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Archive for the ‘Jocelyn Burton’ Category

GOLD STANDARDS III

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

By Mark Rogers

I have discussed in Gold is Money, and the previous Gold Standards I and II the advantages of understanding that gold is not a commodity, that it is money that serves the usual purposes of money, as a store of value and a means of exchange, but with the vital difference that it also serves as a standard unit of measurement. The latter function is owed to its intrinsic qualities.

However, in Paper Money Collapse, Detlev Schlichter expounds Carl Menger’s view that gold, like all other things that people have found a use-value for, can indeed be considered a commodity, at least in historical terms. (I have looked at this book twice before in Gold Money A Currency of the Past and What Are Banks For?)

How does this argument work? Menger, says Schlichter, that “money could only have come into existence as a commodity”. It was not the creation of the State, there were no issuing authorities; money arose from mutual trading activities in which all commodities had a use-value. Without that use-value, no commodity was worth anything. Schlichter explains:

“For something to be used, for the very first time, as a medium of exchange, a point of reference is needed as to what its value in exchange for other goods and services is at that moment. It must have already acquired some value before it is used as money for the first time. That value can only be its use-value as a commodity, as a useful good in its own right. But once a commodity has become an established medium of exchange, its value will no longer be determined by its use-value as a commodity alone but also, and ultimately predominantly, by the demand for its services as money. But only something that has already established a market value as a commodity can make the transition to being a medium of exchange.”

Gold the Supreme Embodiment of Value

This anthropological-historical understanding of the emergence of money puts the market, trading, at the heart of the valuation process. Which, in turn, reminds us that the ultimate source of value, what something is worth, is its value to the parties, few or numerous, who engage in the transaction. So what in turn is required of a monetary medium, a currency, is a value that as far as possible stands outside that arbitrary subjectivity. Money itself, whatever its currency embodiment, is an attempt to render value objective in that the currency can be used in any exchanges, unlike bartering.

So in turn, the more objective the currency can become, the more it can become a standard (and this is where it is easy to see why it therefore becomes a unit of measurement), the more reliable, the more valuable that currency unit becomes.

And again, in turn, it is easy to see why gold quickly established itself as the supreme embodiment of exchange value: “it is no surprise that throughout the ages and through all cultures, whenever people were left to their own devices and free to choose which good should be used as money, they most always came to use precious metals.”

Gold is Money

Historically then we can enlarge Turk’s and Rubino’s contention that gold is not a commodity, not at least a commodity like oil or eggs, by allowing that the currency standard will have had a life as an object with use-value until other properties lead people to realise that it may have a value above its use-value. People have become familiar with these properties until it is singled out in use as being dominated by these properties and becomes money.

And the dominant characteristic of gold is its stability: soon all other characteristics were subordinated to this one, thereby changing not its nature but its purpose.

Of course, gold can be re-commodified as jewellery or ornament, as Jocelyn Burton, gold– and silversmith, demonstrates in her extraordinary work. People will always have these uses for gold, which are not intrinsically opposed to its properties as money: jewellery after all carries a premium and can, somewhat philistinely perhaps, be regarded as a form of storage, but then this form of storage shares with gold coins the property of portability.

And money can be re-subjectivised, in the past by mutilating it, clipping and shaving gold and silver coinage; and in the present of course the rolling of the printing presses with paper money has made money supremely subjective, its value becoming volatile and it storage properties destroyed.

It may be objected that we have little ancient anthropological evidence for this process, but we do not need to rely upon this as merely an explanation of what “must have happened”, we need only look at how those living in a territory with a devalued currency deal with the depredations of their government: in the twentieth century they have singled out dollars. When I asked an acquaintance from Zimbabwe how Zimbabweans coped with all those noughts, he laughed and said: “We just use dollars.”

The idea that money, and gold as money, emerged from the free trades of people going about their ordinary business also helps explain the deep disdain for gold in today’s political establishment: the idea that people are incapable of looking after themselves has become rooted in modern political thinking.

For the raison d’être of these articles on goldcoin.org read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

For background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST

For a series of articles on the pernicious effects of progressive tax regimes: THE MORAL DILEMMA AT THE HEART OF TAXATION

For a review of one of the most important books on the financial crisis published last year: THE MESS WE’RE IN: WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T FIX FINANCIAL CRISES

GOLDEN NUGGETS: WHAT ARE SILVERSMITHS?

Friday, February 8th, 2013

An occasional series of curiosities of Gold, its history and ideas about it.

By Mark Rogers

At first blush that looks like a daft question, but not when you know the answer, which is that silversmiths are goldsmiths.

