4 PM on a Monday afternoon, I find myself standing at the counter in the Pitlochry tourism office with a post card featuring a Damascus iron and gold belt buckle in hand enquiring if I might use their phone; at that moment I had not a clue who-in-the-universe Malcolm Appleby was. (To any of his connoisseurs of forty years who might be reading this page, I now realise how very incredible that must seem.) All I knew was that Malcolm (and the love of his life and business partner Philippa Swann) lived within 'striking distance' of where I stood and if the photo was any indication I needed to meet this artisan. They were gracious enough to embrace my spontaneity and provide directions to their home and workshop; three hours later, with their dinner cold, I took my leave with samples for Thistle & Broom, a pair of earrings ordered and a new trading partner.
He started his career as an engraver in 1968, developing new techniques for silver engraving and in fusing gold onto steel ~ his famous Raven Gun being housed in the Royal Armouries, he is now one of the foremost gun engravers in the United Kingdom. His extensive commissions include (but are hardly limited to) being the first silversmith (1987) commissioned by The Silver Trust for a fabulous condiment set to be used at 10 Downing Street; a year later (in 1988) he began work on his commission for the permanent collections of the National Museums of Scotland ~ a fantastic 57 cm tall standing cup with a cover of raised, engraved and pierced silver with two shades of gilt, the tiniest bit of enamel and crystal; a Sculptural Tablepiece for Bute House (1999) in which he incorporated the historic and current assay marks of Scotland in the design; the Royal Medal awarded annually by the Royal Society of Edinburgh; an engraved silver teapot and gold beaded silver bowl for Perth Art Gallery and Museum (2000); the engraving of the orb on the Prince of Wales Coronet, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes Trophy for De Beers, and the 500th anniversary silver cup for the London Assay Office (cheekily he had the piece hallmarked in Edinburgh instead of London). He is nothing short of a wonder of various talents always in demand.
To his workshop nestled in Perthshire people the world over come to see and buy his glorious work. His designs can be organic, fantastic or historic. You might find gemstones, precious and more pedestrian metals, with the precious hidden to wear extravagantly against the skin and as often as not his sense of humour finds resonance within the final product. His work is priced from £35 to £60,000, that such a gifted artist /craftsman should grace Thistle & Broom humbles me beyond words. Thank you so very much Malcolm.