Jewelers often refer to their craft as metalsmithing, and a metalsmith is a craftsperson who works with or has the knowledge and the capacity of working with "all" metals.
On many levels, Metalsmiths must become a "jack of all trades," as they must know the various properties of each type of metal they use, and then how to shape, cut, saw, bend, or otherwise manipulate these various metals to transform their work into jewelry. Often metal sheet and bar stock is cut, sawn and then shaped using hammers to form the metal over anvils and stakes. As the metal is worked, it 'work-hardens', which means the metal becomes both harder and stronger through deformation. Annealing is the process by which the metalsmith uses a heat-treatment to make the metal soft again. If metal is work-hardened, and not annealed occasionally, the metal will be difficult to work and can crack and ultimately weaken the work.
When joining two or more metals, the metalsmith must decide to use a "hot" or a "cold" connection. A "hot" connection means that two or more metals are connected or fused together by applying heat and either fusing the metals together at a temperature just below their melting points, or by heating them and applying a solder to make a permanent connection. "Cold" connections refer to the process of joining metals together, not with the use of heat, but rather by drilling holes and applying rivets. Cold connections are a cool way to add texture and depth to jewelry.
If you are new to metalsmithing,we recommend starting with inexpensive tools at first to test the waters. If you find that you enjoy the process of metalsmithing, or, are a seasoned metalsmith, we recommend investing in higher quality tools. Smithing metals to create jewelry requires a dedicated, suitable, and ventilated space to practice your work. A sturdy work surface or a jewelers bench is essential to attach a bench pin to. The bench pin is the basic tool that you will use time and time again and is the platform on which you will do all of your cutting and filing. Working with a bench pin and a jewelers saw is perhaps the most basic of tools and skills that you will want to master as you practice the craft of metalsmithing.
Here is a list of the VERY basics to get you started:
- Jeweler's Saw & blades
- Rawhide Mallet
- Ball Peen Hammer
- Bench Pin Needle Files
- Steel Bench Block
- Round Nose Pliers
- Metal Sandpaper
- Flat Nose Pliers
- Steel Wool
- Side Cutter Pliers/ Wire Cutters