Coin silver is not normally sterling silver (92.5% pure), which is
typical in jewelry. Unless you were up to the challenge of
alloying and milling your own sheet and wire, the only practical
use I can see for silver coin would be in casting.
Two suppliers for sterling stock (sheet, wire, casting grain) and
other jewelry supplies are Rio Grande (800-545-6566) and IJS
(800-545-6540). They are both in New Mexico. They both offer
catalogs of tools and supplies, in addition to stones and metals.
When you buy sterling stock, you are paying the “spot” or market
price for the silver, plus a fabrication charge to get it in the
form you want it. Sheet and round wire have relatively low
charges, while the more specialized forms have higher charges.
These fabrication charges are added, per ounce of silver, to the
total weight of the silver you are buying.
There are usually discounts on the fabrication charges as the total
weight of your order increases. To compare the prices of two
vendors, all you have to do is compare their fabrication charges.
As far as tools go… it all depends on your priorities and your
budget. I would consider a bench pin, jeweler’s saw and blades,
torch, pickle (crock) pot, some files and a flex-shaft or Dremel
to be bare necessities. Wire wrapping folks could show you how to
get by for a while without the torch! You could also do cold
connections (riveting) which could allow you to get by without a
torch for a while. I also consider books on the subject to be
A lot of the tools I consider essential are, to be honest, either
luxuries or time-savers. I often have to remind myself that
Native American jewelers were doing great work 100 years ago with
an extremely limited selection of tools.
I think most people here would agree that you should by the best
tools you can afford at the time. A well-made tool will last a
lifetime, giving greater economy than the cheaper tools that break
in a year, or two.
If you have a local community college, see if they offer a jewelry
class. It’s a great way to get access to tools and equipment you
can’t yet afford, You also get a chance to try some stuff to see
what’s most important to the work you want to do.
Good luck, and bear in mind that the quest for the Perfect Tool is
never ending… although Dave Arens’ Koil Kutter comes close.
You can always use some tool or piece of equipment that you don’t
Charlotte, NC (USA)