Metalsmithing: a modern necessity with a million years of history
In the modern day, metalsmithing enables artisans - like ourselves, to craft timelessly - elegant jewellery pieces that last more than a lifetime. As one of the oldest metalworking occupations, smithing has a long and complex history. Smithing techniques may have evolved but metalworking remains a key part of how brands like us shape the precious metals that are such a crucial part of our collections.
In this blog post, we’re taking a look back at metalsmithing and how the processes, tools and techniques have progressed right up to the present day.
A trade that shaped human history
During the early days, metalsmithing was more than just about crafting jewellery. In its most primitive form, smithing was used to shape tools, hardware, kitchenware, tableware, armour and weaponry, a fact that meant metalsmiths were held in particularly high esteem during these pre-industrialised periods.
The invention and formation of the plough really saw metalwork, and the techniques that make it, come into its own, with the craftsmanship delivered by smiths shaping the success of the entire agriculture industry.
The birth of smithing goes back much further
Whilst the pre-industrial age is seen as the peak of metalsmithing, the birth of forging – one of the most established forms of metalworking – dates back much further. The roots of metalsmithing even predate history itself, with early humans thought to have first explored techniques after mastering how to make and control fire.
Records show that humans first started to use forging in 4,000 BC, with bronze and iron just a handful of the metals that were forged to make tools and weapons.
Heat treatment came in handy even earlier
The heat treatment that makes forging and smithing possible however is thought to date back to 1,000 BCE when the Greeks used heat to make their weapons harder. These early forging methods were not just useful, they helped people who were wealthy enough to own metals to showcase their affluence further.
The Greeks were extremely passionate about forging. So much so, they had a god dedicated to the art as Britannica details:
“As god of fire, Hephaestus became the divine smith and patron of craftsmen; the natural volcanic or gaseous fires already connected with him were often considered to be his workshops. In art, Hephaestus was generally represented as a middle-aged bearded man, although occasionally a younger, beardless type is found.”
An introduction to modern-day metalsmithing
Whilst throughout history, smithing was regarded as a rugged discipline, the use of more advanced tools, techniques and materials has seen this craft evolve into an art form. Modern methods can be used to manipulate metal into intricate shapes to ensure the most stunning finished pieces. This doesn’t mean more established techniques are left in the dust, however.
An increasing number of artisans are going back to basics, using annealing, soldering, sinking, casting and forging to create unique looks that jewellery lovers adore. Granulation is a smithing technique we call on when creating many of our designs, with the ridges, ripples, valleys and barnacle-like textures guaranteeing a refined yet rustic finish that’s simply stunning to look at and even more satisfying to wear.
Whether searching for your (or her) engagement ring or looking for a statement piece that’ll up the style stakes, our love of metalsmithing and gemstone jewellery is your route to a beautiful piece. Shop our collections today.