This week's Living National Treasure is John Timms, the man who leads the team that stamps gold lettering into thousands of Smythson items each year. He spoke to Tessa Waugh.

John Timms, Smythson’s chief gold stamper, is descended from a long line of London-based print workers – his father was a copperplate engraver, his grandfather a printer and his great-grandfather a typesetter.

The luxury stationer was established in 1887 and boasts three Royal Warrants; Mr Timms works out of its New Bond Street store with a machine that uses heat to apply gold or silver foil to an array of wedding albums, visitors’ books, game books and sleek, personalised diaries.

‘It’s very painstaking when you’re learning,’ admits Mr Timms, ‘but it gets easier and a simple job like applying two initials to the bottom right-hand side of a book can be done in 10 minutes.’

National Treasures - Smythson Hand stamping letters and motifs by John. Pictures by Richard Cannon on Monday 11th December 2017

©Richard Cannon/Country Life

Most of Mr Timms’s work is completed on the shop floor while the customer waits.

‘There are eight typefaces to choose from,’ he explains.

‘I put the letters in a slip case and space accordingly, then put the slip case into the head of the machine when it’s heated up sufficiently to melt the adhesive on the back of the silver or gold foil.’

Any item of Smythson’s British-made leather accessories – from notebooks to passport covers and handbag tags – can be stamped by one of the six- to seven-strong gold-stamping team, most frequently with initials or, sometimes, with a whole sentence.

National Treasures - Smythson Hand stamping letters and motifs by John. Pictures by Richard Cannon on Monday 11th December 2017

©Richard Cannon/Country Life

‘Gold stamping has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the past few years,’ adds Mr Timms.

‘The younger generation is very curious and appreciative of artisan work and they’re the ones driving the trend.’

www.smythson.com/us/make-it-personal