News

Tying the knot in a tiara made by Toye & Co Craftspeople

Lily Toye, daughter of the firm’s chairman Bryan Toye and chief executive Fiona Toye, married rugby star Rupert Harden at St Peter’s Church, Winchcombe in July. A gold tiara created by Toye & Co’s own craftspeople was her crowning glory.

S&X Media and Birmingham City University students collaborate to upcycle old into new

Birmingham-based PR agency S&X Media will be showcasing the work of Birmingham City University (BCU) design students when it moves into its new Jewellery Quarter office space later this year. S&X joined forces with students from the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD) – part of Birmingham City University – to develop a live project assignment for first year Design Studies students, focused on upcycling.

Working in groups, the students were tasked with repurposing or upcycling materials supplied by local manufacturers to create designs and prototypes for a piece of furniture, storage, lighting or display.
The successful designs were showcased at an exhibition held at Birmingham City University’s Gosta Green campus on Thursday 13th June, where S&X announced one group as the winners of the project. The winning design, a stool using brass, steel, foam and seating fabric, was produced by a team comprising Gavin Atkinson, Minh Dao, Iona Dias, David Gu, Rayhan Miah and Hans Ramzan. The design prototype is being commissioned for production and will feature in the agency’s new office.

S&X and the University teamed up with Jewellery Quarter based manufacturers, A.E. Harris & Co, Chapman Driver Seating and Toye & Co, with each company providing students with excess, waste or off-cuts of metals, foams and fabrics used in their manufacturing processes.
Managing director of S&X Paul Phedon said: “We wanted to work with Birmingham City University design students on a project which will help reinforce our highly creative working environment. The students have created innovative and contemporary upcycling design concepts that certainly met the brief.”
Minh Dao of the winning team explained the concept behind the winning design: “The S&X ethos is about working together with their clients to create strong creative ideas. Our design was inspired by bees because they come together, this translated into both our approach to the project and our design; the idea behind the stool is to bring people closer together and work together.”
Senior Lecturer of Design Studies Jason Nicholson said: “The brief provided by S&X was fantastic as it addressed the module aims which were all about the interdisciplinary nature of design and working collaboratively.  It was great experience for the students to work on a live project as they have picked up elements of production techniques and an understanding of the life span of a product.”
The final production version of the stool will be revealed when the agency moves in to their new Jewellery Quarter offices, later this year.

A Jewel in the Making

From the May-June 2013 Scottish Rite Journal. © 2013. Supreme Council, 33°, SJ, USA. All rights reserved.

A masonic jewel is the physical expression of the recipient’s achievement and so must be worthy of his dedication and contribution. In Freemasonry this is most often a Past Master’s jewel, a Knight Commander of the Court of Honour jewel, a Thirty-third Degree jewel, or some other past presiding officer’s jewel. Jewels or “decorations” are also found outside of Masonry. The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest award for valor in action against an enemy force. Other US awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Kennedy Center Honors. In the UK there are awards from the Queen, such as an Order, Member, or Commander of the British Empire (OBE, MBE, CBE) and the Distinguished Service Order. Creating jewels of this caliber is a complex process that involves the input of a number of highly skilled craftsmen and women, each of whom is proud of their contribution to the final product.
Toye & Co, founded in 1685 in England, produces both Masonic and civil awards, and takes us behind the scenes for the production of a Masonic jewel. The process begins with design. Using the latest computer technology and immersed in the symbolism of Freemasonry, the team of designers interprets the description (and sometimes guides the customer if they do not have a specific idea of the final jewel). Explaining the value of the drawing created by the design team Gary Hiley said: “The drawing is the foundation. At each subsequent stage the craftspeople build on this foundation, perfecting every subtlety and nuance to create the final jewel.”

Next the die sinker turns the two dimensional image into a subtle three multidimensional die from which the many jewels can be manufactured. “We have well over 250,000 different dies in our stores, some going back to the 1800s,” explained Nick Ellwood, Business Development Director at Toye Kenning & Spencer. “There is a die for everything from Spitfire badges produced during WWII to raise money to build the fighter planes to Football Association Cup Winner Medals.” Jim Baker is the company’s senior die sinker. “You may think cutting a die is simply a case of connecting a computer controlled milling cuter to the computer aided design and letting it do its work. We could do it this way but the final die would lack the richness that determines how the gold reflects the light. A good example is the KCCH cross for Southern Jurisdiction where each arm of the cross has a hand-finished pattern cut into it to reflect the light through the translucent vitreous enamel. The laurel wreath also has a raised centre and the inside leaves are slightly higher than the outside ones, giving the piece depth. Achieving this subtlety depends on the experienced eye and judgment of the craftsman. “Production then moves to the stamp shop. The company has a number of drop hammers and large and small presses including a 400 metric ton friction screw press. Stamper Mick Puusta works this press with such skill that at times it seems to barely touch the metal. This means he can be incredibly precise in transferring the design from the die to the metal. “It’s easy to deform the metal with the press but very hard to draw out the detail we’re looking for,” he explained. “Often several strikes are needed to get the full detail and I may have to anneal or soften the metal between strikes to counter the work hardening. “Tools are manufactured to match each die and it is at this stage that they are used to clip the piece, removing the excess metal aſter it’s been stamped, to pierce it, and to remove any unwanted metal on the inside. “We have to locate the holes for the mounting pin precisely, “explained Roy Badger, Toolmaker. “If we get it wrong, the jewels will be out of kilter and the job of mounting the other components impossible. Hand engraving is also done at this stage by David Hacker. “As with many of my colleagues I have worked for the company for several decades after following in my father’s footsteps into the trade.” Each piece is then hand finished before being plated. Imperfections left at this stage are amplified by the plating process so again the eye and judgment of the craftsman is essential. A little like a witch’s kitchen, the plating shop is full of all sorts of substances bubbling away. Whatever the finish, the piece must be clean before each plating process and thus many of the stages in the plating shop involve cleaning the piece in an ultrasonic bath with detergents, acids, alkalis, and clean water. If a warm gold is needed, a substrate of copper is typically used, and if a bright gold, nickel. Ten the gilding, gold or silver, is plated on top. Next, if required, artists enamel the piece. Vitreous enamel is powdered coloured glass in suspension and the craftswomen hand-paint it on to the piece.

