Celebrating any birthday is usually done with some degree of recognition, but when celebrating one’s centenary, it seems especially fitting to pull out all the stops. Aston Martin did just that, by teaming up with renowned London silversmith Grant Macdonald to create Silver By Aston Martin, a bespoke range of limited edition extras that every DB owner should want to collect. From picnic baskets to elegant cocktail shakers (we are talking about James Bond’s favourite make of car, after all), Grant Macdonald has all bases covered when it comes to providing luxury through beautiful, bespoke pieces.
Hidden behind an unassuming door just around the corner from Southwark tube station is a veritable hub of activity that comprises Macdonald’s offices and workshop. “When everybody’s here, we have about 16, 17 people, something like that, so we are a small and perfectly formed bunch of people,” he tells me, as I’m shown into an office that holds quite a stunning array of gold and silver artifacts. So in case you were wondering? That unassuming door turned out to be solid steel, with another solid steel door just behind. But it makes sense – Macdonald’s works are crafted from beautiful gold, silver and ruthenium (no, I hadn’t heard of it either, but that’s because it’s quite a rare metal). Even though it’s obvious, I’m curious to know what he thinks makes his products a cut above the rest. “Blood, sweat and tears!” he laughs. “You have to remember that you are actually designing something that’s going to be around for a long time, so there’s that bit of pressure there – you have to do a proper job. I will design just about anything for anybody, if they want it. I’ve managed to build my business up by saying yes.”
With over 40 years in the trade, Macdonald knows his stuff when it comes to being a silversmith. He made his first piece of silverware at 14 (“I’m still proud of it and I see it every day in the display cabinet”), and has had a hallmark since the age of 15. Goldsmiths’ office in the City has been situated at the same site since 1329. “The trade comes to this place and has all their hallmarks done here and then their pieces are sent to the four corners of the world,” Macdonald says, recognising that silver – London silver in particular – is very highly sought after globally.
So why our fascination with silver? “Provenance,” Macdonald answers. “Nobody throws pieces of silver away – they throw glass away and they throw china away. If I chip that cup, it’ll just go straight in the bin and I wouldn’t even think about trying to repair it. Whereas if you have a piece of silver and it’s got a dent in it, I can take the dent out. It will just live forever. It’s a very powerful thing.”
Macdonald has relished the freedom that Aston Martin has given him as far as the design of the products goes. “There are no big logos on the designs. I wouldn’t have gone for that – if they just said, we’ll take whatever you’ve got and we’ll just stick a badge on it.” Understated luxury is key, then. “I think the main thing is to emulate the design ethos of Aston Martin,” he says. “If they can sell their products in 120 countries, there’s a fair chance that people will be attracted to us because they can be assured that it’s gone through the same sort of design process and top, top, top craftsmanship, just like those cars.” Macdonald’s work is most definitely all about top craftsmanship. ““I hope that the tagline for my work would be beautifully designed and fabulously made,” he says.
Finally, my curiosity gets the better of me. My own rapidly tarnishing silver collection is becoming more of an embarrassment every time I look at it, and I can’t help thinking that Macdonald must have an army of cleaners to keep his silver looking pristine. “People who inherit old silver can be cursed by it,” he agrees, before debunking a very common myth. “If you use silver, you don’t have to clean it. We only clean a lot of these things about once a year. We actually have silver in our kitchen at home for every day and it hardly ever gets tarnished. If you use it and love it, then it just becomes part of your life.” So, how do you keep your silver clean? I tend to use Silvo, which Macdonald says is fine, but he also mentions Hagerty, a product that you simply sponge all over to give a long-term polish.
“Let’s just hope that fine dining comes back,” he says. “We need to get a bit more silver in there because it’s what the British have done for hundreds and hundreds of years.” I stare longingly at a line of elegant champagne flutes. Cheers to that!
Visit www.grantmacdonald.com/astonmartin to see the full Silver By Aston Martin range.