Castro Smith is a hand engraver and jeweller based in London. Castro started training as a painter and printmaker. His illustrative and painterly style comes through in the design of his rings. His artwork is inspired by history, myths and biology - having always been obsessed with creatures and their creations.
He thought he was heading for a career in computer game design, but when he saw an advert for an engraving apprenticeship in Hatton Garden, the historic jewellery district in London, he applied, thinking it would be a good way for him to continue his passion for illustration.
He began his training with a traditional apprenticeship with the Goldsmiths' Company and studied with one of the largest engraving firms RH Wilkins. He started at the bottom, and it was there that he learned to keep the tools sharp, clean the workshop, polish, file and engrave. Just the way they held the tools took him three months to learn. He now makes his tools as it’s such a small industry you either need to have them handed down to you, or make them yourself.
The technique he uses, 'seal engraving' goes back to ancient times. A seal is always engraved in reverse and is much deeper than traditional two-dimensional hand engraving with a third or fourth dimension added which is deeper and finer and takes much more time to achieve. Traditionally the signet ring would bear the family crest and the ring would be stamped onto hot wax to seal important documents, with the Intaglio engraving acting as a signature, and the engraved image or crest reproduced in the wax as a 3D relief. Now, he uses his knowledge of engraving to create contemporary pieces and to experiment with European and Japanese engraving techniques, producing cross-fertilisation of styles and processes.
His style developed when he was rushing for an important deadline early in his career. He made a couple of slips with his tool and had no time to restart. So, he engraved around the whole piece with seal engravings, which people wouldn’t do traditionally because you can’t stamp using the sides of the ring. So, purely by accident, his aesthetic evolved from a slip.
In 2017 he was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust scholarship, and he travelled to Japan to study with Japanese masters under the guidance of Hiroshi Suzuki - spending many months in the workshop of master metal worker Kenji Io as well as his son Koichi, and his son's wife Mariko Sumioka spending time with Kashima Kazuo, and National Living Treasure, Mamoru Nakagawa. In Japan, he trained in Japanese metalworking, engraving and patination.
Originally from the North East of England, he now lives and works in East London. He spent three years based at the Sarabande Foundation which was established by Alexander McQueen and in 2020 moved to Holborn, Central London. He sells his pieces through Dover Street Market, Twist, August, Reliquary as well as selling all designs through his online shop and working on a bespoke commission basis.