Precious Metal



The skills of the silversmith are some of the oldest known to man. The creation of beautiful objects in precious metal is an endlessly versatile art form - objects can be tactile, weighty or beguilingly delicate. Their making is spectacular and violent - bashing with hammers, filing, cutting, heating red hot and polishing to perfection. The art of the silversmith is a hard-won product of skill, passion and patience.

It's also a strange world that brings together ancient and modern -with fiercely guarded craft skills, solitary makers, workshops filled with traditional tools as well as the latest in digital technologies and precision engineering.

Silversmithing is also one of Britain's quiet success stories. The country is now the global centre for contemporary metalwork, attracting students and skilled silversmiths from all over the world. Awareness of this new mood in metalworking is growing - museums are developing collections, British metalworkers are achieving ever-greater international accolades and independent training centres are committed to growing the craft.

Martin Ellis explores the world and work of a number of leading contemporary silversmiths, discovering how they work the precious metal to express their vision and tell their stories - from sacred chalices raised out of flat sheets of silver, to intricate objects reflecting back the life of rock pools, and fabulously be-jewelled ceremonial scabbard to mysterious silver spoons. He investigates how new generations of silversmiths are learning ancient techniques and how processes like Computer Aided Design and 3D printing offer new opportunities and new challenges to the modern silversmith.

Producer: Mike Greenwood

A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.