Silversmithing is the process of making objects from silver and remains one of the oldest crafts in the world. Silversmiths begin with a piece of silver bullion, and then use a variety of tools, techniques and materials to cajole the raw metal into a useful shape.
In the past, people used silver because of its natural antibacterial properties. But it turns out that silversmithing still has surprising relevance in 2020 - an era of plastics and other synthetic materials.
For instance, trophy making still requires the assistance of silversmiths. Specialists have to use saws, anvils, and an assortment of hammers to transform sheets of silver into something that resembles a goblet. Silversmiths will often spend many hours hammering and bending the material in such a way that avoids creating weaknesses that might compromise the integrity of the final product. It's a skill that takes a long time to master. The designers and makers of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, for instance, spent 140 hours creating the object.
Jewellery is another area where silversmithing remains popular. While many big commercial manufacturers moved over to machine production a long time ago, there remain a plethora of small-scale artisans, hammering away feverishly in workshops.
These producers create bespoke items to sell on modern jewellery marketplaces. Customers enjoy the fact that they are getting something that a smith made by hand. It is a mark of prestige and exclusivity, and it gives the item real history.
In the past, only the rich could afford silver flatware. Later, prices fell, and wages rose so that the middle-class positions could afford it too.
Today, there's a growing demand for hand-crafted tableware products. A lot of consumers want items with hammer marks - a sign of the physical human effort that went into creating them because it feels real and gritty.
Tankards And Cups
With the rise of craft beer, there has also been a large increase in demand for tankards and cups made of silver. As with flatware, the reason for this emerges from the material's natural anti-microbial properties. Just like glass, it can resist the growth of practically all microbial species.
Tankards and cups made of solid silver tend to carry a high price tag because of the sheer quantity of the metal used in their construction. However, as far as metals go, they are the best available option and remain popular in some niches today. Silver chalices are still in high demand from the faith sector.
Lastly, there are a large number of practising silversmiths who use their craft to create purely artistic or decorative objects.
For instance, Rosie Weslie - a silversmith, based in the New Forest - uses techniques designed to replicate the texture and appearance of tree bark, but in metal. Similarly, Glasgow-based Dominika Kupcova based in Glasgow creates eye-catching ornaments that faithfully imitate structures found in biology, including the double-helix from DNA.
Wrapping up, the uses of silver continue. Even in 2020, there is a thriving artisanal scene committed to extracting the best from this metal.
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