AT the age of 78, silversmith Christopher Lawrence is just starting to ask the million dollar question: “Is it time at last to hang up the hammer?”

If so, he would certainly be going out on a high.

The Westcliff master craftsman has just received the ultimate acknowledgement for anyone who works with precious metal – a lifetime achievement award from the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council.

The award was presented to him by Princess Michael of Kent at the Goldsmiths’ Hall.

Christopher Lawrence’s distinguished career has earned him a listing in Who’s Who.
His CV includes commissions from the Government, the Bank of England, the Royal Mint, City of London livery companies, and the Sultan of Oman.

The formal silver plate belonging to the borough of Southend is also his handiwork. All this has involved a lifetime of hammering metal into shape.

It has kept him fit and powerful, but, he says, he now faces a choice.

He said: “My hammer arm is beginning to hurt. I’ve worn it out. I’ve got the choice of giving up work or giving up squash. I think I’ll opt for squash.”

Yet although his output may dwindle, or even cease, he expects to maintain his role as a teacher, passing on his knowledge to apprentices and other trainees.

Mr Lawrence began his career as a 15-year-old apprentice. He spent six years at the silversmiths C J Vander, learning his craft. He believes strongly in the merits of a traditional apprenticeship. “It formed the basis of my current level of skill,” he said.

“When you’ve spent a month filing silver tray handles, it does teach you concentration.”

In his turn, he personally trained two apprentices to master’s level.

He has also regularly held masterclasses in applied technique. The series of training DVDs he has made have proved a key tool to many young and rising crafts people.
As a designer-craftsman, he takes a comprehensive approach.

“I both draw the designs and physically make them,” he says. “In the past, designers would tell you, ‘Oh, I draw up the design and then I hand it over to this little man in a workshop’. But I do it all myself.”

There is no shortage of young silversmiths coming forward. “If you have a feeling for this sort of work, you will discover it,” he said.

He does, however, have one tip for those seeking to follow in his footsteps.

Mr Lawrence’s drawings are designed to be user friendly. He believes that this has made all the difference on some occasions when he has tendered for a commission
in competition with other silverware designers.

“A lot of clients are not accustomed to interpreting technical drawings, but I present them in 3-D forms, so they can immediately see what the final item is going to look like,” he said.