Our guide to silversmithing
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to silversmithing

First published date January 30 2014 Amended date January 30 2014

If the unmistakeable hue of a turquoise Tiffany & Co box brings you out all misty-eyed even before you discover the treasures that lie within, why not have a bash at creating your own beautiful jewellery on a silversmithing course. It might be that you have a special occasion on the horizon, and a handmade, bespoke engagement ring would be the icing on the cake; or it could be that you fancy some new silver bits and pieces to pep up your wardrobe? Whatever the reason, the ancient craft of silversmithing is a fascinating and practical past time to take up – and what's more, you are likely to leave the course wearing a beautiful silver item handcrafted by yourself!


What is a silversmith exactly?

A silversmith is a skilled craftsperson who makes articles out of silver such as jewellery, cutlery, trophies, knobs and pulls, and decorative items such as tea sets, candlesticks and picture frames. Silversmiths sometimes work with other precious metals such as gold, copper and brass and may also collaborate with other skilled craftspeople to complete a particular piece of work. A professional silversmith needs to become fully trained and qualified as the work is highly skilled. Take a look at our extensive range of silversmithing courses where you'll discover a number of full-time college and university courses for gaining a degree in this area. Try a three-year, full-time undergraduate course such as Jewellery and Silversmithing BA(Hons) or a course that includes goldsmithing and using alternative materials, led by an inspiring teaching team of internationally-renowned practitioners. Check out our handy careers guide on how to become a jewellery designer and before you know it, you could be working for global jewellery giants such as Cartier, Bulgari or Chopard and decorating the stars with your glittering creations (admittedly this may be a long way off yet!).


All that glitters...

If you've got a touch of the magpie about you and are attracted to all things shiny, why not enrol on a silversmithing course and learn how to create elegant pieces of silver jewellery? There are many options to suit your lifestyle – from a full time, week long course focusing on a single project where you will master a host of practical silversmithing skills to a bitesize, taster class where you can make a simple silver charm or ring in just one evening! All tools are provided and generally the silver for the first project is covered by the course fee, and then, you supply metal for further work. Everything you make is yours to keep at the end of the workshop.

Beginners’ courses will take you on a personal journey into the world of jewellery design, creation, metal polishing and finishing. As well as looking at basic, practical techniques such as marking and cutting metals, soldering and polishing, classes will cover health and safety practices and guidelines including advice on how to work safely in the workshop and from home.

Some courses will show you how to use silver, gold and copper, plus a range of other metals. If you don't want to make jewellery, there are opportunities to make a polished oval box or a simple fluted dish – and if made in silver, can be hallmarked by the London Assay Office.

Silver etching classes are another brilliant creative channel and will show you how to etch pictures, text or patterns on to silver. Etching is the process of using an acid and a resist to create shallow markings in the silver and is a great way to add patterns or text to say a ring, bracelet or locket for an extra special keepsake.


A beautiful skillset

For those who are already making silver jewellery (or have completed a few beginners courses) and want to hone their skills, why not take up an intermediate course? You will incorporate basic mounts and settings into your work, extend your knowledge of using hand tools and enforce the importance of accurately measuring and marking out the silver. Some intermediate courses will allow you to tackle several projects such as making a hollow ring from sheet metal, combining two or more metals together to add colour to jewellery and creating complex 3D forms. Advanced classes for the seasoned jeweller can be tailored around a small group and their needs.

Discover silversmithing courses on every aspect of this beautiful craft including stone setting, spoons and bowls for beginners, making silver beads and wooden jewellery with silver and pearl inlay.


What is metal clay?

As an alternative to traditional jewellery making which can take years of study and practice, have you ever considered a course in metal clay? Originating in Japan in 1990, metal clay is a clay based substance containing millions of tiny silver particles or other metals like bronze, gold or copper. The metal is mixed with an organic binder and water and can be shaped just like any soft clay, by hand or in a mould. When you fire the metal clay under a torch or in a kiln, all of the clay burns away and – magically - you are left with the solid silver or gold creation. There are many beginners courses on how to use silver metal clay and one of the medium's great plus points is that it is easy to continue working at home after the class without a big investment in tools or equipment.

Beginners’ techniques will include rolling out the clay to a consistent thickness, texturing and cutting out shapes, sanding, polishing and drilling, kiln firing and many more. For the more experienced crafter, an intermediate two-day course will introduce you to new techniques including how to make a stone set pendant and a syringe decorated ring!


By Lara Sargent

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