What Did Silversmiths Do in Colonial Times?

U.S. Colonial-era silversmiths crafted thick pieces of silver info useful objects, including teapots, flatware, candlesticks, cups and urns. The silver was melted at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and poured into cast-iron molds greased with tallow. They also pounded the hot silver into desired shapes with hammers and anvils.

After achieving a desired shape for a piece, a Colonial-era silversmith used a small hammer to smooth the silver before joining the pieces with solder and polishing it with pumice stone. Between 1699 and 1780, about 16 silversmiths worked in Williamsburg, Va.

Wealthy farm owners preferred importing large silverware from London, and many silversmiths made a living importing and selling English silver items. Most of the silversmith work in Williamsburg involved making small items, such as buttons, shoe buckles and spoons. Silversmiths also conducted repairs of silver items for wealthy and middle-class citizens.

Notable Colonial-era silversmiths include American-revolutionary Paul Revere. Following the war, he became interested in commercial metalwork, and by 1788 he had constructed a large furnace that allowed him to work with higher quantities of various metals at higher temperatures. Revere opened an iron foundry in Boston that produced cast-iron items.

Sequoyah was a Cherokee silversmith who also created a system for reading and writing in Cherokee. Despite his lack of formal education, he became a noted silversmith. He did not sign his items, so none of his work is certifiable.