The Contemporary Goldsmith’s Workshop

December 1, 2014

at-the-bench.jpg In the 21st century, making jewelry is everything from simple craft projects using beads and wire to master goldsmiths forming jewelry out of precious metals and gems.

Some jewelry making crafts are easy to learn and achievable for hobbyists. Becoming an accomplished goldsmith takes years training and practice.

The basic workshop, tools and processes that a contemporary goldsmith uses are not dissimilar to what a goldsmith from more than four hundred years ago used. The biggest changes are the heating processes and the use of torches instead of fire and bellows.

The jeweler’s bench is the most important piece of equipment for jewelers working with precious metals and stones. Along with good seating, adequate light and the right tools, the jeweler at her or his bench can work comfortably for the many hours it takes to shape and finish fine jewelry. The primary equipment used includes a soldering torch, polishing and flexible shaft machines, vises and loupe. The tools of the jeweler include saws, pliers, gravers, files and hammers.

Jeweler's BenchJewelry Instructor with Student

Learning to be a bench jeweler takes time. The first steps involve learning to use the tools and building the fine hand skills needed to work at a small scale. A simple task of shaping a one-inch square of copper into a perfect square using files builds to more complex processes such as handmade clasps and stone settings.

Pins by jewelry making students

The more time and practice a jewelry student invests in building skills, the more she or he will be rewarded by successful outcomes. While the first years building skills can be frustrating at times, a jeweler who continues in the trade becomes increasingly proficient and the satisfaction of making beautiful heirlooms and working with customers and designers on unique one-of-a-kind jewelry is extremely satisfying.

Ann Cahoon JM ’02, a jeweler trained at North Bennet Street School, who also teaches part time at the school, says “the more I work at my bench, the more the work flows naturally from raw metal and stones to finished pieces. Teaching others how to build their skills has become equally important to me. To share what I know with others is deeply satisfying.”

Learn more about the North Bennet Street School Jewelry Making & Repair program.

Jewelry Making & Repair Program