Make*It: Follow-up With a Manufacturer

Silversmithing developed as a functional art. Historically cheaper than gold worldwide, artists around the world we able to use the metal to make pieces that were admired as much for their form as for their beautiful luster. Pure silver was too soft to be used for broad applications leading early innovators to combine it with other metals creating some of the first alloys.

Correctly making the alloys required following processes carefully combining exact ratios of different metals. Early silversmiths were equal parts laborers, engineers and scientists. This process entailed pouring the molten metals into graphite molds to form workable ingots.

These ingots are then forged into shapes. Forging was done by hammering, or later as the process advanced, pressing the heated ingots. To remove hammer marks the piece would intermittently be rinsed in an acid wash. Finer work is then done by using smooth faced hammers and polishing.

A piece begins the transition from ingot to finished product.

An additional challenge faced by silversmiths is that silver will become ‘work hardened’ after the repeated strikes of the hammer and room temperature cooling. As a piece becomes ‘work hardened’ the metal becomes harder to manipulate and brittle. To combat this the metal goes through the process of annealing. The built-up stresses in the metal are released by reheating the metal to red-hot and quenching it in water before resuming work. Molten silver alloy is used to seam different pieces together to form bigger or more complex works. The seams can then be filed down and polished to make a finished product.

Only a smoothed faced hammer is used now as a silver bowl nears completion.

Kope Silverworks still uses much the same processes as the traditional manufacturers to create modern works that are both reflections of the history and visions of the future. While a modern gas furnace may be used for annealing, but each piece is still hammered into shape by skilled craftsman. Kope Silverworks is based in Silverton, Colorado. Originally a mining boomtown Silverton has become a hotspot for winter sports enthusiasts and boast a thriving local tourism economy. Kope is a local business that continues the towns historic past, but is still looking for ways to thrive in the modern business world.

Torches using natural gas have replaced coal and a billows in the name of efficiency.

Make*It allows the Kope silversmiths to connect with other artisans and contract to manufacture works based on designs they select from the Make*It platform. This allows Kope to maintain productivity during any downtime during the offseason. The Kope employees enjoy working with other designers and are inspired by the creativity they have been exposed to through the online connection tool.

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