“We often apply many layers to get the right depth of colour,” explained Brenda Davis. “Between each layer we fire the piece over an open flame so we can see exactly what’s happening; there is little difference between the melting point of the glass and silver, and a kiln lacks the sensitivity required. Cheap enamels have neither the translucency nor the hardness we can achieve.” In parallel to the metalwork, ribbon is woven on traditional Jacquard looms. Master Weaver, John Jenkins explained: “We could easily use a computerized modern loom but the difference in the quality of the ribbon would be marked, and customers deserve the best.”
“We’re probably the biggest manufacturer of medal ribbon,” continued Neil Halford Weaving Shop Manager. “We have thousands of record cards for all the ribbons we make for customers all over the world and each one acts as a shade standard. We weave each ribbon from yarn that has been pre-dyed and is matched to a specific standard colour. This is the only way to be certain the colour is consistent both with what has gone before and throughout the roll. This consistency is impossible to achieve with the cheaper method of weaving the ribbon from undyed yarn and then dying it in a vat.”
“Once we’ve woven the ribbon and inspected it by eye to find and deal with any snags, we watermark it, giving it a real lustre. “The different components of the final jewel are then brought together in the mounting shop. The rings and fittings are soldered on by the craftspeople at their own jeweller’s bench. Finally Barbara Frost ribbons the piece. “Getting this right is important or the whole effect of the piece is spoiled. I have been ribboning medals and regalia for many years and believe I can recognize a medal I have ribboned.” Finally the jewels are carefully packed and dispatched. “We know people own and wear their jewels with pride and so we take great care, from the first telephone call to the final dispatch of the product,” concluded Nick Ellwood. “We are proud of our reputation for manufacturing high quality hand crafted jewels and regalia and while we introduce new techniques and technologies as appropriate, we are always mindful to preserve it.”

Diamond Jubilee adds shine to Toye & Co results

ONE of Birmingham’s oldest manufacturers has posted improved full year turnover but warned that its markets remain challenging.

Jewellery and civic regalia firm Toye & Co said turnover for the year ended December 31, 2012 amounted to £8,936,996 compared to £7,981,006 for the previous year. The increase was due to the delivery of a contract to supply the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in collaboration with two other Jewellery Quarter firms.

Trading conditions in the firm’s traditional markets continue to be difficult, it said. Worldwide economic conditions and social disturbances in some countries have impacted export sales.

Export revenue was £1,680,764, down compared to £1,870,949 the previous year. This was said to be due to the scheduling of deliveries on a large contract where the firm reverted to supply at maintenance levels having delivered the initial bulk quantities in 2011.

Nevertheless, the firm worked on some high profile projects during the year including one on the restoration of the Kremlin. This has been successfully completed and led to a follow-on contract.

Gross profits improved in the Fraternal and Metals segments, in textiles it fell slightly as customers demanded more competitive pricing.

The demands forced the firm to cut costs by implementing redundancies, cutting working hours, selling off several assets and looking at reducing loss-making lines.

Despite the difficulties, the company made a pre-tax profit of £453,872; the Diamond Jubilee contract being a key contributor to this.

Chief executive Fiona Toye said: “The on-going economic recession continues to influence all our markets in the UK and overseas. Buyers are cautious and lacking in confidence. They want the lowest possible price, but are slow to make the decision to order, which has resulted in reduced lead-times for manufacture.

“Customers’ demands are increasing in terms of pre-order design and sampling work, rightly setting the service of one supplier against another. This adds to our origination costs before we have even won an order.

“Even in our comparatively niche market areas there is increasing global competition. We are all vying for reduced custom. Success will depend on our ability to manage our operating costs and maintain and even expand our operating capabilities. Formidable challenges for a labour intensive traditional craft business.”

Toye, Kenning & Spencer at Security & Policing.

Stop by and see Toye, Kenning & Spencer at the 2013 Security & Policing Exhibition at the FIVE (Farnborough International Venue & Events) on March 12th - March 14th. We will be based on stand A5.