifties with Silicon Rubber Dow Corning 9161. In 1949 I was asked by Mr. O’Leary, Curator of Valence House Museum, Dagenham, to restore an Anglo-Saxon Glass drinking horn and make a mount suitable for its exhibition in the 1951 Festival of Britain Exhibition on the South bank of the Thames. For this project I invented a new method of moulding which enabled me to achieve other commissions that were considered, by other people, to be impossible, without detriment to the original antiquity.
For the reliquary of the Basle Head of St. Eustace, dated about 1203, was achieved with my ‘impossible invention’ by moulding the wooden Head that had been covered with sheet silver. Removing the silver disclosed a join in the Head that covered the cavity which contained several packages of bone fragments in vellum with names of Saints printed on them. The Head had been in the British Museum since 1855 but it was I who was asked to clean the reliquary for exhibition. In my diligence I observed the join that led to the historic detail of its creation related to the gathering of Bishops in Rome. My ‘impossible moulding’ technique allowed me to make a fibre glass construction to support the Silver Sheet, which had been added 25 years after the Wooden Head had been carved in its original form, so that both the Silver Sheet and the Wooden Head could be exhibited separately and detail appreciated.
During the 1950’s I was commissioned by Director Dr. Hundt of Mainz Museum, Germany, to mould and reproduce several antiquities including Iron Age Daggers and a Glass Bowl which the Keeper of my Department allowed me to ‘do in my own time’ as a Private Job. This led to other commissions of similar nature, including shields and Roman Helmets for exhibition in other Museums when the original could not be loaned to them.
My experience of my work with, and conservation of, antiquities had been recorded by Mrs. Ding of the Treasury since 1953, with eleven other experts of conservation of other materials in the British Museum, which resulted in the creation of the Grade of Conservation Officer in 1966 and became related to all Museums.
In 1969 The Director of the British Museum gave me permission to establish my own private Business, registered as Peter Shorer making reproductions of antiquities as Historic Jewellery Reproduction cast in gold or silver. The following year, 1970, Antiquity Reproduction provided a less expensive selection, but of similar methods of manufacture, as costume jewellery, and cast in bronze. These are frequently used for educational purposes in place of the originals due to their authenticity in form and surface texture. I am privileged to be permitted to mould the original antiquity, with adequate skill and consideration for the antiquity, which provides an appreciation for the ability of ancient craftsmen, of many periods of history and cultures, for the pleasure of members of the discerning public.
Other functioning antiquities have been reproduced for special occasions. One being the Valentia Astrolabe, in the National Maritime Museum. First for their own use and then a reproduction for Sir Robin Knox-Johnston when he undertook the voyage from England to America, under sail, using my reproduction for his navigation aid. My first mould and reproduction of the Astrolabe revealed markings on its base weight related to one of its earlier users. The marks are an indent on its edge, a series of four markings around the weight, and a Cross in the area of ‘2 o’clock’ on its upper edge.
Once again my reproduction process divulged information that had not been seen in its many years on exhibition. Unfortunately, the use of such markings has not yet been interpreted, no instructions were left with them, and they related to one of the Spanish ships that foundered after the Spanish Armada. In my opinion, the marks may have been for the raking of the Masts, or for indicating the height of Headlands?
I am still involved with reproduction of antiquities for HJR and AR items , and still ‘learning to work with antiquities’, which all appear to have some difference from those of similar type. A long apprenticeship. My son, Michael, also a jeweller (www.mikeshorerjewellery.com) with the skills of my grandfather and my father, as seventh generation is following his own path upwards.