Study notes for learning chiseling technique

Extracted from the handout prepared by Giò Carbone for the exclusive use of LAO© teachers and students.

The Greeks called toreutics the art of working metal in recess and relief. Under this name were included embossing, chiseling, carving and engraving, hammer pulling, forming on molds, welding, and assembling parts made with different techniques. The most commonly used metal was bronze, but silver and gold were also used to fashion ornaments enriched with geometric, floral or figurative decorations.

The origins of toreutics date back to around three thousand years B.C., to the Egyptians. Valuable embossed works have also come down to us from the Sumerians .

Decorative work on and with metals was considered one of the principal arts in Greece. Toreutics was practiced from the earliest times, and Homer often refers to the decoration of armor, brooches, and cups, accurately described.

Many examples of the toreutic art have been recovered from Mycenaean tombs* , especially the splendid gold cups from the Greek site of Vaphio (Vafiò), near Sparta, from the end of the fifth century B.C.E.: they depict vivid scenes, all embossed, depicting men hunting bulls.

In the Hellenistic Greek world, silver was the most widely used metal for work of this kind. Engraved and embossed silver vases were much sought after, in Rome, in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., and large quantities were imported.

Pliny the Elder lists the preeminent artists in chiseling silver. The most famous was Méntore, who worked perhaps around 100 bc. : his cups were highly prized in Rome, and Crassus paid 100,000 sesterces for two of them. Martial speaks often of Méntore, and Propertius compares him to Mys, who depicted the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs on the shield of Athena Pròmachos, a bronze statue by Phidias.

A pitcher made by Boetus is recalled by Cicero in the Verrinae.

[1] Cf. Treccani Encyclopedia, under embossing.

[2] *It is probable that the technique of embossing and chiseling on a metal plate resting on a yielding support (and thus very similar to chiseling as it is still practiced today) was first pioneered in the Mycenaean and Cretan civilizations, sometime in the 19th century BCE. Mycenaean craftsmen were masters of metalworking and goldsmithing.

The term “chisel” denotes the complex of a technique developed in two distinct stages: embossing and chiseling.

Embossing is the technique of making relief shapes emerge from a metal plate. The work does not involve any abrasion or etching but only a displacement of the metal.

The shapes are embossed (pulled out) by working from the back of the object, and the design will then be modified and finished by chiseling the work from the front.

The method of working allows for relief figures, by means of appropriately shaped tools (the chisels) and with the help of a suitable hammer, which can have different weights, depending on the volumes and surfaces to be worked.

The results that can be obtained are many: from the simple decoration of a surface, to the modeling of designs and figures that are detached from the surface of the plate, to the creation of objects in the round.

The metals that can be worked on are many: copper, alloy silver, and yellow gold, but also, with proper care, white and rose gold, soft iron, and palladium can yield good results.

 

Equipment needed

  • Some pitch (which each goldsmith/chiseler prepares according to his needs).
  • A base containing the pitch: usually a half sphere of stone or cast iron or marble or synthetic material, accompanied by a support collar made of leather, on which the half sphere can rest on and rotate during processing. 
  • A wooden bench or tripod on which to rest the half sphere.
  • A blowpipe connected to a gas source, or a heat gun.
  • One or more chiseling hammers (the most important variables are the weight and length of the handle).
  • As many chisels as possible. Very few shapes are commercially available, so each person will have to make the ones he or she will need.
  • An iron or steel badger to stir the pitch when it is hot.

The stand (the pitch)

Embossing and chiseling a metal sheet requires a support that provides both yielding and restraint.

Over the past five thousand years this support has been made of different compounds depending on the place and time and has had different names. Benvenuto Cellini called it “stucco”. Others call it mastic.

In many European countries and also in some countries on the American continent a reddish-colored, wax-based, hard, crumbly, inelastic compound is used.

In Italy, a compound based on oxidized bitumen (commonly called “pitch”) is preferred, black in color, and from which the final product takes its name.

There is no good ready-made pitch on the market, and unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the different components needed to make the compound one prefers, i.e., harder or softer, more or less elastic, more or less resilient.

The ready-made chiseling pitch found on the market is of very poor quality and its composition is unknown, which would perhaps allow that product to be modified by the addition of emollient or hardening elements.

 

 Short courses on this technique are taught at school by Giò Carbone

Some jewellery creations by LAO students

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31 August€ 300Enroll
Stone setting on bezelINBS.F12 Hours 2 Days18 and 19 September31 August€ 300Enroll
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Channel settingINBI.F8 Hours 1 Day23 September31 August€ 200Basic competences of stone setting techniquesEnroll
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Instructors Victoria Efremova* - Filippo Vinattieri
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Introduction to engraving on jew- elleryENJF.112 Hours 2 Days18 e 19 September31 August€ 300Enroll
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Stringing pearlsPEARL16 Hours 2 Days9 and 10 September15 August€ 500Enroll
Notes FLASH Courses***

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CAD.SE1 Introduction to Rhino3D for Goldsmithing. Evening or daily course 

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ZBR.WE 3D modelling with ZBrush 

First approach to sculptural modelling using ZBrush, a computer graphics program that combines modelling, texturing and painting in 3D and 2.5D. ZBrush uses technology that stores information about the lighting, colour, material and intensity of all displayed  objects. In this introductory course open to all, the student will be guided to the creation of a form with which he or she will build a  ring and a bracelet. 

