Obituary: Malcolm Carr

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Malcolm Stuart Carr, jeweller, crystal and cameo retailer: born London 3 January 1945; married 1966 Deanna Hartland (died 1976; one son), 1983 Deirdre Inches; died Edinburgh 6 December 1994.

"His Majesty's Clockmaker and Keeper and Dressor of His Majesty's Clocks, Watches and Pendulums in Palaces and Houses in his Ancient Kingdom in Scotland". Until recently, when it was considered de trop, this was the wording of the proud royal warrant held by the distinguished Edinburgh jewellers Hamilton and Inches. In 1983 the fifth-generation heiress of the firm, the artistically talented and professionally expert Deirdre Inches, married Malcolm Carr, who by then knew more than any other man in Britain about cameos and painted crystals.

For a decade they were to be the joint managing directors of Hamilton and Inches, justifiably popular with their clients and staff alike, not least because they were devoted to training young men and women in the jeweller's art in their own workshop at their premises in George Street. Both were clearly in business because they were fascinated by what they had to sell.

To watch Carr at work was an experience to savour. He would be witty, good-humoured, and excellent company; then, as soon as he donned his eyeglass, he became an intense identifier and valuer, with a task to perform. He would bark out the details of the jeweller's art.

Carr's father was a Surrey chartered accountant. Ever entrepreneurial, the 16-year-old Malcolm went to the bookshop down the road from the John Fisher School and bought up the 12 available copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover, which he then sold at a profit. Alas, a 13-year-old was discovered reading one of them and confessed under pressure from the headmaster: "I got it from Carr, Sir." Carr was summarily expelled.

Denied the chance of university, he went to work in advertising. At the age of 21, he married Deanna Hartland, daughter of the respected London jeweller Edward Hartland. Hartland groomed Carr with the advice "Specialise, specialise, specialise." Sadly, Deanna died 10 years later.

Carr's first speciality was the minor art of "crystal" carving and painting, a field in which his employers Hancocks and Co of Burlington Arcade, of which he was later to become a director, were pre-eminent.

"Crystals" or, to give them their full name, "reverse intaglio crystals" are a branch of the glyptic arts. In common with intaglios and cameos they are basically designs carved on hard stone. However, they differ in two fundamental respects: the materia l chosen is transparent and paint is applied to the design. Instead of relying on the polychromic beauty of agates and chalcedonies, durable quartz, known as "rock crystal", is used. Incising a design on to hard quartz requires extraordinary perseveranceand skill.

The artist first obtains the quartz in the form of flat-based domes from a lapidary. He then scratches the outline of his design on to the crystal's base, and, in the traditional manner of all intaglio carvers, etches the "crystal" with the aid of a simple drill and a slurry of diamond dust and olive oil.

Carr would explain that the cutting was usually very deep in order to achieve what really appealed to him, a three- dimensional trompe l'oeil. The application of oil paints emphasised this, giving the image depth and reality. The uncarved surfaces were left plain and the finished crystal mounted on discs of mother of pearl or "bloomed gold".

Carr was charmed by such skills and he was able to sell intaglio crystal throughout the world. He specialised in the creation of imaginative cufflinks depicting game birds and animals which would sell for anything between £800 and £1,400.

Carr's second speciality was Victorian enamel art jewellery. Carr resurrected the reputations of two craftsmen, the Saulini brothers, who made jewellery of extraordinary refinement in the third quarter of the 19th century. Carr's own artistic heroes werethe Etruscans.

I shall always as a Scot be grateful to Carr for what he did to improve artistic production in Scotland, a country steeped in tradition. Ceremonial dress is worn at most major functions and Hamilton and Inches' silverware included a large number of ceremonial accessories - silver-mounted sporrans, Celtic buckles, sgian-dubhs, the daggers which are tucked into stockings, and dirks, the large daggers originally used for killing and eating game in the wilds and today worn with the kilt.

Carr was fond of quoting the great Faberge as saying: "Expensive things interest me little if the value is merely in so many diamonds or pearls." Faberge decreed that the emphasis previously placed on the value of the material used should be shifted on to the craftsmanship devoted to a given object. This encapsulated the attitude of Malcolm Carr.

Tam Dalyell