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polish of perfection.

Byline: Pauline. M. Forte

When she wanted to train in silversmithing in London in 1966, Jocelyn Burton was told only men could do that.

She started her career as a goldsmith and won her first De Beers Award in 1967 at the age of 22. In the early 1970s, she was probably one of the only women in the world to work with silver and gold. "It was tough for me as a woman to take up silversmithing," she said. But she quickly developed her own style. "My work was so unusual that people picked up on it. Everything looked masculine and square and I used curves and semiprecious stones and brought liveliness to silverware.".

Now 64, Burton attended the first Dubai International Luxury Fair in Dubai in 1976, when she was introduced to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who bought a goblet set with 120 moonstones from her.

The most expensive piece she has ever made is a private commission for a client in Kuwait u a chandelier worth more than u1.5 million (Dh84 million).

According to Burton, no one else does what she does. "I make things on a large scale. Nobody is doing this," she said. "I try to get into my clients' mind to know what they want." She is inspired by the natural world and uses a lot of shells and semiprecious stones.

A few of her favourites

She doesn't make jewellery commercially, but her favourite jewels are: pearls, black onyx, moonstone, diamonds, sapphires and lapis lazuli.

She has a studio in central London where she works with several craftsmen, but said that silversmithing doesn't require the use of heavy hammers: "It's a question of having the knowledge and an overview of how things are made".

She uses tools for producing drawings and modelling in addition to clay and wax. In the early 1990s, she progressed from goldsmithing to her passion of traditional silversmithing. She made a set of ivory-handled cutlery for an Eastern European family with 36 place settings, each worth u5,000 (Dh28,085).

Her work has increased in scale to include large torchere and centrepieces designed for her international clientele. She created a pair of 1.06-metre-high sterling dolphin wall lights for the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, each weighing about 20kg.

In 1997, she won for the second time a Diamonds International Award sponsored by De Beers and was voted Designer of the Year in the UK Jewellery Awards.

She buys all the materials she uses from gold and silver bullion dealers in various formats, that is, sheet, grain, bar and wire. For diamonds, she turns to five or six diamond dealers in London while her precious and semiprecious stones come from all over the world.

UAE hopes

"I'd love to have exhibitions in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait and get in touch with interior designers in Dubai. The more interest I get, the sooner I'll make appointments," she said.

In addition, she would like to give talks about silversmithing and the influence of Arab design on her work. Having lived in France, Burton's work has a French flavour. "I admire the 18th-century French style of silversmithing," she said.

Burton is at present looking for agents, sponsors, collaborators and clients in the Gulf region.

Those interested in her work can visit her website at and contact her by e-mail at

How Burton went about the process of creating a bespoke free-standing object, the Freedom Centrepiece, commissioned by Hull Museums to commemorate 200 years since the abolition of slavery in 2007.

II Jocelyn Burton draws a great deal of her inspiration from the natural world and her studio is full of objects which shape and fuel her creative process, such as shells and fossils.

II All her pieces begin with original drawings of ideas, many of which are turned into prints and displayed as works of art in their own right.

II Burton then discusses the client's feedback on the design drawing.

II The shell which forms the top of the centrepiece was made first and carved by hand. The centrepiece was based upon the shape of the cowry shell, which represents a ship's sail in the wind.

II The decorative silver base was made next out of ebonised wood with silver chasing representing the four elements - earth, water, fire and air u which symbolise the universe. The ebony also represents West Africa. Beneath is a design of broken chains, representing the abolition of slavery.

II One of Burton's craftsmen used a lathe to form the silver bowl on which the cowrie shell stands.

II The silver bowl was then ready in its raw form.

II After that the bowl was "chased" by hand to resemble a turtle shell.

II Next the bowl and the base were engraved by hand by another craftsman. He engraved around the base the names of different freedom fighters through history, including William Wilberforce.

II Finally, the shell, bowl and base were ready to fit together and the centrepiece was complete.

Step by step:

II Juan Pablo Molyneux

II Prince Phillip

II Princess Margaret

II The Queen of England

II Prince Charles and his wife Camilla

II His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

II Sultan of Burnei

II Vladimir Putin

Jocelyn Burton's better-known clients

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 19, 2010
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