RE.1 Diamond colouring 

Watercolour rendering of brilliant diamond cut. 

RE.2 Ink pen sketches and renderings 

In this workshop fast representation techniques are applied with the use of ink pens. Starting from different representation techniques  for flat surfaces, curved, cylindrical and conical surfaces, we move on to representation of cabochons and faceted gemstones, pave,  pearls and other materials. The aim of the workshop is to give the student the tools and methods to realize monochromatic jewellery  drawings through fast chiaroscuro” ink pen techniques that will give an immediate visual impact. 

RE.3 Rendering with markers and watercolor pencils. 

In this workshop representation techniques using alcohol and water-based markers and watercolor pencils are covered and  employed. Starting from different representation techniques of flat, curved, cylindrical and conical surfaces, both polished and satin finished, of precious metals. Then we move on to drawing of precious stones: cabochons and faceted stones,  

semi-precious stones, pearls, corals and other materials. The aim of the workshop is to provide the student with the tools and  methods to realize jewellery renderings through the use of fast but visually striking representation  

RE.4 Digital rendering with photoshop, illustrator and procreate.  

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EN.1 Segnatura  

Exercises on metal sheet and introduction to the art of segnatura. Drawing, writing with marks, and delineating geomet ric shapes on a metal sheet. 

EN.2 Engraved texture 

The course aims to teach drawing and engraving with a burin to create different textures and patterns. Starting with basic graphic ele ments like simple lines, participants will learn how to create more complex motifs, up to ornaments and abstract compositions. They will  also learn how to imitate natural surfaces, studying the structures to create effects such as bark or wood, animal skin patterns, or stone  surfaces. 

ENJF.1 Introduction to engraving on jewellery 

After learning the burin preparation technique and becoming familiar with the tools, participants will start engraving on  copper sheets and silver rings. 

ENJF.2 Background, granite, and silk on jewellery 

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ENJF.3 Cursive writing on metal plate  

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INBS.F Setting with different-shaped settings 

The stone is set in the previously prepared seat (setting). The metal collar is fixed on the stone with a chisel or a hammer. For the exercis es, semi-finished products with settings of various shapes will be used, and participants will learn how to set faceted stones of different  cuts (round, square or princess) and round cabochon-cut stones. 

INSG.F Flush setting 

The technique of flush setting, in which the stones are not covered by the metal at all, makes the stones appear larger than they actually  are. This type of setting is particularly suitable for small round stones, and is often used for “light points” and in tennis bracelets. During  the course, exercises will be carried out on silver or bronze plates and semi-finished products. 

INBI.F Channel setting 

Channel setting is one of the most common types of setting: this type of mounting gives beauty to stones arranged in a row next to each  other. It is a type of setting suitable for not large stones, usually all of the same size. The most used cuts for this type of setting are square  and baguette, but excellent results are also obtained with round stones. 

INSGR.F Bead setting 

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SMAF.1 Transparent enamels with silver and gold foils 

The course will demonstrate how to achieve bright and beautiful colours directly on copper using sifted transparent enamel powders in  combination with sheets of silver and gold on flat or gently formed copper surfaces. Participants will explore methods to enhance depth,  complexity, details, and maximum transparency, gaining essential information and skills for transparent enamelling and achieving a wide  range of colours

SMAF.2 Liquid enamel  

Students will be guided through exercises that teach them how to understand the material and how it will respond to certain situations.  The students will then be asked to begin layering techniques and application methods associated with liquid enamels, pushing the bound aries of what they are learning. Alternative materials will be incorporated into the enamel and firing process. The enamels will be kiln and  also torch fired ( this depends if we may bring one torch into the studio), offering more variation to the surface of the enamel. Exploring the  possibilities students will be expected to present a collection of their research as demonstration through several pieces with appropriate  documentation of their processes. Advanced students will also be asked to develop one process into a completed piece that may be wear 

able or sculptural. 

SMA.WE Fire enamels, wet enamel, dry enamel, champlevé. 

The course aims to provide the student with the knowledge of the main techniques of fire enamel applied to metal and in particular on jew ellery objects. Practical lessons and exercises. Dry enamel, wet enamel and champlevè.

PEARL Stringing pearls 

The course involves the creation of a pearl necklace from start to finish. Participants will learn the fundamental basics of threading and  how to use the necessary materials for this art. The course is aimed at those who, for creative, commercial, and hobbyist purposes, want  to learn this technique