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The making process

A contemporary luxury brand disrupting a traditional industry

We at Thomas Lyte have earned a reputation as world-class designers and makers of exquisite bespoke silverware. The quality of our work is admired by royalty and governments, and some of the most esteemed companies, sporting institutions, societies and clubs. We achieve this by investing in our talented staff and our purpose-built silver workshops in London. Meet the makers, and discover more below about our handcrafting process that combines modern technology with centuries of traditional skills.

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Preparation

Once you have signed off the design with our in-house design team, we will move the project onto the busy schedule at our silver workshops. The world’s greatest makers of bespoke silverware require the world’s best raw materials. Our production team source these high-quality sustainable materials for our master craftsmen and craftswomen to begin.
As well as the precious metals, tooling and moulds are manufactured to precise measurements. We pioneer the use of modern technology, which in some cases includes 3D printing. Once the 3D artwork is drawn up, we use the prints to create casting moulds, stencils or even components for the finished piece.

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In action:

The ribbon around the ICC World Test Championship Mace appears to be one of the most traditional aspects of the piece. However it was actually crafted using a 3D printed mould designed by our talented 3D designers.

Crafting the components

Any bespoke trophy or commission in silver and gold, is made up of many intricate components. We painstakingly handcraft each component with an assortment of techniques.

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Spinning

Hand-spinning metal is one of the most dramatic spectacles in metalworking and has been used for well over a century. Sheets of metal are rotated on a lathe at high speeds with force applied by the craftsperson to cause the metal to flow over a pre-made template/chuck. In trophy making especially, multiple pieces may be spun to create the desired shape. The chucks can be reused to make replicas, so they must be carefully maintained.

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makers-of-Kohler-Manchester-United-bespoke-bathroom
In action:

The gold-plated basins handcrafted by Thomas Lyte for the Kohler Treble Collection were created using two separately spun components.

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Casting

Casting is often one of the first processes we are asked about by wide-eyed clients hoping to see molten metal. The process was the spark that brough forth the industrial revolution in Great Britain. It is most often used to make complex shapes that would be otherwise difficult or uneconomical to make by other methods. At Thomas Lyte, we use both handcrafted and 3D printed materials to create moulds out of plaster. Liquid metal is poured into these moulds and left to cool, to create the desired shape. The use of moulds and castings can make the crafting process more efficient; it allows you to create multiple identical versions of a singular component. It also can make the process of creating a replica of the original commissioned item more straightforward.

Makers-of-the-League-of-Legends-Summoners-Cup-Trophy
winners-of-the-League-of-Legends-Summoners-Cup
In action:

Multiple castings were used by Thomas Lyte to make Riot Games’ Summoner’s Cup, the world-renowned trophy for League of Legends World Championships.

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Smithing

The more intricate part of the process, but the most important step in the creation of handmade luxury gold and silver commissions, silversmithing and goldsmithing covers a wide range of techniques. From ‘piercing out’ with a handsaw, ‘filing down’ with sandpaper or many different grades of files, or ‘stamping’ with a machine press, small changes are made to each of the components that add to the complexity of the finished piece.

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In action:

The Hundred trophies are the finest example of the most fundamental smithing skills. Using a process of scoring, filing, piercing out, hot forging and soldering each letter was handcrafted separately in 3-dimensional shapes. Scoring grooves into the metal was an essential part of this process to allow for the precise angles to be to be created when the metal was pressed into shape.

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Hot Forging and Planishing

Hot forging and planishing are methods used to shape metal. Hot forging is the process of heating metal to a sufficient temperature for it to become malleable in order to bend it or shape it. As metal expands and stretches when heated, it is not always the best choice to use heat when shaping a component. Planishing is a metalworking technique whereby the piece of metal is hammered against a shaped surface, usually at room temperature. Hammering components into precise shapes is an art form that takes many years to master.

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Laver-Cup-unveiled-square
In action:

The famous spiralling handles of The Laver Cup were each created with sheets of sterling silver that were scored, hot forged, soldered and planished.

Getting the desired finish and decorations

Once the components of a piece are created and shaped, they are prepared for embellishment and finishing. This includes the intricacies of chasing and engraving, and the beautiful finishes created by polishing and plating.

FA Cup silversmiths

Repoussé and chasing

Repoussé is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief that rises up of the surface of the metal. Chasing or embossing is a similar technique in which the piece is hammered on the front side; this sinks the design into the metal. The two techniques are often used in conjunction. Both techniques are skills passed down through generations of metalworkers since ancient times.

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In action:

The grapes and vines seen on the Emirates FA Cup are an exquisite example of the repoussé and chasing crafting skills. The detail achieved is breath-taking.

