At last the silver women have a home

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Women silversmiths have their place - if not in the sun - under the bright lights of the fibre optic illuminations in the Victoria and Albert Museum's new silver galleries, writes Sarah Jane Checkland.

And so they should, because as curator Phillipa Glanville says, she knew of some 300 women silversmiths at her last count. "They tend to pop up after their husbands die," she says. "They were there all the time but invisible."

Exhibits include elegant salt cellars by the Huguenot maker Anne Tanqueray, who was based in London's St James, and a number of late 18th-century works by Hesta Bateman of Bunhill Row.

Bateman was fortunate in having three energetic children to help her expand the business during her widowhood, and her firm made its money through owning the first steam-driven mill for the purpose of flattening silver.

The display includes a number of items produced by her company for Garrards in London's West End in which they used their mill, and then pierced the silver into exquisite patterns.