Malcolm Appleby MBE, “Ragged Robin” silver earrings, signed and hallmarked
Malcolm Appleby is one of Britain’s most celebrated silversmith-engravers. He has recently been awarded an MBE for his services to engraving. His work is commissioned by The Royal Family, the V&A Museum and 10 Downing Street.Mischievous, satirical and full of humour, Malcolm Appleby is one of the most important and influential craftsmen of his time. He is also one of the most entertaining. The renowned engraver, silversmith and designer was born in Beckenham in 1946 and studied at Beckenham School of Art and Ravensbourne College of Art and Design before graduating to other leading London institutions including the Royal College of Art.
He came to prominence at the age of 23 when we was called upon to engrave the orb for the Prince of Wales Investiture coronet. The rising sun wears Dame Edna glasses and Malcolm told the Palace that the featured creatures included harvest mice – he has since revealed that they are, in fact, rats.
It was while working as an unofficial apprentice with John Wilkes, a traditional firm of gun makers, that he became besotted with gun engraving. His magnificent skill at engraving has brought him many commissions including the official seal of the Victoria & Albert Museum and a condiment set that sits on the dining table at 10 Downing Street. The allegorical scene shows Eve handing Adam an apple as it becomes a nuclear mushroom. Malcolm, you see, is not scared of making political statements or of raising a few high-powered eyebrows.
The quality and inventiveness of the Appleby engravings are simply breathtaking. He loves to mix silver and gold, and will take a humble piece of iron or wood and turn it into an item of outstanding beauty with rare and precious stones. While his commissioned work can cost thousands and even hundreds of thousands of pounds, his tumbling bowls start at under £1000 and his limited edition range of cufflinks, love token pendants and earrings cost from £55.
Ever inventive, Malcolm’s exquisite kinetic rings have loose diamonds, emeralds or opals behind a central stone, creating a kaleidoscope of colour as the wearer moves their hands.
Today, Malcolm lives in Perthshire with his wife Philippa Swann, a highly respected journalist and photographer. The landscape and nature that surrounds them is a rich source of inspiration. Swans, cats, bees, salmon, Scots pine and wild flowers find their way into many of his pieces. Often they are quirky and characterful and are drawn with humour. Malcolm calls them his beasties. The National Museums of Scotland, the Goldsmiths Company, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the Silver Trust have all commissioned and purchased Malcolm’s work. The Design Gallery in Westerham is the exclusive representative of Malcolm Appleby collections in the South East. I used to park my bike outside your shop, Malcolm told me when we first met. He is delighted to know that his jewellery now adorns hundreds of local residents who have become ardent collectors and that his bowls grace their mantelpieces.
One thing we know for sure about Malcolm the maverick, the best is yet to come. Copyright 2009 Chrissie Masters/The Design Gallery