Nestled in the heart of London, beneath Chancery Lane, The London Silver Vaults offer the largest retail selection of fine antique and contemporary silver in the world.
Aunique underground shopping destination, The Vaults boasts more than 30 specialist shops; each one a treasure trove of beautifully crafted antique and modern silver, dating from the early 1600s to the present day. The Vaults originally opened in 1876 as a safe deposit for the wealthy, and was used as a secure storage place for London’s silver dealers during World War II. Today, it is the home of silver shopping and a true hidden gem; well-loved by international royalty, film stars and discerning shoppers seeking the world’s finest silver. From silver tableware, cutlery, decorative pieces and gifts, to jewellery and special collectors’ items; The Vaults sells the widest variety of silver in the world, perfect for every occasion.
All of the vault owners are independent retailers and many are third generation family businesses, with a fount of expert knowledge and rich history. John Surtees of Vault 16 is a perfect example. John began working with precious metals at the Royal Mint in 1968, before a long career at world-renowned manufacturing silversmiths C.J. Vander. He opened his own retail premises in 1994, later joined by his son, Simon, who now helms the firm. As such, and as Freemen of the Goldsmiths Company, both father and son have an active involvement in both the history and the future of the trade, and look to actively support ventures that will increase its profile, with the conviction that a rising tide lifts all ships.
“We feel that now more than ever, with so many changes in manufacturing and retailing, it is increasingly important to showcase the wealth of talent that continues to flourish in British silver and goldsmithing,” says John.
In the last thirty years John and Simon have seen a definite shift in the way people utilise silverware in their homes, with trends moving to almost polar opposites: utility remains a staple part of the business in the form of good quality flatware, both antique and modern, but also a movement towards more decorative, statement pieces, often of modern design. Simon puts this shift down to the rise of minimalist living, as well as constraints on spending.
“People are spending more on less, and favouring modern design,” he says.
In light of these trends, John and Simon have sought to build relationships with designers and silversmiths producing pieces that reflect these changing tastes, but still offer an element of utility.
By working closely with young designers and craftspeople, as well as long-established dynasties such as Francis Howard of Sheffield (founded in 1870), John and Simon have succeeded in changing the face of their business in a challenging market, as well as playing a role supporting the long term future of the trade.
“To keep on building this future, it is still essential to have one eye on the past,” says John, “It will always be important to have a knowledge and appreciation of the skills that have seen the gold and silversmithing trade flourish in Britain for centuries. These skills must continue to be taught and supported on every level, and not just in certain London-based institutions.”
Between them, John and Simon have cultivated an inclusive, enlightened view of the trade. John’s passion for and dedication to the craft lends a genuine and warming character to Simon’s entrepreneurship while Simon’s willingness to embrace the work of contemporary makers takes the business in fresh directions to suit today’s customers and their modern life styles.
It would be easy for them, in their subterranean shop, to ignore and ultimately forget the wider world and yet they are determined to keep a broad outlook.
“Inevitably London plays a dominant role in the retail of luxury goods in the UK,” says Simon, “But that doesn’t mean it dominates manufacture. Goldsmiths North is the ideal opportunity to promote the exceptional standard of work currently produced in the North of England and what we believe is the bright future of gold and silver manufacturing in Britain – proof that the industry continues to thrive both in and outside of London.”
To meet John & Simon in person, visit The Silver Vaults at 53-64 Chancery Lane, London