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Hamilton and Co - Legend of The Lost
3297    Dibyendu Banerjee    14/08/2019

Hamilton & Co is the name of a famous jewellery and silversmithing shop, which once had a roaring business in the Colonial City of Calcutta. Established over 200 years ago during the peak of the British Raj, it started operating in 1803, when, after his arrival in Calcutta, Robert Hamilton, a British national, opened the store at 5 Tank Square, under license from the East Indian Company. Gradually, as the business was flourishing, he moved his shop to 7 Old Court House Street in 1811, as a better option and remained there until 1973, when after a long stay it closed its doors in 1973.

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Hamilton & Co, the first British silversmith in Calcutta, used to produce their decorative pieces made of polished silver with smooth lines and minimal decoration, mainly for the use of the British civilians. The silver works of Hamilton were characterised for their elegant shapes, without any unnecessary decoration, boasting the refined use of mainly plain design and consistency.

A street scene near Hamilton and Co
A street scene near Hamilton & Co

With the passing of time, Robert Hamilton wished to expand his thriving business and as he badly needed more capital for the purpose, he had to opt for two partners, Henry and James Glazbrook, in 1811. However, soon he lost his interest in the business, left it in 1817 and dedicated the latter part of his life to collect paintings, which included the works of the great masters, like Rubens, Velazquez and Holbein. During the following years, Hamilton & Co had many more partners from time to time and opened their branches in Bombay, Delhi and Simla.

Silver Beer Mug with Tiger Handle and an 1878 Pewter Beer Mug
Silver Beer Mug with Tiger Handle and an 1878 Pewter Beer Mug
Silver gilded Goblets
Silver gilded Goblets

Apart from serving the British civilians, Hamilton & Co also catered the Indian aristocracy and quickly gained popularity among them for its authenticity and unique artisanship. Rajas and Maharajas, along with the other rich and elite locals flocked to the store to buy the exquisite silver items ranging from dinner-sets to intricately carved vases and boxes and delicately sculpted tea sets.

Teapot by Hamilton and Co
Teapot by Hamilton & Co
Silver Table Cigar Lighter
Silver Table Cigar Lighter

The magnificent store of the Hamilton & Co, equipped with a dignified porch, was regarded as an aristocrat shopping centre of Calcutta. With a huge space dedicated to jewellery, ceramics and artifacts, it had a big workshop in its basement. The expert artisans working there were mostly Bengalis, who could replicate designs in vogue in the European countries.

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It is therefore quite natural that, within a short time, the store became the official silversmith to the ruling British in India. During those days, it was often said that, no European royalty would leave India without shopping from Hamilton & Co, as they were considered no less than Tiffany's or Cartier.

Silver Tray
Silver Tray
Silver Box for ornaments
Silver Box for ornaments

Hamilton & Co survived the aftershock of India’s independence from the British rule in 1947. However, the political turbulence during the 1970s, made them unsettled and unsure. Finally, they decided to sell off their legendary company.

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The Jalans, an old business family and a regular client of Hamilton & Co, were the owners' first choice as buyers, who took over Hamilton & Co. in 1976. Unfortunately, as the family moved out of Calcutta, the store did not survive for too long and the legacy was lost forever.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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