”Winners of our major sports tournaments such as Tennis ATP World Tour are invariably rewarded with enormous silver trophies. But although everyone has seen the trophies, it seems no one knows where they are made, according to Kevin Baker chief executive of Silversmiths Thomas Lyte.
The answer is: they are often made in small workshops such as this one on an industrial part in Essex. ”Craft matters” says Mr Baker whose company’s turnover has soared in the last decade. ” It’s about creating beautiful things, and it’s not always related to price”.
Mr Baker’s company produces other goods too, such as hand crafted bespoke leather and silver goods- but it is the making and designing of silverware such as the ATP trophy that offers the greatest potential. ”Sport touches everyone’s lives” he says. ”The market is enormous and the potential within sport is only growing”.
”Within silver we work for royal households or for superyachts, but 40-50% of the silver market is sports”, says Mr Baker. The customers are sports clubs or sports marketing firms, and trophies are not always large. Replicas are sometimes made and there is a great market for souvenirs that are given as corporate gifts.
Revenue comes also from restoring the trophies such as the FA Cup. ”The FA Cup has become a powerful symbol of what the event is about” says Mr Baker. ”You play for the Cup but the silver is very soft, so when the trophy is uplifted it is often damaged. Fortunately the beauty of silver is that it can be re-sculpted”.
The silver is done by Thomas Lyte’s 10 craftsmen and apprentices. ”With silver we have the finest skills in the world here in the UK”, says Mr Baker. ”But honestly, sadly the competition is not strengthening. We’ve seen major competitors closing or downsizing”.
Consequently, working with traditional tools methods is a dying art. ”If you look at luxury there are so many workshops being closed”, says Mr Baker. ”All those skills will be lost- there’s so much not written down. There are probably fewer than 100 craftsmen left, and many of them don’t work for the major companies”. (…)