As I am due to start the next term of my silversmithing class tonight I thought I’d share a brief description of what this craft involves.
Silversmithing is traditionally the art of turning silver sheet metal into a variety of hollow ware (dishes, bowls, cups, candlesticks, vases etc.), flatware and other articles of household silver or sculpture. It can also include the making of jewellery, which is what my course concentrates on.
Silversmiths saw or pierce specific shapes from sterling and fine silver sheet metal, using hammers to form the metal over a mandrel or an anvil. The Silver is hammered cold (at room temperature). As the metal is hammered, bent, and worked, it ‘work-hardens’ so becomes tougher to work with. When this happens the Silver has to be heated (annealed)which then makes the metal soft again. If the Silver is work-hardened, and not annealed occasionally, the metal will crack and weaken the work.After forming or casting, the various pieces may then be assembled by soldering or by using cold connections dependent on the design.
Silversmiths will also work in copper and brass, although this is usually confined to practice pieces due to the cost of the metals. When working on a complicated design it is useful to practice first in copper or brass to see how the metal copes with the design. This way if something goes wrong you haven’t wasted a costly piece of Silver. Once the design is perfected, it can then be replicated in Silver for the final piece.
This will be my 4th term on the silversmithing course and I was hooked from day 1. It’s amazing to see how a flat piece of Silver can turn into a beautiful piece of jewellery.