World-renowned jeweller with Welsh roots steps in to repair historic civic mace
Bangor’s priceless and historic civic mace is set to get a much-needed overhaul by an internationally famous jeweller.
Royal Warrant holders Wartski have stepped in to help repair the silver staff used at official functions.
The jeweller served the late Queen Elizabeth II and used rare Welsh gold to make the wedding rings for King Charles III and the Queen Consort, as well as for the current Princess of Wales.
The highly ornate mace was gifted to the city by Queen Victoria in 1893 when she granted royal charter status to the Corporation of Bangor.
Over the years, it has suffered from significant wear and tear and, due to its intricate craftsmanship, had become too delicate to use. According to Bangor City Council’s city director Dr Martin Hanks, it had “got to a point where ‘mend and make do’ was no longer an option”.
“But the cost of sending it off to specialist repairers would have been probably unaffordable,” he said.
However, it was remembered that Wartski, one of Britain’s top dealers in fine arts, jewellery and silver work, had been founded in Bangor. The famous firm’s first premises was opened by Morris Wartski on Bangor High Street in 1865.
A member of the Wartski family – Isidore Wartski – had also been Mayor of Bangor at the outbreak of World War II and may have used the mace during ceremonies.
According to the council, when the Wartski family heard of the mace’s need for urgent and expensive repairs they wrote back immediately.
“We would be delighted to undertake this important work to a significant item,” wrote Wartski chairman Nicholas Snowman.
Mr Snowman was made an Honorary Fellow of Bangor University in 2015 and had visited the city again in 2019 to tour the city’s Jewish heritage sites.
Sadly, the day before he was due to sign the pre-typed letter he’d dictated agreeing to the repairs, he died suddenly at the age of 78.
But the chairman’s son and vice-chairman of Wartski, Hector Snowman, despite grieving for his father, went on to approve the decision.
“I think that shows the continued charity and caring of the Wartski family,” said Bangor Mayor Cllr Gwynant Roberts.
“Even in their bereavement they ensured his wishes were honoured. Those of a certain age will remember the Wartski flagship jewellers shop on the High Street, where the old Debenham’s building now stands.
“But their benevolence to Bangor is probably lesser known. They donated the Wartski Fields for public recreation use and funded so many charitable needs, especially for the deprived.
“Isidore Wartski’s quiet work helping the then large Jewish community in Bangor during the Secord World War by assisting refugees flee Europe was considerable. It is wonderful that the Wartski company has not forgotten its roots.”
The mace will be taken to London by city councillor Mark Roberts. It will be returned in time for the city’s official functions marking the 50th anniversary of Bangor’s twinning with the German town of Soest later this year.
“If the Wartski family had not stepped in to so very generously offer to repair the mace, there’d be a rather big hole in our city finances,” said Cllr Roberts.
“Craftsmanship of this sort isn’t cheap and it was really in desperate need of repair, but there are so few specialists in the UK who could undertake such intricate work.”
Wartski Jewellers have been long-standing warrant holders to the Royal family since receiving the patronage of King Edward VII and all subsequent monarchs.
After starting out in Bangor, the company later moved to Llandudno where it opened two shops on Mostyn Street, and would later open its premises on St James’s Street in London.
The family firm of antique dealers specialise in antique jewellery and precious metalwork, in particular the work of Russian court jeweller Carl Fabergé.
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