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High Sheriff's Badge of Office - July 2007

High Sheriffs of the Isle of Wight now have a splendid Badge of Office. The making of such items is a rare event and it is believed that there are few other High Sheriffs in bailiwicks in England and Wales who have their own Badges or Jewels. It took 18 months to produce and was make by a team of London designers, silversmiths, enamellers and engravers - all Fellows of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths. The Badge incorporates the crossed swords of the Shrievalty Association plus the Rose as a separate attachment on the hanging ribbon, the Crown and Anchors from the Isle of Wight Crest and on each side are engraved Pyramid Orchids - the flower of the Isle of Wight. The centre background is engraved to represent waves and the sea is translucently enamelled over the surface so that the engraving shines through. The neck ribbon matches this coloured enamel. The badge is made of silver and has been gilded. The silver cross swords, crown and anchors have been rhodium plated - to negate cleaning. There is also a ribbon bow brooch attachment for use by Lady High Sheriffs.

This Badge will be passed on to succeeding High Sheriffs and was generously donated by Lt.Col. David Langford, High Sheriff for 2007-2008 and Mr Alan Titchmarsh, High Sheriff for 2008-2009.

    High Sheriff's Badge of Office July '07    High Sheriff's Badge of Office July '07
    [click images above for larger version]



Most badges of office involve symbolism in the design to a greater or lesser extent. Having seen the "issue" badge for the High Sheriffs and other devices in the High Sheriffs of England and Wales Association magazine, it was decided to combine the essential representational symbols used for High Sheriffs with symbols representing the Isle of Wight. The first research source for the latter was the Island's coat of arms. To be sure that "no feet were being trodden on" in borrowing symbols, both for the High Sheriff and the Island, three authorities were approached. These were the Secretary of the High Sheriffs of England and Wales Association, the College of Arms in London, the Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, the Island's Council and previous Island High Sheriffs. All of these were happy for the design to proceed as outlined to them. The essential symbol for the High Sheriff is the crossed swords. A mural crown and three anchors were "borrowed" from the Island's achievement as they could be arranged to sit well within the spaces created by the crossed swords. In addition, the use of the pyramid orchid within the lettering had a local connection as the Island's adopted flower, although it does occur elsewhere. The RHS HQ at Wisley in Surrey provided pictorial confirming representation of this flower together with pressed examples going back to the garden's early days.


The basic structure takes the form of an oval shallow box with a pierced obverse central area. Within this pierced area is set a champlevé and basse taille vitreous enamelled plate on which are mounted the crossed swords, mural crown and anchors symbols. The reverse is engraved with the names of the presenters [David Langford & Alan Titchmarsh and the date {2007}] and carries the London Assay Office's hallmarks. The badge is made of silver gilt [electro-plated gold on silver] and is suspended by a blue neck ribbon from a campaign-medal type suspension bar. An alternative method of wearing the badge as a suspended brooch has also been provided. A chased silver-gilt Tudor Rose is pinned to the ribbon.

Enamelling on metals was first used as an alternative to gemstones in the middle ages for the provision of colour in place of gemstones, but has since developed to be an art form in its own right. Enamel is a vitreous substance, which can be either translucent or opaque, clear or coloured, opaque or translucent, applied either as a wet paste or as a dry fritt, on metals such as silver, gold, copper and steel. It is fused to the metal at a high temperature, usually in a kiln. There are several types of enamel, classified by the manner in which the enamel is attached to the metal. Usually the enamel is applied in such a way as to form a level surface with the surrounding metal. In champlevé [from the French for level field], as used on the badge, the recess to be enamelled was cut out with scorpers. This champlevé area was enhanced by the process of basse taille [from the French for shallow cut] by engraving the base of the champlevé field with an engraved stylised sea pattern before the application of translucent enamel. The enamel thus appears lighter over the shallower cutting and darker over the deeper areas, resulting in a rich tonal quality.

Chasing and Embossing
The Tudor rose has been chased. Chasing is a decorative technique involving the use of various punches and specialized hammers to model the surface of a malleable metal object. Initially the metal is embossed or raised up from the back to create the general relief. The chasing is then performed on the embossed surface to give the fine detail. For both embossing and chasing the metal has to be supported on a preparation of pitch, resin and plaster; this allows the metal to be moved by small amounts in a controlled way. The chasing process work-hardens malleable metals so, from time to time, at normal work reversals when the job is removed from the pitch, the job is annealed at dull red heat. Unlike engraving, chasing does not involve the removal of metal by cutting with scorpers [engraving tools]. Also, in passing and to differentiate, in flat chasing only the outline design is incised into the metal: it was not used in this instance.

The hand-engraving around the frame has been cut with the legends "High Sheriff" and "Isle of Wight", and these two legends are separated by engraved representations of pyramid orchids. Engraving is perhaps the most risky of the several silversmithing techniques employed in making the badge, because a mistake is obviously difficult to rectify [If I mark, I mark: if I cut, I spoil]. Engravers need to be in practice continually in order to maintain their skills.

The Silversmiths [interchangeable with Goldsmiths]
Whilst having a good working knowledge of the technology of the processes involved in making of the badge, engaging specialists for the engraving, enamelling and the piercing and assembly work guaranteed a high standard of outcome. These specialists, [for this job] were:

Silversmithing [detail methodology, sub-assembly manufacture and assembly]
Steve Wager, FIPG, 9G Leather Market, Weston Street, London, SE1 3ER
Tel 020 7378 3600 www.sewltd-gold-silversmith.com

Raymond Hood, FIPG, 9G Leather Market, Weston Street, London, SE1 3ER
Tel 020 7378 3600 www.RAHengraving.com

Joan Mackere, Studio Fusion Gallery, OXO Tower Warf, Bargehouse Street, London SE1 9PH
Tel 020 7928 3600

Design & General Silversmithing
Hugh Stephenson, 7 Westbury Ave., Claygate, Esher, Surrey, KT10 0DN
Tel 01372 464 217 hughstephenson@btinternet.com