Behind closed doors: Hamilton & Inches

A century and a half of painstaking craftsmanship is being celebrated by Edinburgh’s illustrious jewellers

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Did you know that the clock that towers over the east end of Princes Street at the Balmoral Hotel runs three minutes fast to help travellers catch their trains at Waverley Station? It is only set to the right time at Hogmanay, to synchronise with the countdown to the bells. The Balmoral clock was made by Hamilton & Inches, the Edinburgh firm of luxury jewellers and silversmiths, which this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. The attention to detail that its craftsmen demonstrated when they were commissioned to build that Balmoral clock in 1902 is still in evidence today, just as it has been throughout the company’s long history.

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Today, Hamilton & Inches is one of the last remaining jewellery and silversmithing houses of its kind, with its Edinburgh headquarters (encompassing a showroom, administrative offices and six workshops) in a suitably grand townhouse in George Street. There, in the heart of the New Town, set over five floors, you’ll find all departments under one roof. So, while you are idly perusing the diamond solitaires, Rolex watches and silver accessories on the shop floor, there are some 40 employees in the workshops above and below, busy designing and creating using techniques that have been honed over centuries.

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“The Hamilton & Inches workshops are unique to Scotland,” says chief executive Stephen Paterson. “We are one of the last remaining jewellery houses in Britain designing, making and repairing jewellery, silver and watches.”
The building is befitting of its glittering contents: the Georgian structure was refurbished by the celebrated Edinburgh architect David Bryce in 1855 and boasts grand features such as pillars, intricate cornicing and a rare Adam fireplace dating back to 1787.

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Its heritage is just one of the aspects of this business that contributes to its success; there is an understanding of what’s gone before, an investment in traditional crafts and a commitment to holding on to those principles. But part of the success also comes from a modern, forward-thinking, collaborative approach – one epitomised this year by the team working with Scottish sculptor Andy Scott on a special commission to mark the firm’s big birthday.

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 160-161, issue 110.

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Words Catherine Coyle