What is a Silversmith?
Silversmiths create unique silver items by combining their artistic talent and metalworking skills. As a trained silversmith, you can design and manufacture jewelry, repair and/or restore damaged silverware, or even appraise the market value of antiques.
How Do I Become a Silversmith?
One way is to go through an apprenticeship program, which enables you to study and train under the supervision of a master silversmith. This path usually requires a fee, but you may also be able to exchange work for the cost. Apprenticeships are one of the best ways to get on-the-job training, and some metalworking companies offer apprenticeship programs.
Other up-and-coming silversmiths complete certificate programs at a trade school or community college. You can enroll in metalworking and/or fabricating classes as well as study how to make custom designs and do engraving. As a student you could work on jewelry, sculptures, decorative items, art and more.
What Other Traits Might be Important?
Silversmiths should possess good hand-eye coordination, because you will be selecting appropriate tools to complete certain tasks. It’s also important to be physically strong since you will be hammering metal, especially for custom artifacts.
Who Can I Learn From?
A good silversmith mentor will share the most important tools you need for your new profession. For example, in metal sawing, you’ll want to have a good saw with high-quality but cost-effective blades. Silversmithing hammers are another important tool. A rawhide or plastic mallet can bend and form metal into just about any shape you need. You will also learn how to use a soldering iron or torch, and finish that up with filing.
What Other Tasks Will I Learn?
In your silversmith training, you will also learn how to use a pickling solution. Pickling cleans silver jewelry pieces before and after soldering. After pickling, you will perform what’s called “finishing,” which includes tasks such as texturing or burnishing to give a special look to jewelry, buffing out imperfections, and polishing to enhance the beauty.
What is Patination?
You also may add a special touch to silver products with patination, made of metal alloys, like copper, bronze, and more. When they are exposed to chlorides, they take on a green pigment, similar to the Statue of Liberty. An array of household and industrial chemicals can give you a variety of patinas: copper alloys can yield a blue-black color, liver of sulfur creates a brown-black pigment, and ferric nitrate makes a yellow-brown. Feel free to research more and create your own embellishments. Some silversmiths beautify their items with wax, oil, or clear-coats.
Where Can I Work?
Qualified silversmiths can find work (around 35K per year on average) in a design studio or metal shop. You may also become employed at an art gallery or jewelry shop. Some companies that manufacture kitchenware and other silver items could use a skilled silversmith.
You may prefer owning and operating your own business. Honing your skills in a design studio is a good way to establish yourself. While you’re paying the bills and crafting your talent, be sure also to sharpen your social and business skills in case you do decide to seek other employment opportunities. In addition, you’ll want to build your design portfolio and include photos of your best work to showcase your talent, vision, and skills. Your portfolio serves as a visual and tactile resume to bring to a job interview.