The Art of Metalworking

Metalworking is the process of making decorative or useful objects out of metal. It can create a variety of objects, ranging from jewelry and silverware to large scale structures such as ships, bridges, and oil refineries. Hence, there is a wide range of metalworking skills, processes, and tools.

The history of metalworking began a few millennia ago. Primitive human beings discovered the properties of certain ores. They found that they could produce metal by smelting ores, and within a short time, metal became an indispensable part of their lives. Metal’s inherent qualities of malleability and ductility enabled humans to turn it into weapons, tools, adornments, and other useful objects.

The oldest technique of metalworking is hammering. Around 2500 BC, people learned the art of casting, or pouring molten metal into a mold. Then, in the Neolithic Period, metals like copper, silver, and gold were shaped into jewelry, and later in the Bronze Age, there were a number of talented artisans who worked on ornaments, silver jewelry, sculptures, and inlays. The Bronze Age was a period when people started making bronze sculptures, and alloy brass was also produced around this time. The next major development in metalworking took place during the Iron Age, when iron was utilized for making a variety of useful tools and structures. It was not until the modern age that great advancements in metalworking were made, especially in the making of alloys and the utilizing of metals for industrial purposes.

In the 12th century, silver was used to be made into finely-crafted jewelry. Silversmiths started organizing guilds as a result of the enormous demand for jewelry. Exquisite silver wares and jewelry were also in great demand in Europe during the 17th and 18 century. Moreover, it was during this period that pre-Columbian America started dealing in wholesale jewelry supply of silver ornaments.

Metalworking includes hammering, drawing, spinning, and casting. Few of the decorative processes in metalworking are embossing, chasing, repoussé, damascening, enamel work, filigree, inlaying, and gilding. Forming is a set of processes by which metal is heated and molded. Hot forging involves the deforming of metal with the help of hydraulic presses and hammer. There are several types of casting, including sand casting, shell casting, investment casting, centrifugal casting, spin casting, and die casting.

The cutting processes transform a metal into a geometric shape, which will eventually be sold as a jewelry item or ornament. Cutting silver generally results in excess material and the finished product. The chip producing process is also known as machining, and it involves drilling holes in the silver. Milling is yet another process of shaping silver, and a milling machine is usually used for the purpose. Other important processes used include grinding, soldering, brazing, broaching, and marking out. Marking out or laying out refers to the transferring of a jewelry design onto a work piece. The final step of making silver jewelry is machining or manufacturing.

Metalworking is a broad term which incorporates industry, science, and metallurgy. It is also an art form and hobby for many people. It is an important practice that has brought many cultures, races, and civilizations together.