Goldsmith, Silversmith, Metalsmith… What’s the difference?!


I introduce myself as a goldsmith or metalsmith mostly because when I say “I make jewellery” as an introduction, people’s eyes automatically glaze over and they think  “oh, she uses Fimo clay, bead stringing or wire wrapping, whatever” and respond “Ya? My daughter makes jewellery too, she’s 8 years old! Isn’t she so talented?”

These things I *may* do in the course of my life as a goldsmith, but that does not define the work I do.

Telling someone I’m a goldsmith or silversmith also brings problems, the most common comments being: (1) “But your work is all in silver, I thought you said goldsmith.” and (2) “Oh. I have a silver ring that needs repaired, do you work in silver?”

I can honestly see the confusion. Let me clear up a couple of things by defining the usage of these terms:

The modern definition of goldsmith according to Oxford is “a worker in gold; one who fashions gold into jewels, ornaments, articles of plate, etc.”, however; the traditional definition is actually a person who crafts jewellery and other body adornments, doesn’t matter what fine metal they use.

You can see in the modern Oxford definition of silversmith a similar trend: “a worker in silver; one who makes silverware.” Interestingly though, it has retained the original definition: a person who makes silverware, meaning plates, bowls, spoons, forks, ladles, etc.

Today, many gold- and silversmiths are turning to a new term: metalsmith, “a person who forges or works in metal, a metalworker.” This transition is mostly because many of us work numerous types of metals, and not all of them precious.

Personally, I work with copper, bronze, silver, gold, niobium, titanium, and steel, so I would be classified as a metalsmith, however; because much of what I make is jewellery, I am also a goldsmith.

As with many things, numerous names leads to confusion, but each term says the same thing:

I’m trained to work with metal; I can repair your broken jewellery and tableware or craft you a one-of-a-kind piece that will be exactly what you want.

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