François-Thomas Germain

Dates1726 - 1791

At the age of twenty-two, François-Thomas Germain, son of the famous silversmith Thomas Germain, inherited not only his father's models, his huge atelier, and his staff of nearly eighty workmen, but also his royal and aristocratic clients. He supplied the French royalty with everything from tableware, chandeliers, inkstands, and church silver to rattles for the royal infants. Germain's reputation for inventive designs and superb craftsmanship brought him orders from clients as far away as Russia and Portugal.

Germain's downfall came as a result of strict regulations of the goldsmiths' guild, which forbade members to enter into partnerships with anyone except other goldsmiths. In 1765, plagued by the perennial eighteenth-century problems of late or never-paying customers, he formed a partnership with financiers. The guild forced him to declare bankruptcy, and he was dismissed from his post as royal silversmith. At the age of thirty-nine, his brilliant career was over; he died in obscurity in 1791.