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Silversmith


Description

Belly buttons, tongues, eyebrows, and noses. Piercing your ears is no longer exciting and risqu�, because people are popping silver rings into holes all over their bodies these days. Silversmiths are the artisans who create those hoops, studs, and posts, using fine pure silver to prevent infection, and for style.

Silversmiths do more than just make piercing adornments, of course. They are also the craftspeople who design and create tea sets, coffee pots, cutlery, candlesticks, chains, pendants, rings, and bracelets. Often, they imbed stones into their work, or incorporate their silver designs into wooden carvings, like clocks and chests. They use various techniques to make pure and silverplated items for us to use for fun, decoration, or practical tasks.

Silversmiths often work in studios alone or with a team of metalsmiths. They create pieces on commission, according to the desires of the clients, or they may make pieces to be displayed in galleries and sold in shops.

Silversmiths often work with other metals, such as pewter, brass, chromium, and nickel. They may study other cultures and historical periods and look to create items in styles taken from those influences. They also often strive to create modern, fresh designs when creating functional and artistic items.

Silversmiths also often repair damaged or tarnished silver for clients, or appraise special items to determine the items' value on the market. They may perform this work for museums, archeologists, and for auction houses.

While that work can be hard and time-consuming, the toughest job for a silversmith is in the actual creation of the items. Using torches, silversmiths solder metals together, straighten and shape the silver, and punch in designs, or hammer in shapes. They can heat the silver to a liquid, and pour it into moulds. They use drills, saws, and sharp instruments to create designs in the silver. Usually, their work is hard, involving many tools, speed, and accuracy. Silversmiths must be sure of their designs, and each piece must be carefully thought out before the actual creation can take place.
 
         Related Careers
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Programs Offered:
  • Fashion Design (BFA)
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$15,030
 
Median Salary:
$26,260
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$45,620

  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a silversmith? Silversmiths must be creative, and driven to create art. They should be willing to put in long, hard hours. They need good manual dexterity, steady hands, and patience. Silversmiths need to be innovative thinkers, who enjoy creating new things. Aspiring silversmiths should have some business sense, especially if they would like to make this their career.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer, or client about piece
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each creation
  • Use various techniques to create ornamental and functional items
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • The typical day for a silversmith involves meeting with clients, creating sketches and drawing up plans for the item. More time is spent preparing for the actual design than making it. When silversmiths actually get down to it, and begin making the objects, the hours can be long, and quick accurate work is crucial. Silversmiths may travel around the world to exhibitions, festivals, and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new techniques and ancient metal working traditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Generally, silversmiths work part-time, however, the longer they work and the more popular their creations, the more likely it is their talents can be put to work full-time. They work in studios, often in their own homes. Silversmiths usually work alone, or in collaborations with a few artists. They can set their own hours, and may work nights and weekends if working on a special project or design.
  • They may sell their original work in galleries, jewelry stores, or artisans' shops, or they may create special pieces made-to-order for specific clients.
  • Some silversmiths find full-time work with tableware manufacturers, or household wares design companies. They may work with museums and historical societies, making historically accurate re-creations or restoring antiques and artifacts, and work completing their own creations on the side.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Silversmiths can become full-time artisans, and open a shop to sell their wares. They can become instructors, and write books and articles on the history and technique of their art. They can become goldsmiths or clothing designers, or open a jewelry store or gallery.
 

  Educational Paths  
There is no required program to take or path to follow to become a silversmith. Often, silversmiths will study under the guidance of an established artisan, so it is a good idea to find an individual with whom they can work and learn. Some colleges and private schools offer courses in metal work, jewelry arts, and silversmithing, as well. It might be a good idea, for silversmiths who plan on establishing their own business, to complete a university degree or college diploma in fine arts, as well as a few courses in business.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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