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Years of technical and artistic training are often required to become a silversmith. In many cases, a person who wants to become a silversmith will need to attend formal training through a metalsmithing or art program, though some master silversmiths still offer more traditional apprenticeships to select students. After educational training is completed, a professional silversmith will need to create a design portfolio which can be used to start a business or find a job in the industry.
Educational requirements to become a silversmith are not always set in stone. Many smiths begin with an undergraduate degree in fine arts, with a concentration in smithing, metal sculpture, or jewelry design. Smiths may then go on to obtain a graduate degree, or may choose to hunt down a rare apprenticeship.
In some cases, the educational path for a silversmith can be more diverse. Some may choose to go to an art or design college that provides a certificate of completion rather than a four-year degree. These programs may be more intensive, but are often shorter than a traditional college education. It is also possible to become a silversmith through self-education, using books, online guides, and community training courses to get a basic education in metalworking and design. Self-educated silversmiths may have more luck starting their own business rather than trying to find a job with a jewelry making company.
An apprenticeship is another way that a person can become a silversmith. Rarely offered in the United States, apprenticeships are somewhat more common in Europe. An apprenticeship allows a training smith to serve under a master silversmith, who will teach him or her the techniques and business over a set period of time. The apprentice may have to pay for the training, or may receive free training in return for working in the master smith's business. Apprenticeships, though unusual, can be an excellent way to obtain hands-on training in the great art of silversmithing.
During training, a smith will need to decide what area of design he or she wishes to pursue professionally. Some smiths are drawn to jewelry design, while others may prefer sculpture, decorative arts, or even mixed media art. Once the smith has chosen a design specialty, he or she may want to begin creating a design portfolio that shows his or her talent, artistic vision, and repertoire of skills. This portfolio will serve much like a resume and can lead to job opportunities in the professional world.
The final step needed to become a silversmith is to begin a professional career. A trained smith may want to operate his or her own business, creating custom lines of jewelry or sculpture for select clients. Others may want to work as designers and artisans at an established design studio. Learning business and interview skills along with smithing skills can help a new smith get started in the professional world.