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Creating a Craft: An Introduction to Metalsmithing in Jewelry

Have you ever heard someone use the term metalsmith and imagined someone in an apron banging on a red hot piece of metal? Or, maybe you’ve heard that term and thought, “Well yeah, making jewelry is metalsmithing!”

No matter your previous experience with the term or the media, I’m here to shed a little light on what exactly that term means when related to jewelry.

Read on to learn about metalsmithing in jewelry!

Metalsmith Photo via Shutterstock/McCarthy’s PhotoWorks

What are smiths?

In pre-industrialized times, villages would house various kinds of “smiths.” Often, they were highly respected because they were able to provide the people with weaponry, farming equipment and even armor.

CoinsPhoto via Shutterstock/Miks Mihails Ignats

If you’ve ever heard the word smith mentioned in a history class, it was most likely referring to a blacksmith, but there are a other examples of smiths. A gunsmith makes and works with guns, a coinsmith works purely with coins and currency and finally — the most well-known smith — the blacksmith. A blacksmith is works with iron and steel and can forge everything from hardware to chandeliers.

Take these descriptions one step further and you’ve arrived at our topic. Metalsmithing in jewelry would be defined as one who works with metal. This includes a few subcategories if you’re referring to someone who works in one specific metal: goldsmith, silversmith, coppersmith and so on.

Techniques in metalsmithing

When talking about metalsmithing jewelry as a whole, an overall definition would be any manipulation of metal in order to create jewelry, but there are many techniques used.

Molten metalPhoto via Shutterstock/Alena Brozova

Each metalsmith uses their own mixture of some of the following techniques:

  • Using a jeweler’s saw to pierce and design in sheet metal, or cutting that metal with metal shears
  • Soldering, riveting, hammering or texturing metal
  • Chasing, repoussé, casting, bezel settings and stamping
  • Finishing techniques such as sanding, buffing, polishing and patina

Becoming a metalsmith

Where does one go to become a metalsmith? Many universities offer degree programs including jewelry, enameling and blacksmithing that typically fall under fine arts programs. Many craftspeople have learned their trade by working as assistants or apprentices to masters of their desired trade. If this is an area that you’re hoping to break into, I recommend researching all your options. There are many paths to getting where you want to go!

Learn metalsmithing and finishing techniques like heat patina and high polish in Craftsy’s Metalsmithing at Home class. Sign up today and turn your kitchen table into your very own jewelry-making studio!

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