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[Rare eBooks] Silversmiths Handbook 1885


From our Digital Antique Books Library…

Silversmiths Handbook
by George E. Gee, 1885

This 1885 book (republished in 1921) was written by George Gee, a
real hero of the trade for decades, a pioneer in writing for the
jeweler, the goldsmith and silversmith. You can tell that the author
ran an excellent working shop - the voice of experience is abundant.
The book begins with a discussion of the silver price between 1870
and the end of the century, its effects on society and working

This book is intended as a thorough, complete reference for
practical workers in the trade and those learning. It is to
introduce science and and overall understanding of working with
silver to the workman. It is very readable.

It is an exhaustive, excellent, wonderful book. The subjects covered
are too numerous to mention - check the table of contents pdf that
accompanies this review.

The book gets into gear with fine silver and its basic metallurgy.
This is accompanied by history and stories, different cultures who
link silver and the moon, magics of various kinds. Great stories for
jewelry store staff and goldsmiths to use and know. The information
is pretty accurate as it is observation based. Sources and volumes
of silver produced are described, an example is: “the discovery of
another mine in the United States, at Nevada, of considerable
richness, which has yielded enormous supplies, we shall not be far
wrong in pronouncing the silver mines in the State of Nevada to be
the richest in the whole world.”

There is an extensive chapter on techniques of assaying, refining
and isolating silver from mixed alloys. This is an essential
understanding for the goldsmith, and remains accurate today. The
descriptions are vivid with biblical quotes and evocative

The chapter on alloys is thorough, and individual metals are well
described, including alchemical ideas and history, what the Greeks,
Romans and Egyptians believed.

The author is in love with filigree: there is a chapter on it with
pithy comments on the different countries where it is made.
Extensive technical notes make this the deepest discussion of
filigree making I have seen.

Many manufacturers made objects with low silver contents to avoid
the trouble of having the items hall marked - the British system was
still in the process of being fully implemented. Interestingly an
ounce of silver was about the buying equivalent of $ 32 today (one
shilling was worth about $ 8.00 in today’s value for buying power)
French, German and British alloys and standards are listed. There is
a great chapter on silver solders, dozens of extensive recipes and
instructions (as with all these old books you need to understand
safety before trying some of the recipes - some are very dangerous).

Melting, crucible materials, handling and fluxes are well addressed,
including which fluxes remove which impurities and foreign metals
from a melt. There is more on fluxes than any other book
I am aware of.

Further chapters deal with rolling (which was done by steam-powered
rolling mills by service companies), security and theft issues and
all manner of working the silver. Wire drawing (including the fact
that some drawplates were not hardened) is described. Bezel making,
snarling iron use, pitch recipes and making, the history of
industrialization in silversmithing, stamping, press work, hollow
construction, spinning, abrasive work, polishing (mostly done by
women), depletion silvering, pickling (including inserting the work
into a large lime), chemical plating (and recipes), electroplating
(and recipes), making batteries, scratch brushing, burnishing,
oxidizing and coloring. There is a section on making white metal
alloys of all kinds, tons of recipes, many with some silver in them.

A chapter goes in depth into metal conservation, especially
important now as silver prices rise. Recovery from waste water and
liquids is covered. Mandatory license fees and duties on silver
article are outlined, as well as the history of it ending in an
impassioned demand that the discriminatory taxes be revoked, as they
were not applied to any other field of work. Finally there is a
section on tips, tricks, alloy recipes, cleaning, plating recipes,
testing metals, aluminum solders, how to remove lead, tin and other
materials from work.

An excellent book for the serious student of metals, history and

File Size: 8.43MB, 258 Pages