GERALD BENNEY: A set of six silver and enamelled goblets London 1974,  (6)
Lot 147AR
GERALD BENNEY: A set of six silver and enamelled goblets
London 1974, (6)
Sold for £5,250 (US$ 7,092) inc. premium

Lot Details
GERALD BENNEY: A set of six silver and enamelled goblets
London 1974,
Cylindrical form with translucent blue enamel form over a bark-effect textured ground, with the lower body curving under, narrow polished rim, the polished slightly concave detachable stems on a spreading foot, underside stamped GERALD BENNEY LONDON, one goblet heavily damaged, one with a small surface chip below rim, height 12.8cm. (6)


  • These goblets were commissoned for the marriage of Penelope 'Minnie' Rolt to The Rt Hon John Astor.
    Minnie Rolt had been married previously to the artist David Rolt.


    Gerald Benney was one of the most outstanding and influential British goldsmiths of the 20th century. During a career spanning more than 50 years, he was the first British craftsman to hold four Royal Warrants simultaneously. As well as designs in silver, in his early years Benney also used other materials to design a range of products including clocks, lamps and prams. His work can be seen in many collections worldwide, including those of the Victoria and Albert Museum and Goldsmiths' Company.

    Born in Hull, Yorkshire in 1930. His mother, Aileen, was a talented silversmith and his father, Ernest, was Principal of Brighton College of Art. Young Gerald attended Brighton College of Art from 1946-1948, he studied design and craft under the tutelage of Dunstan Pruden. After two years National Service with the Royal Army Service Corps he went to the Royal College of Art to study under Professor Robert Goodden. He excelled and, in 1952, a four-piece tea service and tray secured him the Prince of Wales Scholarship.

    It was at the RCA that Benney met fellow designers and silversmiths David Mellor and Robert Welch, between them they were to revolutionise Post-war silver design. During his last term at the RCA, Benney found his first workshop at Suffolk House, Whitfield Place off the Tottenham Court Road in London.

    Early in his career Benney discovered, by accident, the distinctive surface texturing of silver that was to become his signature. He inadvertently used a hammer with a damaged head while producing a cup and liked the effect. This surface texturing soon became known as "Benney Bark Finish". The finish was widely imitated and dominated contemporary silver design for almost two decades. Its success was, not only, for its new contemporary look but, also for the practical reasons that it almost eliminated tarnish and fingerprints.

    In 1963, Benney moved to Beenham House near Reading and it was here that he decided to develop the use of enamel to further embellish his silver objects and designs. He realised that he would need to learn the skills from established artisans. His first steps, in 1968, were to travel to Zurich to find an enameller who worked for the house of Burch Korrodi. By chance, he came across the Norwegian Berger Bergensen who, not only continued to practise the art of enamelling for Burch, but had also worked for Karl Fabergé's great rival Bolin. Bergensen was persuaded to come to Britain and instruct the Benney work force all he knew about enamelling: Alan Evans and Robert Winter became the most notable master enamellers for Benney.

    Though it took several years to master the craft, the Benney studio refined and mastered the art of enamelling to the extent that they were able to decorate larger surface areas than Fabergé. There is little doubt that they went on to be one of the world's foremost modern enamellers.

    In 1969, Benney moved his London studio to Falcon Wharf, Bankside where he eventually employed 22 people. Four years later, he moved his workshop to warehouses in Bear Lane, Southwark and, in the same year, The Goldsmith's Hall held a major retrospective of his work.

    A year later, 1974, Benney received his first Royal Warrant from by Her Majesty The Queen, followed a year later by those of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. In 1980, Benney received an unprecedented fourth Royal Warrant from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

    It is interesting to note that besides running his own silver studio, Benney held several other design posts, between 1957 – 69 he worked as a consultant designer for Viners. He worked on domestic pieces for production in silver, pewter and stainless steel. Particularly successful were his designs for flatware and cutlery in stainless steel. In 1971, he was awarded Royal Designer for Industry and, from 1974 to 1983, he was Professor of Silversmithing and Jewellery at his alma mater, the Royal College of Art.

    In 1993, together with his son Simon, Benny opened a shop at 73 Walton Street, Knightsbridge, London and two years later was awarded a CBE.

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