Two years ago, I enrolled myself for evening classes of goldsmithing and jewelry design here in Antwerp. The course take place every Tuesday night, from 19:00 until 22:15. It is a four-year programme, and currently, I’m in my third year. I’m quite the fanatic when it comes to jewelry.
Since classes started again a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about what we’ve already achieved in the past two years, and what still has to come. And we have a very, very interesting year ahead of us. We will be making a couple of rings this year! Complete with settings for precious gemstones! Woop woop!
Maybe you are considering taking goldsmithing classes yourself? Well, I thought it would be interesting to show you exactly what we did during the first and the second year. Keep in mind that it is a very technical craft, and that the first assignments are not going to be as romantic or fabulous as you might expect 🙂 The most important thing is to master all of the technical stuff first.
I remember that, during the very first class of the first year, we started of as a nervous group, sitting at our working tables, waiting for the teacher to give instructions. We were quite a big group: we had to be spread out over two classrooms. Today, there are only 7 left of us and we are proud to be the die-hard core!
We were given a little bar of brass, and our first task was to file both sides of the bar completely flat. The purpose was to learn how to file properly: the bar had to stand on its own on the flat side without falling.
During the next few months, we were given two other bars; and the assignment was to file different shapes into the brass: perfect triangles, perfect arches etc. As you can see on the pictures, there are variations: some are fully shaped, others have one flat side and so on.
The second project was to make a bracelet in brass, with handmade and soldered links, with a handmade locket. We made our own wire out of brass, bent it into the shape of the links, and soldered everything together. As you can see, we made two types of links: large and flat oval-shaped, and smaller round links. Next, we sawed a flower shape out of a brass plate for the locket, and soldered everything together. The entire bracelet was sandpapered and polished.
For our third project, we were given a few brass plates, in which we had to saw straight lines and circles. I don’t have any pictures of this project, but it basically serves as a way to practice sawing in metal.
Finally, for our fourth project, at the end of the year, we were making a pendant in silver for a necklace. This was our first project in silver. I got some inspiration from Pinterest for an Art Deco inspired pattern. We sawed the design into the metal and filed and sandpapered everything. As you can see on the top of the pendant, there is already some oxidation from my fingers having touched the metal. You can sandpaper this away easily, but it is still something I need to get under control.
So all in all, the first year was very interesting, stressing the basic skills of goldsmithing: sawing, filing, soldering, sandpapering, polishing. During the theoretical classes, we were taught about the characteristics of metal (melting points, how to use acids, safety measures and so on), and we were asked to write a paper on a jewelry designer of our choice, which was also a lot of fun.
The second year was a bit tougher and we didn’t make as many projects as we were supposed to. We collectively had a hard time with one of the projects, the key chain, which delayed our work and in the end we didn’t have too much to show for.
So here you have it. Our first task was to saw a design of our choice (I chose a ‘house-key’) in brass, to solder on top of the larger, oval plate. As you can see, the colors of the metal are completely off on my key chain. This is the result of a difficult soldering process: it didn’t go very smoothly and basically the powder we use for soldering burned into the oval metal plate. You can’t get rid of that – lesson learned for the next time! Here too, we had to make wire from brass and make our own links. Next, we soldered the links onto the metal plate and sandpapered/polished everything.
I still thing it’s pretty though. The lock was an absolute nightmare to make, but hey, at the end of the journey, I’m really proud that we did it.
The second project involved making a piece with lots of little wires in silver. We made wire out of silver, bend it into the desired shape, filled it with smaller pieces of wire and soldered everything together. I made a necklace in the shape of a leaf and matching earrings. I filed a little piece of silver into round shapes to solder to the lock at the end of the necklace.
You can see that there is already quite a big difference in quality between what we made the first year, and what we made the second year.
And finally, this is a project of my own, I made it at home. I filed some rings in wax and I had it casted in silver. I’ve been experimenting with geometrical shapes and shells to make a ring with texture. I used my rings to practice my filing, sawing and sandpapering.
So: here you go! I hope you have a clearer idea of what jewelry classes might look like. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave comments in the section below. If you are interested in reading about some jewelry designers I admire, you can click here and here.
Happiness. Do it yourself!