Silver is extremely malleable and ductile and as such, it is highly preferred by silversmiths for making silverware and silver jewelery. Silver craft takes years to learn as an apprentice to a silversmith, or in some college or university offering such courses. Perfection comes only with practice. However, the basic techniques can be learned by anyone who has patience, and the right tools!
Piercing: Silver is cut to form a basic shape or to make a decorative pattern with a piercing saw. When creating a pattern, a small hole is drilled in the silver sheet to allow the blade of the saw to be positioned. The blade is then attached to the piercing saw, under tension. Blades can be coarse allowing fast cutting or very fine for detailed work. The blades are delicate and can be easily snapped. As such, work must be done slowly. The blade is held vertically and metal is moved slowly to make curves or corners. Blades are also lubricated by passing them through beeswax, which makes cutting smoother. The work is supported on a bench peg which is screwed to a workbench having a V cut into it so that both the sides of the cut are supported. Small shavings of metal called lemel are collected from under the piercing onto a leather or paper cloth, which are then recycled into new silver.
Soldering: Pieces of silver are joined by soldering. Silver solder, that comes in various alloy mixes but mainly containing silver, is used for soldering. Silver solder melts at a very high temperature and so a blow torch is used. The temperature required to melt silver solder is very close to the temperature at which the piece being worked upon would itself melt. To manage the temperatures, soldering and other torch work is usually done in darkness so that the color of the metal, as it heats, can be used to measure the temperature of the piece. Silver solder come in soft, medium and hard versions having lower, higher and highest melting points. Pieces where multiple soldering is required use hard solder at first, and work down the grades with subsequent soldering so that each addition does not melt or distort the previous one. Lead solder should never be used as its high temperatures cause the solder to run all over the silver, damaging and making it useless.