Beyond Jewelry

I was not the first jeweler in my town.

When I moved into my downtown studio 3 1/2 years ago as one of several resident artists in a collaborative environment, there was already a sign over the studio that read “Jeweler.” The assumption was that all that had to be done was to add my name. But, I wanted to change more than that. Instead of “jeweler,” I used “metalsmith.”

Does the average person know what a metalsmith is? what a metalsmith does? And, how is that different from a jeweler? “Metalsmith” is a truer name for my craft than “jeweler.” Although “jeweler” does apply, “metalsmith” indicates more. Even though all three of the qualifying statements below the main sign mention jewelry, I wanted to communicate that I have skills and techniques that are applicable beyond jewelry. I am part of an artisan community within the American Studio Craft Movement.

metalsmith /met•al•smith/ noun –

a person skilled in making articles of metal


It is also helpful to understand the etymology of -smith as an English suffix that indicates a person of specialized craftsmanship, such as a wordsmith (writer). So, a metalsmith is a person with specialized skills in metal-related work.

I could also call myself a goldsmith, but that’s not all I do. I could call myself a silversmith, but that’s not all I do. Metalsmith.

Over the past few years I have found that using “metalsmith” brings some lively jobs to my bench. I have repaired copper kettles with disconnected spouts. I have rebuilt pewter belt buckles. I have restored Judiaca, including sterling silver Torah Crowns and Breastplates. I have polished challises and candelabras. I have constructed reliquaries and containers for dog remains. All of this is beyond jewelry.

Jewelry is my mainstay. It is the realm I most often explore, perpetually discovering new approaches to and with the same medium. Periodically going beyond jewelry heightens my understanding of jewelry itself. Of ornamentation. Of symbolism and association of the object to something greater and grander than the object.

Metalsmithing is a perfect marriage of art and science. Metal is an amazing medium that participates in the creative process through its inherent scientific characteristics and its versatile beauty as an element from the earth. It is my partner, bringing continual challenge and celebration to my process.


~ by gingermeekallen on September 6, 2008.

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