Saturday, August 5, 2017

Silversmith

          When one of our children was teething, my mother-in-law gave me three silver spoons which had been in her family. She told me that her mother had given them to her to teethe on when she was a baby since they were softer than the silver-plated silverware her family owned. 
        I looked up the silversmith marks on the backs of the spoons. Read More
They were all made in Philadelphia, two by D. B. Hindman & Co. who worked between 1833 and 1837 and the other by Thomas C. Garrett who worked between 1829 and 1850. 



Colonial Times
            The occupation of silversmith in colonial times brought prestige and prosperity. This craftsman held the highest social position among the artisans of the time period.
             Before the above spoon was made, having silver objects in one’s home represented wealth. Instead of putting one’s coins in a bank, the owner of extra coins took his coins to a silversmith to be melted and made into an object such as a teapot or candlestick. The silversmith marked the new object with the owner’s special symbol. This practice discouraged thieves, because a robber had trouble selling a stolen object if it had an ownership symbol on it. Contrary to this, if a burglar stole coins, he could use them anywhere without anyone knowing whose they were.

The Silversmith’s Methods
            To make a silver object, the silversmith melted the silver coins. Pure silver is very soft so a silversmith had to add copper at the ratio of 75 parts to 925 parts of silver to make the metal keep its shape. Besides silver and copper, silversmiths also worked with gold and brass which is made from copper and tin.
To form a useful object, a silversmith used a couple of different methods. The main one consisted of heating and then pounding the metal into the desired thickness. To make the desired shape, he needed to reheat and pound again. Melting and pouring into a mold is another way the silversmith used to shape metal.
            A silversmith joined smaller pieces to others by welding, a method that uses small strands of hot metal to connect two different pieces. He added some decorations in the same way, but also adorned the piece with etching or engraving by cutting lines into the metal. 

            Do you happen to have any silver spoons good for teething at your house? And where were yours made?

References:
Holden, Amanda. “Colonial Silversmithing Tools.” Ehow.com.
<http://www.ehow.com/list_6794397_colonial-silversmithing-tools.html> 3 Aug 2017.


Tunis, Edwin. Colonial Craftsmen and the Beginnings of American Industry. New York: The World Publishing Co., 1965. Print.

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