Famous Goldsmiths in History (Past & Present)

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List of Famous Goldsmiths In History (Past & Present)

Goldsmithing is an ancient craft that remains influential today. While many of us may relate goldsmithing to jewelry making, goldsmiths throughout history also made items like utensils, serving items, and drinkware. 

Goldsmiths traditionally learned the trade through an apprenticeship with a master smith, but many of today’s experts gain their knowledge at jewelry making schools, art schools, and traditional colleges and universities. 

Let’s take a look at some notable historical and contemporary goldsmiths who are lesser known and who deserve a bit more attention as pioneers in the goldsmithing trade.

Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing
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1) Adrien Vachette

(1753-1839, France)

Adrien Vachette royal snuffbox
Details of one of Adrien Vachette’s many snuffboxes reveal his skill as a goldsmith. François Boucher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Adrien Vachette was a French goldsmith who is best known as the official jeweler of Louis XVIII. He created ornate gold snuffboxes and other precious items for the king and his court.

Vachette’s incorporation of tortoiseshell and other natural materials into his gold designs was revolutionary at the time.

Adrien Vachette also apprenticed Jean-Valentin Morel (more information below), who would become another of France’s most celebrated goldsmiths of the 19th century.

2) Paul Storr

(1770-1844, Great Britain)

Paul Storr candelabra
Paul Storr’s neoclassical designs are some of the best examples of Regency era metalworking. Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Paul Storr was a contemporary of Vachette and his apprentice Morel, and is the most famous silversmith and goldsmith of the British Regency era. He is considered by art historians to be a master of the Neoclassical style that proved so popular in the early decades of the 19th century.

Storr’s work is both ornate and elegant, and completely fit for the royalty who purchased it. Notable clients of Storr included King George III and King George IV.

Today, Paul Storr’s pieces can be viewed in Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

3) Jean-Valentin Morel

(1794-1860, France)

Jean-Valentin Morel serving ware
Jean-Valentin Morel’s elegant designs were popular among royal clients. Cleveland Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jean-Valentin Morel is a French goldsmith who learned the trade from Adrien Vachette. After completing his apprenticeship in the French court, Morel opened his own business in 1818 making inlay patterns and stone cups in a reproduction 16th century style.

From 1834-1840, Morel partnered with fellow goldsmith Jean-Baptiste Fossin and completed embossing for gold and hard stone products.

Morel’s most successful business partnership was with silversmith Henri Duponchel, who founded the shop Morel & Cie. The venture enjoyed international acclaim and famous clients including Pope Gregory XVI, the King of Sardinia, William III of the Netherlands, and Alexander II of Russia. During this time, Morel specialized in creating vases, jewelry sets, table silverware, and other valuable trinkets.

After some disagreements and a lawsuit preventing him from working in Paris, Jean-Valentin Morel made his way to London, where his goldsmithing business competed for attention with several other well-established, popular, and thoroughly British craftsmen. Despite some struggle to be recognized, Morel did serve notable clients Louis Phillippe and Queen Victoria.

4) John Paul Miller

(1918-2013, United States)

John Paul Miller jewelry
John Paul Miller was inspired by the natural world, as this scarab necklace clearly illustrates. Sailko, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

John Paul Miller was an American goldsmith and jewelry designer who was born in Pennsylvania in 1918. He attended classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art and later graduated from the Cleveland School of Art, where he studied enameling and the ancient technique of granulation. This process involved fixing tiny gold beads to a gold surface without the use of solder, which Miller mastered.

His work was featured in displays across the country from the 1950s through the 1970s. Many of his pieces possessed an organic quality that would finally be celebrated rather late in his life, when he was 92 years old. A 2012 retrospective display of his work at the Cleveland Museum of Art showcased his love of nature motifs and attention to detail and made him famous.

Today, John Paul Miller’s work is displayed permanently in the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, Yale University, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

5) Jocelyn Burton

(1946-2020, United Kingdom)

Jocelyn Burton was a British goldsmith and silversmith and the first woman to become a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, which since 1327 had been made up of strictly men.

Other notable achievements of Burton’s include winning the De Beers International Award in 1967 for her design of diamond jewelry and the United Kingdom Jeweller Award in 1995.

Jocelyn Burton’s work is best known for its organic shapes and nature-inspired subjects. Burton was proud to be a female in a male-dominated industry and did not shy away from creating very feminine pieces that evoke an emotional response.

6) Akelo (Andrea Cagnetti)

(1967, Italy)

Akelo, whose birth name is Andrea Cagnetti, is a contemporary goldsmith who considers himself an “ancient soul.” As a “Renaissance Man living in the 21st century” Akelo draws on the past to create modern pieces.

His work looks like artifacts taken from the ancient world. They feature large gold pendants, beads in earthy, warm tones, and designs that invoke both geometry and nature.

Akelo’s pieces are displayed in museums and galleries across Italy, Europe, and the United States and his work has been featured in both print and digital media since the 1990s.


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