I was visiting my goldsmith friend Jocelyn Burton just recently and the subject came up. We were discussing a book I had found cataloguing the hallmarks of London’s goldsmiths from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and she suggested that, as it was unlikely that the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths would want another copy, The Silver Society might be interested. Why, I asked, would The Silver Society be interested in the hallmarks of goldsmiths? Because, she replied, it is full of silver hallmarks. That only perplexed me further, so she explained that historically no distinction was made: a goldsmith was a craftsman who worked in gold and silver. At that point the light dawned and I realised that of course there is no Worshipful Company of Silversmiths, there was no need: goldsmiths inevitably worked in silver as well, and the craft is named for the more precious of the metals.

As we were discussing the prospectus I had written for her next major project (which shall remain secret for now), I asked had it been wrong, then, to describe her in it as Gold- and Silversmith of Holborn? Well, she replied, in all accuracy, yes, but, she thought, that as a distinction within the craft has been growing of late it was probably useful to spell it out like that, not so much to reinforce the distinction itself, but to emphasise the roll of the goldsmith.

How recently has this distinction been made? The Silver Society was founded in the late fifties to foster the study of silver in its own right, so that would be a good date to start from, but it is only very recently that The Goldsmiths’ Company decided that it would hold a separate British Silver Week to accommodate the increased number of smiths who only work in silver. How has this come about? An obvious answer is that silver is vastly cheaper than gold and so is more affordable to potential clients. It is a less risky investment for the smith. And perhaps, we thought somewhat cynically, that as so many of the younger generation of smiths are not taught the traditional craft, and perhaps disdain it, less money gets wasted on the unfortunate results. Alas, the world of smithery has gone the way of the rest of the arts, where all is “concept” and “design” and little depends on ability.

Jocelyn Burton insists in her own work not only on the highest standards of craft and aesthetic delight but also on utility: if it is a teapot, for example, it must be capable of pouring, if it is cutlery, it must be balanced and a pleasure to hold.

She reckons that there are some 2,000 smiths in the UK, only 200 of whom have any grounding and ability in the traditional craft – and of those 200, the best work for her.

For a statement of what she tries to accomplish in her work, please go here, where you will also find a link to her online exhibition/catalogue.

JOCELYN BURTON: GOLD- AND SILVERSMITH OF HOLBORN

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

JOCELYN BURTON is an award winning Silversmith specialising in Gold, Silver & Bronze. In 1969 she opened her studio at 50c Red Lion Street, Holborn, London WD1, where she has lived and worked ever since. The first major retrospective of more than 40 years of her work was held at Bentley & Skinner, 55 Piccadilly, London W1, from 14th November to 8th December 2012. The exhibition went well and served to bring her name and her work before a new audience.

In her own words:

‘I hope that my work embodies the best of old and new. I have welcomed technical innovation, but bow to traditional techniques and conventions where they are necessary for the strength, integrity, and quality of a piece. The press have often commented on the exuberance of my subject matter. The world is my oyster in the sense that I am fascinated by the beauty and complexity of nature. I revel in the challenge of large scale work and the opportunity to make extravagant and even opulent pieces, but there is always room for humour and even a touch of irony. I pay great attention to detail, often incorporating precious and semi-precious stones and finely chased figurative decoration. Overall, I strive for timelessness and boldness of concept and form.’

In 1974 Jocelyn Burton become one of the first skilled female Freemen at the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, at which time she also became a Freeman of the City of London. Her work can be found in many notable institutions including the Victoria &Albert Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral, Goldsmiths’ Hall, 10 Downing Street, York Minster, the Fitzwilliam Museum  and the palace of the Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum of Dubai.

Jocelyn Burton’s commissions are many and varied and include pieces for:

The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers
The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers
The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers
The Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers
The Worshipful Company of Vintners

She has also executed commissions for the Royal Families and Nobility of these shores and others.

The beauty and complexity of the natural world as understood through human initiative and creative appreciation are the hallmarks of Jocelyn Burton’s work, a marvellous blend of flora and fauna with man-made objects that reveals a close observer and a technically supreme craftswoman. The sureness of her grasp of theme and technique ensure that her work endures.

For her online exhibition/catalogue go to: http://www.jocelynburton.com/

FRANCAIS ESPANOL ITALIANO CHINESE

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Thoughts
"For a mountaineer, the important things are the effort, the posture and the muscles. The rope that holds him serves no purpose when everything works but it gives him a sense of security. In the same way, all gold does is ensure confidence; it's a safe haven."