Since today is International Women's Day I thought it would be the perfect day to share a brief history of women in my profession.
While there are many women working as silversmiths these days this was not always the case. There were relatively few women working at the bench until demand for silver increased in the late 17th century.
To meet this growing market wives and other female relatives of silversmiths were brought into the trade. Women were trained to work at the bench while the younger girls would be brought in to finish and polish the pieces. The silversmiths were extremely protective of their trade so they would fine anyone who brought a woman into the business that was not a close relative. Even when women served their apprenticeship they would still have to work under their husband’s hallmark.They would only be allowed to register their own hallmark if their husband died.
The woman would retain this mark for her business unless she married again, then she would take her new husbands hallmark. For this reason women's names only crop up occasionally on hallmarking records mostly when they were widowed and between marriages! It’s a pity that the women on record make up only a small percentage of the women actually engaged in the craft of silversmithing. Thankfully times have changed and we no longer need to be widowed to get our name out there! I'm very proud to be able to show off my hallmark at Claddagh Design which bears my initials and not my husbands!
Happy International Women's Day! The image of the female silversmith was taken from ‘Women Silversmiths 1685-1845′ by the National Museum of Women in Arts. If you would like to learn more on my silversmithing business Claddagh Design visit my About Us page.