Hammered Metals

Hand-Hammered Sterling Silver Cufflinks (LEO Design)

Craftsmen and artisans have been hand-hammering metals for thousands of years, working them into shapes both useful and beautiful.  Decorative metalwork reached its zenith of precision during the Renaissance through the Age of Enlightenment (18th century). During this period, delicacy and refinement were en vogue.  A piece was considered finer if it had no sign of its hammering marks.  Picture Paul Revere, gazing at his reflection in the perfectly smooth, mirror-like surface of the bowl he had just crafted.  Hammers were, indeed, used to smith the metal; but as the piece was built, finer and finer hammer “peens” were used to create a smoother and smoother finish.

With the turn-of-the-century—and the Arts & Crafts movement—there was a desire to show the actual handwork of the craftsman.  By leaving hammer marks visible, one could see evidence that a living, breathing person had touched and worked the object before him (like the pair of silver cufflinks, shown above).  In the world of Impressionist painting, brush strokes became part of a picture’s beauty—not something to be worked-over and eliminated.  And sculpture, by the likes of Rodin, utilized an un-refined, almost “brutish” evidence of the artist’s hand.