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Crafts: Silver

Silver is a precious metal that is used to make many (luxury) products and household items. Silver can take on many different forms through the application of various techniques.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection contains numerous silver items, ranging from tableware to sculptures. What can craftspeople do with silver?

Did you know

that the words for ‘money’ and ‘silver’ are the same in no fewer than fourteen languages? For example, in Spanish it is ‘plata’ and in French it is ‘argent’. This is because silver coins were the most important form of currency until the twentieth century. 

Beating and Embossing

Silver can be shaped by hitting it. A silversmith lays a plate of silver on a metal anvil and works the surface with hammers of different shapes and sizes. He starts with a large hammer for the coarse work and ends with a small hammer for the finer finishing touches. The piece has to be heated frequently and then plunged into water to ensure that the silver remains malleable. The term beating is used for the coarser work; embossing refers to the finer modelling of the silver. 

Beating and Embossing More information

Chasing

Chasing is creating a relief in metal. This is done by using punches, a ball of pitch and a chasing hammer. The semi-finished article is placed on a ball of pitch, after which the silversmith can apply the relief with fine metal punches and hammers. Silver is a relatively malleable material and this method is used to create images and ornamentation.

Casting

Like all other metals, silver can be cast in a mould. This method is mainly used for small objects and individual parts of larger objects. The mould must be flexible or constructed in such a way that the silver object or detail can be removed from it after cooling and hardening.

Engraving

Images, designs and lettering can be engraved in silver with a burin or an engraving tool made of hard metal. Small amounts of silver are removed from the surface in the process.

Sawing

Thin sheets of silver can be sawn. The silversmith can also make patterns with a fretsaw. Simple motifs can be created with a single tap of a punch.