A silversmith and precious metal expert, Brenton West is happiest when he is making or restoring something. He excelled during his silversmith training at Medway College of Art & Design, and after graduating had exhibitions at The Ritz, Goldsmiths’ Hall and the London Design Centre. He has since gone on to exhibit at many prestigious galleries and museums. 

Being well aware of the therapeutic benefits of being creative, Brenton shares his passion for making and craft with as wide an audience as possible through his broadcasting and as a teacher of adults and children. Brenton joined the BBC’s The Repair Shop programme as their specialist silversmith and precious metals expert. Alongside his television and radio work Brenton works on private commissions all kinds of metals, artefacts and eras. He has been lucky enough to work on notable items created by famous makers and designers such as Fabergé, Hester Bateman, Paul Storr, Mappin & Webb, Georg Jensen and Asprey. 

What is your first jewellery memory? 

When I was about ten, I discovered a roll of lead solder in a tool box. I found that I could plait the lead, bend it around a dowel, hammer it flat cut the ends and make a lead ring! (lead wasn’t know to be hazardous then.) 

I also used to solder paper clips together using a lighter and the same lead solder, I burned myself lots! 

Describe your style or skill in 3 words. 

Traditional, unerring, tenacious. 

Tell us about your favourite moment when making jewellery. 

I love the design phase the cutting out the stock, manipulating it and soldering it together. 

What attracted you to silversmithing? 

I had an amazing metalwork teacher at school, I think from about the age of 15, there was never going any other career. With my portfolio made at school, I was accepted to Medway College of Design, one of the top colleges for Silversmithing and Jewellery. 

What is your favourite material or method and why? 

Silver. I understand how it works after all of these years, yet it still challenges me. It is easy to mess silver up if you take your eye off the ball. 

Can you name a few top tools in your workshop that you can’t live without? 

Probably the first tools in my toolbox, piercing saw, files, hammers, and soldering torch. I could get on pretty well with those few tools. I have amassed an amazing array of kit to my workshop, you can never have too many tools! 

What advice would you give to someone considering silversmithing and perhaps thinking about being a silversmith? 

It is a fantastic career, if you like working with your hands and are creative. I feel it’s one of the top creative jobs, but I am biased. Whether you are making wedding rings or huge silver pieces it’s immensely rewarding. Advice I would give is to get good training at a (good) college and try to become an apprentice to an established maker.  

You offer a completely bespoke service – can we understand the steps you go through to create the perfect piece for a customer? 

 When I make a commission for a client they will say they want for example a font bowl for a church. I will ask them for dimensions and a rough budget. I will then draw the item up and give them the first draft. We discuss materials and finishes. This process often has quite a few email exchanges until the client is happy with all aspects. I then give a timescale. 

I think it is really important to stay within the price quoted unless the specification changes during the process.  

If you could change one thing about the jewellery industry, what would it be?  

Not sure I would change anything. I would ban firestain in silver! 

Why does everyone need to buy your book? 

Silversmith’s Secrets is more of a repair book which employs and teaches the skills of silversmithing and jewellery. When I wrote the book and did some research, I couldn’t find a single book available about the sort of repairs that I do. I have been fixing on TV for nearly 8 years and I am often questioned about how things are achieved. I thought by writing this book the readers could learn about the tools and equipment that I use. Then by following the repairs that I demonstrate; they can use the tips and tricks for their own creative process and or repairing journey. 

Many thanks to Brenton for speaking to us, it was a pleasure. You can find Brenton’s Book, Silversmith’s Secrets, on our website; as well as find him on The Repair Shop on BBC1 

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Author: Sian Brown
Written by

Sian Brown

Sian has been hand making her award winning jewellery in the West Midlands for over 12 years. Sian spent 10 years in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter before relocating to a quiet Worcestershire village.