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Polishing

Polishing is a finishing process that smoothens a piece of metal with an abrasive “mop”. Our polishers use motorised polishing lathes spinning at over 3000 rpm. They use different types of mop heads, one after the other, to take a dull and dirty piece of metal to a perfect mirror finish. It gets far more complicated than that, as our master polishers are experienced in delivering many different metal finishes. Considering the speed that the mop heads are spinning, polishing can be quite a dangerous task for the inexperienced.

Makers of the Basketball Champions League trophy
basketball-champions-league-makers-polishing
In action:

The Basketball Champions League trophy is among the most difficult to polish. Due to the many corners and gaps, it requires precise handling and a very experienced polisher to make sure the whole trophy is polished to a bright finish inside and out.

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Electroplating

Electroplating is the deposition of a metal coating onto an object that has been given a negative charge while immersed in a solution that contains a metal salt. The metal salt contains positively charged metal ions which are therefore attracted to the object. As a result the metal forms a thin layer on the object’s surface. Thomas Lyte have both gold and silver electroplating tanks able to accommodate even the largest commissions. Depending on the intended thickness of plating and the solution used, electroplating can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. Interestingly, it is possible to target specific areas that you wish to plate by covering the parts of the object that you don’t wish to plate with a “stopping off” lacquer.

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bespoke-epergne-gold-plating
In action:

Thomas Lyte was commissioned to design and handcraft a bespoke epergne. The piece was created in sterling silver multiple components that were each individually gold plated before assembly.

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Engraving

Engraving is the process whereby grooves are cut into metal, usually to decorate an metallic object with a design. With a precise machine with a diamond tip, we carve intricate and extensive designs that embellish bespoke silverware. While machine engraving has been possible for over a century, hand engraving is often one of the most admired metal working processes. It is craft that requires at least a year to even learn how to correctly sharpen the tools. The finest hand engravers are artists in their own right. At Thomas Lyte, we offer both options to our clients.

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In action:

We engrave a lot of the world’s elite sporting trophies. Every four years, The Webb Ellis Cup (Rugby World Cup) returns to the Thomas Lyte silver workshops in London for the winning countries name to be hand engraved onto its plinth.

Combining and assembling the pieces

Once enough of the components have been created, and undergone some light cleaning and polishing, they need to be combined. There are multiple ways of assembling the final piece.

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Soldering

Soldering is the process of fusing two pieces of metal together using heat, pressure and a filler material “solder”. The solder is absorbed by the surrounding metal; the result is a joint that is actually stronger than welding the metal together. Interestingly, when working with sterling silver, for the final piece to be hallmarked, it is vital to use a silver-based soldering material that abides by the standards set by the Assay Office.

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In action:

During the production of the Lions Series Trophy in 2021, many elements were soldered together to form a chalice affixed to the top of the trophy. Our talented craftspeople soldered the logo of the tournament itself to this chalice, which required tremendous precision.

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Assembly

It may surprise many readers, but in many cases, objet d’art contains at least some elements of nuts, bolts, and screws to hold them together. Their use allows for not only stronger foundations, but also makes the piece easier to disassemble and repair. Our master craftspeople use all their expertise to incorporate these necessary components into the design to ensure that the finished commission is both robust and beautiful.

inside-the-sail-gp-trophy
silversmith-assembly-sail-gp-trophy
In action:

The SailGP trophy is actually held together with numerous nuts and bolts hidden on the inside of the trophy. The visible gold plated interior of the trophy is actually a lining created to both hide these components and make the trophy waterproof; a highly valued feature for a trophy that is lifted on a catamaran at sea.

Ensuring provenance and quality

Once a commission has been assembled, it is handed over to our quality control team that ensure that the piece meets our exacting standards.

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Hallmarking

A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of noble metals to certify their content—such as silver, gold and platinum. All Thomas Lyte bespoke hallmarked silver and gold items comply with this standard. In the UK it is illegal to sell or describe any item as Gold or Silver unless it is hallmarked. The hallmark of a UK Assay Office guarantees the provenance of the hallmarked item in question, and that it conforms to all legal standards of purity and fineness.

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In action:

A fine example of hallmarking can be seen on our case study page for the ATP Finals Trophy.

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Quality Control

Quality control is one of the most important stages in the process. At Thomas Lyte, quality control happens at every step of the journey, with individual components being checked regularly by the whole team. Using the “QC room” at our London-based workshops they identify marks or impurities that the craftspeople need to rectify before the finished piece leaves the workshop. A combination of bright lights and jet-black spaces can highlight even the faintest scuffs.

2021 FA Cup winners Leicester City wear medals by Thomas Lyte
Thomas Lyte are the makers of the gold and silver medals for the FA Cup finalists
In action:

At Thomas Lyte we specialise in bespoke medal programs, including medals for the Emirates FA Cup Final. Our quality control team examine each medal, ribbon and box, ensuring that they are all identical and leave the Thomas Lyte workshops in peak condition.