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A stunning silver and silver-gilt centrepiece recently completed after months of painstaking work by silversmith Richard Fox takes its inspiration from rare magnolia trees and in particular its leaves.

The centre-piece was commissioned by Michael Galsworthy, of the Goldsmiths’ Company, for the dining-table at his Cornish home Trewithen.  Aside from being one of the most elegant examples of 18th century architecture in Cornwall, Trewithen is famous for its gardens which boast many magnificent rare magnolia blooms.

He chose Surrey based silversmith Richard Fox to make the piece - a winner of many awards, Richard Fox is known for his extremely sleek, minimalist silver designs.

The focal point of the commission was to be the natural form of the magnolia leaf in its decayed condition, which, with its skeletal veins, is a form of great delicacy and beauty.  After considerable discussion it was decided that Richard would design and create a leaf-shaped centrepiece with additional pure silver electro-formed real leaves that could be placed randomly down the table, thus continuing the theme and providing an attractive visual link
After much experimentation Richard developed a very low dish form, marquise shaped on the outer rim representing the tips of the magnolia leaf and oval on the inside to reflect the ovular nature of a leaf.  Impressive in size, the centrepiece measures approximately 660mm x 400mm and weighs some 6kgs. It has twelve rectangular panels pierced into the rim, each one incorporating silver gilt sections of real leaves and the Latin names of 16 magnolia species found in the gardens at Trewithen are engraved in swirling patterns on the pure gilded, planished interior of the dish. 
At every point, particularly at the conceptual stages of the commission, Richard produced sketches, plans and elevation drawings for Michael Galsworthy to see and together they were able to discuss and refine the concept to its final design.
Richard said: “It is always extremely important that the client feels very much part of the whole design and making process. I produced samples of leaves in different finishes so that Michael could appreciate the varied tonal qualities against a range of backgrounds and he regularly came to the workshop to see the piece take shape and witness some of the silversmithing.”
Even for a master-silversmith with years of experience, Richard found his silversmithing skills tested.  “Quite aside from the physical toll of making a piece of this size and weight, it was technically extremely challenging.” 
 Michael Galsworthy said: “The commission is all that I hoped it would be and I am absolutely thrilled.  It is a stunning visual testament to Richard’s incredible silversmithing skills.
“The whole process from start to finish was an exciting and enjoyable journey of discovery and enlightenment.  I feel very proud to have played a part in the creation of this wonderful silver masterpiece which I know will be enjoyed my family and future generations for centuries to come.”

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