ANTIQUE SILVER PAUL DE LAMERIE
Arguably the most important Huguenot silversmith and the finest worker in silver and gold that England has ever known, Paul De Lamerie arrived with his French Protestant family in England in 1689, one year after his birth. In common with many other Huguenot refugees, his father chose for his son the career of goldsmith, which at that time was a suitable trade for gentlemen that covered silversmithing as well. He was suitably apprenticed to another famous Huguenot silversmith, Peter Platel.
De Lamerie learnt from his master the art of working in silver and gold, and to him he owed, in a large measure, his future fame. After an industrious and promising apprenticeship he entered his first mark in 1712, which was formed from the first two letters of his surname LA, surmounted by a crown and a fleur-de-lis below, the latter designed to reflect his French origin.
In 1716 De Lamerie married Louisa Juliott. So now at the age of twent-eight he was established with his young wife and they lived in their own home in Windmill Street, London. During the succeeding thirteen years they had six children, but of these only three survived past their fifth year, an all too common occurrence of the time.
His first really important piece of work was a finely made large wine-cistern hallmarked for 1719 and commissioned by 1st Duke of Sutherland. A few years later De Lamerie was very fortunate to receive the first of a number of very important commissions from Peter the Great, the Czar of Russia.
It was also at this time, about 1720, that De Lamerie met and started working with William Hogarth (1697-1764), who was possibly the finest engraver of the 18th century. The 'Hogarthian' style of engraving had a huge impact on the pieces designed and made by, not just De Lamerie, but most other silversmiths from this period.
In 1731, at the age of fourty-three, De Lamerie became a governing member of the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths guild. This reflected his growing influence on the trade at the time, and his stature as a man of considerable means. At this time he also began to look around for ways of diversifying his financial interests outside his own business, and decided to invest in property.
In 1739 he moved from Windmill Street to Gerrard Street, and this represented an important point in his career, and it was in this property that he produced bulk of the imposing rococco plate, for which he is best remembered today. Here he lived with his wife, remaining two daughters, and mother. He had become estranged from his father for a number of years, the latter dying alone and friendless in 1735. It was here also that his devoted mother died in 1740.
Renowned throughout the civilised world as a master of his craft, in 1747 De Lamerie took another step upwards in the hierarchy of his guild, by being appointed as the Second Warden, one step away from the Prime Wardenship. Sadly, his death in 1752, cheated him of this final honour. He left his wife and three remaining daughters behind, but unfortunately had no sons to carry on his business. But his legacy was not lost. It was passed on through not only his superbly designed and crafted important pieces of Queen Anne and Rococco silver, and also as a yard-stick whereby other important silversmiths down the years measured themselves in creating fine works of art.