We’ve seen our share of memorable projects over the past 46 years. Here are some of our recent favorites.
We’ve been busy San Francisco silversmiths since 1977, working on thousands of precious heirlooms, legendary pieces of art, world-renown trophies, and just about anything else that’s brought in.
It’s just about impossible to pick our Top Five (or Top 100, to be honest) projects we’ve worked on over the past 46 years. So, we chose the top ones that we remember. Ha! Ask us next time you come in — we might rattle off a whole new list.
Here are our Top Five memorable projects (as of May 2, 2023!) in no particular order:
The most noteworthy trophy in sailing history arrived at Biro & Sons shortly after the BMW Oracle team won the 33rd America’s Cup regatta in 2010. Well, the trophy and a handful of armed guards who were in charge of its security wherever it traveled.
“There was always a guard in the room when we were working on it,” laughs Rick Biro. “Of course, there were times when we had a part of the trophy upstairs and a part downstairs. That guy didn’t know what to do.”
In addition to a standard clean-up and polish, the Biros were asked to repair some damage caused by a political protester who hit the trophy with a cricket bat. “It was a little lopsided when it showed up here in its Louis Vuitton case,” remembers Martin. “It’s sterling silver, so we would take out the dents and polish it up. Then our engraver did the work on it.”
“We hope for a Triple Crown winner every year so we can work on that project again,” says Martin.
The project that Martin is talking about is the creation of replicas of The Trophy of Trophies, which is given out to winners of horseracing’s Triple Crown. The replicas are given to owners, investors, and horse trainers.
Renowned sculptor Roberto Santo — the designer of the original trophy — worked hand in hand with the Biros during the production of the honorary trophies.
“It was an amazing project that we’re very proud of,” remarks Rick.
3. Dirk van Erp Copper Vase
Dirk van Erp is a legendary coppersmith who created treasured lamps, vases, bowls, and candlesticks. The van Erp story begins in the Netherlands, where he was born in 1862, and includes stops in San Francisco, Vallejo, and Oakland. In the early 1900s, van Erp started designing and making brass and copper Arts and Crafts pieces.
This vase is a one-of-a-kind piece that van Erp created a century ago.
“We used to work with a small foundry, and the owner of that foundry used to go to scrap yards hunting for interesting metal that he could reuse,” says Martin. “He came in one day with this vase. It was dented and dirty, but he thought it was interesting and wondered if we wanted it.
“As we were looking at it, we found the van Erp stamp,” Martin continues, “and knew it was a valuable piece. We gave him a fair price and restored it.”
The unique vase sits in the Biro & Sons showroom as a display piece. “It’s a great conversation starter and story,” Martin says.
4. The Tortured Chicken Rack
Renowned San Franciso chef and restauranteur Michael Minna had an idea for a special roasted chicken dish that would be presented and carved tableside. He called it Tortured Chicken but needed a platter that lived up to the dish’s name.
“We made six of these platters for his San Francisco restaurant,” says Rick. “We knew they had to be as dramatic as the name, so we designed it with the spikes to make it a wow piece.”
5. The small pieces we love
Okay, yes, we’re cheating just a bit by picking a handful of things people have brought in over the years that we love. These aren’t the grandest or most expensive things we’ve restored or polished, but they are some of the most memorable.
“Oh, these were amazing,” Martin remarks. “I bought those from an estate sale because I loved all the scenes from ancient China. Best that we could tell, these pieces were made by Chinese silversmiths and given as gifts.”
After the Biros repaired and restored these pieces, a family purchased them all. “They put them out for family holidays,” Martin says. “You can see the influence of Chinese silversmiths on English-style tea sets from this era when they added bamboo designs and things of that nature. Really beautiful.”
“Boxes like this were very popular decades ago,” explains Rick. “People would use them to store all kinds of things, from sugar cubes next to a tea set to cigarettes on a desk to odds and ends in a bedroom. Often we’re asked to repair the hinges or broken lids, remove dents and dings, and then polish them up. Silver boxes like this are great ways to add a touch of class to any room.”
“We work on a lot of English tea sets that are handed down from generation to generation,” Martin says. “Really beautiful, and many have unique touches based on a family’s preferences.”
“Working on a family heirloom for the Gullion family is why we love this job,” Rick says. “We’re a family-owned and operated business. Our Dad still likes to tell us what to do. We’re incredibly close with our kids and families. Helping them connect with something given to their great grandparents means the world.”