Gerald Benney, gold and silversmith
The dominant British silversmith in the second half of the twentieth century, Gerald Benney was born in 1930 in Hull. His early years were spent in Brighton, studying at the Art College (1946-48) where his father, the painter E A Sallis Benney, was Principal. Gerald was taught silversmithing by Dunstan Pruden, who also had an independent workshop in the nearby art and crafts permeated village of Ditchling, where Benney also worked one day a week. Following military service Benney went on to the Royal College of Art.
Graham Benney Hughes’ biography, Gerald Benney. Goldsmith. The story of fifty years at the bench (1998),contains many of Benney’s thoughts about design and life.The clean, minimal forms of Scandinavian Modern influenced his early work, evidenced in the silverware designs for which he received the Prince of Wales scholarship (1952). His wider influence resulted from work as Consultant Designer to Viners of Sheffield (1957-69), an early design for the company being an elegant pewter Martini jug and matching tankards (1953-63). Working in holloware, cutlery and flatware, many of his designs were commercially successful, including the classic Studio and Chelsea patterns for cutlery and flatware.
In 1958 Benney was made a Freeman of the Goldsmith’s Company and elected as a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths six years later. However, in 1974 he was forced to dismiss most of his staff in the face of a dramatic increase in VAT on luxury goods. Also in 1974, Benney was granted the first of a series of Royal Warrants as goldsmith and silversmith, going on to receive numerous commissions from a broad range of private, commercial and ecclesiastical clients. His many significant roles included Royal Designer for Industry in 1971, a Professorship at the Royal College of Art (1974-83), the Chairmanship of the Government of India Hallmarking Survey (1981), export advisor to the Malaysian manufacturer, Selangor Pewter, and advisor to The Silver Trust. He was made a Freeman of the City of London and of the Borough of Reading and Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art, receiving a CBE in 1995.
His work can be seen in many collections worldwide, including those of the the Victoria and Albert Museum, Crafts Council and the Goldsmiths’ Company. His son, Simon, carries on the family gold and silversmithing tradition at Benney (established 1993) in London.