Silversmiths work predominantly with silver, although they will often work with other metals such as gold, platinum, copper and brass. They will make items such as cups, plates, bowls, candlesticks, cutlery and very often jewellery. Silver has been used for thousands of years. The techniques employed by silversmiths today can be traced back to ancient times, with only a few modifications with the advent of electricity and modern manufacturing techniques.
There are many different techniques used by silversmiths such as forging, casting, soldering, welding, cutting, carving and cold-joining where adhesives or rivets may be used. Different finishes are created by polishing a piece to make it highly reflective and shiny, rubbing the cast silver with a rough cloth to create a 'brushed' effect, or hammering a piece with different size hammers to create different patterns and shapes. The demand for silver products is still high and people now look for very modern pieces of design or jewellery as well as the older, more traditional artefacts.
Courses in silversmithing are generally balanced between the art and making of objects and the theory and history behind the craft. Most of the relevant courses that are available in the UK contain at least some elements of jewellery making and the design, making and manufacture of larger and more functional pieces of work. The innovation and development of practical projects utilising different skills is actively encouraged on all courses. Some of the areas of study that may be available to you are listed below, but it is best to check with the institutions themselves before submitting an application.
Example areas of study
- Drawing studies and techniques
- Craft and production techniques
- Jewellery making
- Precious and non-precious metals
- Design management
- Materials and processes
- Theory and science of metals and materials
- History and theory of art and design
- Design, presentation and manufacture
- Computer-aided design
- Designing in wood, metals and plastics
- Twentieth-century design
- Project management
Some career possibilities
With a silversmithing qualification you may be able to gain employment or become self employed within the jewellery or silversmithing industry including retail and management. Employment opportunities may also be available in interior design, product design, metalwork, art therapy or teaching. Employment is often offered through the work placements which are available as a part of most courses.
What do I need to get on a course?
Entry requirements vary from institution to institution so it is best to check with them directly. The list below will give you an idea of the qualifications that are needed to pursue a silversmithing course.
- UCAS Tariff: 160-240 points
- A-levels: CC-CCC including a relevant art subject
- SQA Advanced Highers: CC-CCC including a relevant art subject
- Irish Leaving Certificates: CCCCCC
- HND: in a relevant subject, this may also allow entry onto years 2 or 3 of a relevant degree course
- Art Foundation
- BTEC ND: DMM - DDM in a relevant art-based subject
- International Baccalaureate: 28 points
- Access Course: relevant subjects for mature students
For your application or interview the following may be useful:
- A good appreciation and understanding of three-dimensional design
- Good drawing abilities
- A good portfolio may be required. This should include designs and photographs of finished pieces that you have produced as part of previous study and in your own time. You should be able to discuss each piece with confidence at your interview
- Good and demonstrable creative abilities, manual dexterity and visual interpretation
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk