Jeweller’s lament for the last of tattoo medals
Monday, August 28th, 2006
on behalf of Alistir Wood Tait Antique and Fine Jewellery
SOARING bullion prices could end a tradition which sees performers at the world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo presented with stunning silver medals.
Renowned Scottish jeweller Alistir Tait has spent years producing the highly-detailed, solid-silver keepsakes which are presented to key performers at the end of the Military Tattoo’s month-long run.
But the last medals from a set produced in the year 2000 have now been handed out – and the leading goldsmith fears the soaring price of precious metals means they will be the last.
The jeweller and gemmologist, who runs Alistir Wood Tait Antique and Fine Jewellery on Rose Street, Edinburgh, said: “These are absolutely beautiful pieces in Sterling silver.
“But since they were made the price of silver has risen almost 300 per cent, from around $5.50 per ounce in 2000 to about $15 per ounce today.
“With such sharp rises in costs it may be that Tattoo organisers will have to reconsider and look at some alternative commemorative gift for performers in future.”
The medals are around five-inches in diameter and show a highly detailed image of Edinburgh Castle. Each is individually made out to the recipient, given the unique hallmark of the Edinburgh Assay office, buffed to a dazzling finish and presented in a beautiful case.
Alistir said: “When I was originally contacted by the Tattoo they brought me an old, old medal and said they wanted to reintroduce them. Unfortunately the image was badly worn and the whole thing looked very poor.”
As one of Britain’s leading goldsmiths and gemmologists Alistir has a huge network of expert contacts across the country and found a specialist who was able to restore the image.
There were still numerous difficulties in producing the medals most obviously because they are too big and too detailed to be cast from molten silver.
Instead, a negative of the image is made in incredibly hard steel and then individually stamped onto each side of the soft silver pieces using around six tonnes of pressure.
Alistir added: “it is a process known as die-striking and is a very specialised job, but I found experts in Manchester who took care of that. That leaves the silver with a brushed effect, which was the opposite of the highly-polished finish favoured by the military.
“That presented another problem, because it is very difficult to achieve the level of polish required without buffing away the entire image. However, I also managed to find an expert in Edinburgh to take care of that.
“The result is stunning and these really are a fitting commemoration gift for an event as prestigious as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It is a job I feel privileged to have been involved in.
“If these do turn out to be the very last of these medals, then I am sure they will be even more cherished by those who are receiving them.”
The Ednburgh Military Tattoo is one of the highlights of the annual Edinburgh Festival, the biggest arts event in the world. Although a sell-out, the highlights are broadcast to a TV audience of millions.
The final performance of 2006 also marked the end of Brigadier Mel Jameson’s 12 years in charge. A Tattoo source said new chief executive and producer Major-General Euan Loudon would be reviewing many aspects of the event, which could include a decision on whether to scrap the medals in favour of another commemorative gift.
The final 27 medals were handed over to the performers at a ceremony in Edinburgh City Chambers at 11.30am on Saturday, August 26. The recipients were:
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
1st Battalion Scots Guards
1st Battalion Irish Guards
The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Regiment
2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Regiment
The Royal Air Force
Scottish Universities OTC
The Cape Town Highlanders
The Queensland Police Pipe Band
Band of The Scots Guards
Band of The Coldstream Guards
Corps of Drums, 1st Battalion The Coldstream Guards
The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas
The Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The New Zealand Army Band
Jiangxi Xishan International School Kung Fu Group
The Concert Band of the Army of Chile
Evendart Artistic Company
Top Secret Drum Corps
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo Highland Spring Dancers
The South African Highland Dancers
The Kevock Choir
The Watoto Children’s Choir