Like a successful but modest man,
Originally the Chancery Lane Safe Deposit, a set of strong rooms for the elite to store their personal treasures, silver dealers began using the rooms to safeguard their precious stock during WWII. It has existed in its current state since 1953, selling the finest silver to buyers from around the world.
With an unassuming entrance just off
After descending many stairs and negotiating many corners, you finally arrive at the entrance to the vaults: a vast, secure swing door much like the ones you see in Bond films at Swiss banks. A single, brightly lit corridor stretches ahead, lined with neat, labelled display cabinets. Every few metres give way to a dealer’s doorway, through which you can glimpse row upon row of glinting silver in all shapes and sizes and from all eras.
Curious to find out more about the Vaults from an insider’s viewpoint, I met Joel and Adam Langford of Langfords, a family silver business and founding member of the Silver Vaults in 1937. Softly spoken and with the easy good humour that comes of daily family interaction, the brothers are the 3rd generation of Langfords to hold the fort here. Full of knowledge and delighted to discuss their hobby and livelihood, they specialise in beautifully crafted household silver – cutlery and candlesticks are the most sought after items in the Vaults – but jump at the chance to show me some of their more unusual pieces.
I am shown a silver and gold chamber pot, a servants’ bell shaped as a tortoise and an extraordinary silver cucumber saw. Like most of the dealers they specialise in antique silver, but Langfords also embarks on several weird and wonderful bespoke projects throughout the year. Some notable requests include cufflinks made from the cast of a female customer’s nipples, a silver loo-paper holder and a 5 foot yachting trophy. My imagination cannot help but run riot at the possibilities…
The Silver Vaults provide a remarkable and imaginative source for any unique gift or self indulgence imaginable. No matter what you are looking for, one of the 30 specialist dealers will be able to help. Anything from household silver, jewellery and watches to traditional and religious items are widely available, and should you need a silver tooth pick or bird cage, I imagine it could be conjured up from somewhere. Most of the dealers are also happy to discuss buying, repairs, engraving, restoration and valuations and the cheerful competition amongst them all ensures that customers are treated fairly and with respect.
Even if all you want to do is gaze, a visit to the Silver Vaults is a unique experience – a place for exploration and discovery. Whether on a mission or simply soaking up the possibilities, I highly recommend a quiet couple of hours in this silver sanctuary to escape from the hustle and bustle of the glossy exterior of this city.
0207 242 3844
Open Mon-Fri 9-5.30
Open Sat 9-1
An exhibition celebrating contemporary silversmiths – ‘Post-War Winners: 60 years of British silver’ is on until 29th September 2012
This was a guest post from Sophie Stewart.Google+