How to become a silversmith (a step-by-step guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Although silversmithing has existed for centuries, it remains a lucrative occupation. This profession includes designing and producing kitchenware, ornaments and jewellery from sliver. Knowing more about this craft can help you decide if it's the best career path for you to follow. In this article, we discuss how to become a silversmith, list the responsibilities of one and detail the necessary skills to excel in the profession.

What is a silversmith?

Silversmiths are highly trained artists who create ornaments, kitchenware, jewellery and household items or art pieces from silver. They also work with other precious and non-precious metals and gemstones. Some silversmiths are generalists who can work with different techniques to produce various items. Others are specialists who work with specific procedures such as sinking, raising and chasing or making only certain types of items, such as vessels, jewellery and trophies.

Related: How To Become A Jeweller: a Complete Guide

How to become a silversmith

You may be wondering how to become a silversmith and pick a suitable career path. You can start by pursuing a fine arts degree or enrolling in a traditional apprenticeship programme. Whichever route you choose, the main objective is to develop enough expertise with the requisite skills, create a portfolio and secure a job as a silversmith. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you achieve that objective:

1. Complete a training programme

Several training opportunities for silversmiths are similar to mentorships or apprenticeship programmes. The programmes vary depending on location, but most last six months to a year. The main advantage of such programmes is that you can learn from seasoned professionals in a real-world environment. In addition, the heavy reliance on hands-on training makes it ideal for learning fundamental metalwork techniques and processes quickly. By closely working with a master artisan, you can learn directly and build the right skill set to succeed on the job.

If you find reaching a master silversmith in your locality challenging, you can still learn under a goldsmith, blacksmith or engraver. The skills and basic techniques are similar, and you can easily transfer them to silversmithing. Jewellery, silversmithing and allied trade professional bodies also run apprenticeship programmes you can leverage to learn foundational skills. Some distinguished bodies with standard training programmes are:

  • The British Academy of Jewellery: This organisation offers apprenticeships in jewellery manufacture and design.

  • The Goldsmith's Company: This organisation attracts young people aged 16–21 in London and the southeast.

Related: What are apprenticeship benefits? (Plus eligibility)

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

The most common degrees silversmiths pursue are bachelor's degrees in fine arts or higher national diplomas in jewellery design, 3D design craft or metal design. These degrees cover essential modules, including art history and smithing techniques such as enamelling and casting. They also show you fundamental aspects of metalwork in general before you choose to specialise in silversmithing. The programme also covers creative skills, abstract designs and drawing techniques. These aspects help conceptualise desired artworks, create figurative templates and plan the procedure before creating the object.

Related: A beginner's guide to earning your undergraduate degree

3. Build a creative portfolio

To attract clients, silversmiths mainly present their past work in a portfolio format. Portfolios help document previous creative outputs and show artistic talent to potential clients or employers. You can start preparing a portfolio of sketches and photographs from your training or school days. You can apply your creative skills when building your portfolio by telling a story with it. Apart from showing your technical ability, you can also send a message with each piece of art.

When applying for jobs, some companies may require you to send your portfolio in a specific format. So, it's good to be flexible when curating your portfolio and ensure it has excellent organisation. To make your portfolio more presentable, label each piece appropriately and prepare to discuss the fabrication process and significance of each work in your portfolio.

Related: How to build an effective work portfolio for your career

4. Practise and develop your skills

Becoming an expert silversmith requires years of training and practice. So, apart from classes and guarded training programmes, you can also immerse yourself in constant practice to improve your skills. Self-practice allows you to experiment with various patterns, ideas and techniques. As a result, you can quickly perfect the needed skills with constant practice and gain an advantage over the competition.

While in school or training, you can volunteer at a local jewellery store to shadow experts and work directly with clients. You can also gain inspiration from the great artwork surrounding you. Some large jewellery companies also offer internship opportunities for students to work and learn. The main idea is to get more hours of practice, build your skills and accumulate enough experience before getting your first entry-level job.

Related: 10 Important professional skills to develop (including tips)

5. Find your first job

Some silversmiths work with jewellery shops to create custom designs or with larger firms, such as auction houses and retailers. Depending on your career goals and preferences, you can pursue any of these career paths as an entry-level professional. Working with large firms can help you develop your collaboration skills as you're likely to work with other professionals. Also, the focus may be on designing crafts for mass production and less on interacting with end users.

Getting a job can help you put your training into practice and learn more in a fast-paced setting. Entry-level professionals with such career preferences usually work with other private art studios or small retail galleries to gather the needed experience. This work setting requires socialisation and direct communication with clients. Many such studios and galleries are eager to give recent graduates entry-level opportunities.

Related: How to go about finding a new job

6. Pursue continued education

Metalsmithing techniques are advancing and incorporating modern technologies to improve artworks. One such advanced technology is electroforming. It's a process that combines sculpted wax forms and electroplating to create vessels and sculptures. Also, there are modern tools and software for conceptualising artistic ideas, drawing designs, creating patterns and displaying artworks. Examples include laser welders, 2D and 3D CAD software packages and digital art galleries. These call for continued education to advance with the latest trends and remain relevant in the industry.

Continued education can be in the form of seminars, workshops and advanced training programmes. Most professional associations organise such programmes and training to help artisans improve their skills and be aware of the latest industry trends. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can pursue a master's degree to explore more creative and experimental processes in your work. A master's programme also offers the opportunity to specialise in highly technical areas and provide solutions to industry problems.

What does a silversmith do?

A silversmith's responsibility revolves around producing pieces of silverware from precious metals. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • assessing materials to ensure they meet the required standards

  • communicating designs, job outcomes and modalities with clients

  • sourcing and ordering gemstones, precious metals and other materials

  • filing, sawing, hammering, soldering and polishing silver to produce jewellery and utensils

  • working with other metalwork-making materials such as gold, brass, copper, platinum, palladium, resins and glass

  • carrying out repair works on deformed pieces and remodelling old works

  • designing jewellery and household equipment models for mass production

  • handling specialised equipment and processing silversmithing materials

  • pursuing continued education through training, workshops and seminars

  • networking and marketing activities to get new clients

Skills for a silversmith to possess

The following are some skills that can help you succeed as a silversmith:

Manual dexterity

Most silversmithing processes and techniques require excellent eye-hand coordination. Hand skills such as hammering, filing, soldering, polishing, sewing and finishing are vital in silversmithing's daily activities. Silversmiths are exceptional at working with their hands and take pleasure in practical work.

Creativity

Fabricating an object from the imaginative to the production stage demands the utmost creativity. Silversmiths often rely on this skill to offer practical solutions to design problems. For example, they may combine techniques or invent a new process or tool to achieve the highest level of craft.

Attention to detail

The beauty of artworks usually lies in the fine details. This skill separates expert professionals from their peers. They are thorough with their work and quick to spot design flaws.

Read more: How to improve your attention to detail

Proficiency with speciality tools and techniques

Silversmiths work with simple tools, such as hammers, chisels or pliers and highly complex machines, such as laser cutters. They also use several techniques in shaping metals to obtain the best-finished product. They're highly proficient in operating and maintaining tools and machines.

Communication skills

Silversmiths discuss ideas, design models and job output with several clients. They also work with other professionals, including spinners and engravers. Practical communication skills, such as active listening, note-taking and oral and written communication, are critical for building relationships.

Read more: How to improve your communication skills

Marketing and sales

Networking and sourcing for new clients are critical to staying competitive. Professionals require essential marketing and sales skills, such as prospecting, cold calling, pitching and lead generation. They also need the ability to negotiate and close deals.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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