Types of Smiths

Blacksmith working hot iron
Image via Wikipedia

In the metals/jewelry world there are a number of different “smiths” out there. Most people have heard of Blacksmiths – people who form iron/steel into a variety of useful and/or ornamental pieces. But what are the names of people who work different kinds of metal?

  • a blacksmith works with iron and steel (this is what is usually meant when referring just to “Smith”)
  • an arrowsmith forges arrow heads
  • a bladesmith forges knives, swords, and other blades
  • a coppersmith, or brownsmith, works with copper
  • a goldsmith works with gold or small scale silver pieces, primarily as a jeweler
  • a gunsmith works with guns
  • a locksmith works with locks
  • a pewtersmith works with pewter
  • a silversmith, or brightsmith, works with large scale silver e.g. holloware
  • a tinsmith, tinner, or tinker works with light metal (such as tinware) and can refer to someone who deals in tinware
  • a swordsmith is a bladesmith who forges only swords
  • a whitesmith works with white metal (tin and pewter) and can refer to someone who polishes or finishes the metal rather than forging it
I smite you metal!

So what do you call yourself if you work in multiple kinds of metal? Why, a metalsmith of course! This is the term I most often use to refer to myself. I work in multiple nonferrous metals and I actually hammer my metal so this is really the most accurate description of what I am.

The word smith has an interesting etymology:

The English word smith is cognate with the somewhat archaic word, “smite”, which means “to hit” or “to strike”. Originally, smiths were craftsmen who shaped or formed metal with hammer blows. However, the old etymological guess of “smite” as the source of “smith” is without foundation. The word smith derives from an old Teutonic word, smeithan, to forge. (From Wikipedia)

The name Smith is one of the most popular in English and that translates throughout the world. You can see the equivalents in other languages here (also Wikipedia.)

5 thoughts on “Types of Smiths

  1. Hi Wendy,
    Actually, a goldsmith works in both gold and silver. The difference between a goldsmith and a silversmith is essentially the size of the pieces – goldsmiths work in small scale, such as jewelry, silversmiths work in a larger scale, e.g. vessels, vases, etc.
    Although it has become common to use the term silversmith to describe a person who makes silver jewelry, it is technically a misnomer as my mentor Michael David Sturlin frequently tells me : )


    1. I concur. I tell people I am learning to be a silversmith and they want me to make the jewelry. Ok, I do make some but that is not my focus – I love making vessels or as my brother-in-law says “You work in Topology”.


  2. Amazing information Wendy, since I work in multiple metals myself, I too would be a metalsmith but since my primary medium is copper, I really loved the term ‘brown smith’ 🙂


  3. Yes, you’re right, Lynn! I’m going to change it to specify the holloware component of silversmithery. Paul Revere was a silversmith, but jewelers are not.
    @Laurie you are too funny! codesmith :^)
    @Nayna Brownsmith does convey the warm earthiness of copper


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