How to Become a Silversmith - Silversmith Career

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How to Become a Silversmith

A great way to become a silversmith is to seek employment from an employer that offers on-the-job training or an apprenticeship. Many jewelry manufacturing companies offer such programs. Participating in such a program is an opportunity to learn the craft from experienced professionals. There are also certain regions that have silversmith guilds or networks, which allow aspiring silversmiths to find possible teachers and begin an apprenticeship.

 

Another route to take is to start your own business. Although not essential, it is highly recommended to develop your sales, marketing, customer service and other business management skills while working for a jeweler before starting your own business. This will also give you the opportunity to perfect your craft while earning a steady income.

 

Silversmith Job Description

Silversmiths solder, hammer, shape, and anneal silver to produce items such as jewelry and kitchenware. Silversmiths work primarily with silver, although they may also work with other precious metals such as gold, brass, copper and platinum.

 

Silversmith Job Duties

  • Glue plastic separators to handles of kitchenware such as tea and coffee pots
  • Hammer out deformations in metal
  • Select appropriate tools to help form the shape of the product
  • Shape and straighten damaged or twisted articles using pliers or by hand
  • Anneals silverware such as tea sets, coffee pots and trays in gas ovens for enough time to soften metal for reworking
  • Outline designs from photographs, drawings or verbal instructions
  • Solder parts together and fill holes or gaps with soldering iron

 

 

Silversmith Salary

The median earnings of Silversmiths are $35,170 USD per year, and $16.91 USD hourly . Those whose earnings are in the highest 10% have a mean salary of $61,820, while those in lowest 10% earn $19,170. (1)

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal workers. (visited February 13, 2013).

 

The level of pay for silversmiths who are not self employed can vary as there are many variables that can influence salary; who the employer is, their level of experience and their reputation can all have an effect on earnings.

 

The earnings of self-employed silversmiths are difficult to determine, as their level of success varies. The final earnings (before tax) of a self-employed silversmith are calculated by subtracting all of their overhead expenses from the price they charge. Typical costs may include supplies, advertising, transportation, legal and accounting services, and others.

 

Education Required to Become a Silversmith

Becoming a silversmith does not typically require any formal education, although it may be a requirement among certain employers or clients of the silversmith. Many silversmiths are taught the trade by acquiring a mentor and serving as an apprentice.

 

It may not be a formal requirement, although it is recommended that aspiring silversmiths pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Design, or related program, as this type of education will give the student a great foundation in the fundamental aspects of silversmithing. Fine arts students often have the opportunity to learn art history as well as manual metalworking techniques.

 

It is fairly common for trade schools in North America to offer programs that focus on metalworking. These programs may be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years in duration.

 

Experience and training with computer aided design programs is an important skill to have, as much of today’s jewelry is designed using these programs.

 

Since many silversmiths go into business for themselves, taking a few business courses will allow students to earn how to manage their future business.

 

Summary of helpful coursework:

  • Art History
  • Metalworking techniques
  • Computer aided design
  • Marketing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Small business management 
  • Theory and science of metals and materials

 

Additional Training and Certification to Become a Silversmith

The Jewelers of America offers a Bench Professional Certification for jewelers, including silversmiths who pursue jewelry making. This certification involves both a written exam and a series of practical exercises.

 

Earning professional certification can help a silversmith advance their career by showing potential employers and clients that they are well versed in metalworking techniques. Certified Bench Jewelers also receive various marketing benefits such as an official certificate from Jewelers of America, a distinctive lapel pin and a press release (Jewelers of America members only) prepared by the communications department of the Jewelers of America.

 

Where do Silversmiths Work

Depending on the type of specialization a silversmith pursues, they may be self-employed, or may work for a furniture or jewelry manufacturer.

 

Silversmiths may specialize in:

  • Designing and fabricating jewelry
  • Designing and fabricating housewares
  • Producing works of art
  • Restoration of antiques

 

Silversmith Career - Work Environment

The various elements of a silversmith’s work environment can vary greatly depending on their employment structure. Silversmiths who operate their own workshop will have a much different workday than those who work in a retail setting.

 

Working conditions: Silversmiths often use tools and chemicals in the design and production of jewelry and other wares. They may also be exposed to extreme temperatures in controlled settings as a result of their work.

 

Hours: A silversmith typically works regular working hours if working for a retailer or a manufacturer.

The working hours of a self-employed silversmith may vary greatly, depending on the needs of a silversmith. They may have to put in extra hours every night to finish a product, or they may reduce their working hours by taking in fewer projects.

 

Setting: If working in a retail setting, a silversmith would be indoors, or possibly outdoors in a storefront, booth or kiosk

If working for a manufacturing company, a silversmith would likely work indoors, often seated at specially designed and equipped work benches

If self-employed, a silversmith may operate out of a storefront, workshop, garage, studio, basement or other settings

 

Personnel: If working in a retail environment, a silversmith may work with a retail manager, and sales associates.

Working in a manufacturing setting, a silversmith would liaise with product managers, jewelry designers and other crafts people.

If self-employed, the silversmith would meet with clients to discuss their custom jewelry or silver product needs.

 

Becoming a Silversmith - Is it Right For You?

If you are skilled with your hands, have an artistic flare and are looking for a unique career, becoming a silversmith may be an option worth considering. Below we’ve outlined a few positive and negative things to consider if you are interested in becoming a silversmith.

 

  • Unfortunately there is only a small demand for silversmiths in North America
  • The work of a silversmith can serve as a creative and artistic outlet
  • The earning potential for silversmiths is average
  • Many silversmiths becoming self-employed after completing an apprenticeship
  • There are an abundance of professions that require the employee to stare at a computer screen for nearly the entire workday; this is not true for silversmiths
  • Although recommended, post-secondary training is not a requirement
  • There is a danger of injury due to being exposed to chemicals and working with tools
  • If self-employed, a silversmith must not only have artistic abilities, they must also have marketing savvy 

 

Silversmith Career - Resources

If you are interested in finding more information on what silversmiths do, how much they make and other career details, please consult the following resources:

Society of American Silversmiths

Michigan Silversmiths Guild

Bureau of Labor Statistics (United States) - Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

E.J.Van Donzel (Organization United Nations Educational, Scie, Unesco). History of humanity. UNESCO, 2000. Retrieved 2012-11-11.

 

 
A career as a silversmith pertains to the undergraduate majors below. To explore other careers that are relevant to these majors, simply click on their links.
 

Fine Arts  

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