I have just started with silversmithing and I have a lot to learn. I have arranged a simple work bench in my appartement and bought some tools and other equipment. I have tried a little with filigree, which has a history that goes back several thousand years. In the Asia and South America there are craftsmen and -women of incredible skills, for example in Indonesia where my son got some lessons and he introduced me to filigree. Filigree is made from twisted and milled silver threads. The silver threads are formed in lacelike patterns and then soldered together. Tiny silver grains are also used. You can make the most gorgeous jewellery with this method. I have many projects ahead and I want to learn more about other techniques as well. Filigree is not much known in Sweden, but in the US there are several artists who use the technique. Victoria Lansford has tutorials on YouTube and has a web shop where you can by jewels and wires for filigree etc.
My work bench.
The wires are so delicate that you have to use a solder in powdered form. From Indonesia my son learnt to make an alloy of silver and copper in the proportions of 73 to 28. That makes a so-called eutectic point when the melting point is the lowest. The soldering is the most tricky part and it requires a lot of practice. It is of course essential to have a solder with a considerably lower melting point than the silver itself. I have already melted the silver several times by mistake which is a disaster, and you have to start all over again. Another critical thing is to make the construction of thin wires strong enough. There should be frame wire that is thicker than the filler wires to stabilize the work. You have to be observant to have enough jointing points between wire and frame. The Indonesian type of filigree tends to use very thin wires and a dense design with hardly any gaps. They sometimes glue the design to paper to stabilize it before soldering.
The most quirky house I have ever lived in. It is in Gotland and I have rented it a couple of times. Overgrown with ivy it looks like something from a fairy tale and children used to call it “the witch’s house”. What has this to do with silversmithing? Well it has once been a forge, which gives me a reason to show this funny photo.
The items in filigree that I have made so far:
I have also made a couple of so-called Viking chains. They are called so because the practise was common during that historic period around 1000 AD. Probably similar chains were made all over Europe. The chains I have made are “knitted” or “knotted” (hard to find the right word for it) from thin silver thread. After knitting the chain is drawn through a drawplate with holes of different sizes. The chain is repeatedly drawn through smaller and smaller holes which makes it even, dense and about 1/5 longer. There are many other methods to make Viking chains: braiding, twisting, knitting and making chains from multiple small rings. I will surely continue with this as well there is a lot to learn!
My Viking chains: one is double knitted with slightly thicker thread. The silverthread is 26 and 28 gauge fine silver.