Silversmiths Work - Part 1 by Christopher dresser

Monday, 30 September 2002 08:55 AM BST

Contributed by: Jerry Green

The need for silver and gold items to be designed using a minimum of material due to the high value of the material. Principles of Design - XXVI by Christopher Dresser PHD FLS etc from Cassell's Technical Educator.

Continuing our consideration of hollow vessels, we have now to notice silversmith's work, and here we may observe that while the material with which we have now to deal differs in character widely from that of which those vessels already considered have been formed, yet that many principles which have been enunciated are equally applicable to the objects now under consideration. Silver objects, like those formed of clay or glass, should perfectly serve the end for which they have been formed; also' the fact that ornament applied to rounded surfaces should be adapted for being viewed in perspective remains as binding on us as before; but herein the works of the silversmith differ from those already considered - they are formed of a material of intrinsic value, which is not the case with articles of earthenware or glass.

Silver and gold being materials of considerable worth, it is necessary that the utmost economy be observed in using them, and in order to effect this a special mode of construction must be resorted to. If we propose to ourselves the formation of a sugar basin of semi-circular shape, of what thickness must the metal be in order that it may not bend when lifted? It is obvious that the vessel must not yield its shape to ordinary pressure, nor be subject to alterations of form when in ordinary use; but if it is to be formed throughout of metal of such thickness as will secure its retaining its shape, it will be costly and heavy, and an amount of metal will be used in its formation sufficient for the manufacture of two or three such articles.

Instead of forming the vessel throughout of thick metal, we may construct it from a thin sheet of silver; but in order that it may possess sufficient strength we must indent one or more beads in its side (Fig. 119); or we can form an angle by having a rim projecting into the basin (Fig. 120), or extending from it, and thus give strength; but the two beads are the more desirable, as the one gives strength at the top and the other at a lower portion of the vessel.

Modes of economising material, when we are forming vessels of costly substance are of the utmost importance and should be carefully thought out. If the designer forms works which are expensive, he places them beyond the reach of those who might otherwise enjoy them, and if heavy they appear clumsy in the hands of those accustomed to delicate and beautiful objects.

Besides this, works in silver and in gold are always in danger of being destroyed, owing to the intrinsic value of these metals; and if stolen, the theft is promptly hidden in the melting pot. Now if we form the vessels of thin metal, we render the money value of the material less, and thus our works are to a smaller degree tempting to the avaricious, and their chance of longevity is greater.

The precious metals are at all times perilous materials for the formation of works of art; but while we do use these worthy materials, let us so employ them as to give to our works every possible opportunity for long existence. If a work is to be so formed that it may exist for many years, it becomes of the highest importance that those objects which we create be well considered as to their utility, and at the same time beautiful in form. Long existence is an evil in the case of an ugly object, or an ill-considered vessel; that which is not refining in its influence is better blotted out.

Let that man who will not seek to embody beauty in his works make them heavy with metal, so that they may tempt the thief, and thus sooner blot out his works, as they tend only to debase and degrade; but he who loves refinement, and seeks to give chasteness of character to the objects which he creates, may well strive to secure them length of duration.

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