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Picture of Silversmithing With Impression Dies (Advanced)

Hey guys, this is a very long instructable lol. I wanted to just give an overview of these kinds of dies, but then I got carried away. If you just want to see how it works, skip to the middle, because the first steps are about the history/the dies, where they come from, etc.

Important: this is not a sponsored write-up, I am just sincerely in love with these tools, they bring me serious joy, and they help me to get out of a creative slump. So this is just about sharing my love of them. <3

Side note: I made all these pieces and I encourage you to explore and make designs that come from your heart! Feel free to use my jewelry as inspiration, but try not to reproduce it "detail for detail", because your true and beautiful creations are what emanate from you! <3

Step 1: What Is an Impression Die?

Picture of What Is an Impression Die?

An Impression die is basically a die/metal form/mold that one presses metal into, in order to create an impression. Example/typical metals include Sterling, Fine Silver, Gold, Brass, Copper, Bronze. The idea is to use metals that are weaker than the steel used to make the die, so as not to damage the tool. The die itself is a steel puck, with a depression of the chosen design.

How do you operate an impression die? Typically, people use a Hydraulic Press. This could be the famed PotterUSA press, a modded Harbor Freight press, something from etsy, or an idea off pinterest under "jewelry press".

Do you need to use a hydraulic press? Nope. A press is a hefty investment that will make your money back, as long as you sell your jewelry...but if you don't have the need to produce pieces, it may be impractical. Kevin Potter, the guy behind PotterUSA , he put up a video about how to use his dies without a press! Here are his videos, PART 1 and PART 2. Now I am going to be honest, I haven't used that method, and I don't want to...LOL Because I have a Potter press. For the sake of experimentation, I thought about it, but it's a lot of work. hahaha Sorry <3 .

So now you know what a die is, and how it's used in function.

Now for application...once you have this impression -- what do you do with it? Do you have to solder, do you have to be a jewelry maker? Nope. You just have to be creative. Perhaps you want to make little deer barettes out of copper. (Then all you need is the die, those youtube videos, some barettes and glue.) Maybe you just want to make Christmas ornaments, sculptures, etc. Limitless opportunities.

The most common application is metalsmithing. You can solder, set or rivet these impressions to anything you're creating and you can alter the impression to fit your needs. It's a brilliant system, put in use hundreds of years back. Next up, let's look at the history of these magical dies!

CarolynM871 month ago
A great tutorial!! And your earrings are stunning.!!
CarbonCopy012 months ago
I have been intrigued by this style of creating jewelry but I am having trouble finding the style of dies you displayed. I like the vintage style of design, like delicate floral designs. I see brass dies but would prefer steel ones. Where can I find them? I'm not having much luck on the internet, maybe I am not using the right key words.
Potter USA
I had no idea that was how these things were made! Thanks so much for sharing :D
kristylynn84 (author)  Penolopy Bulnick4 months ago
antique jewelry is almost a lost art! i really wish i could have spoken with those metalsmiths to see how they did the things they did. :o :D <3
I love these types of pieces and am learning how to carve them not in the steel but alternative methods that will create what I need.
But I was wondering if you knew of Guyot Brother's company?
They are gone, but here are some of their pieces from an old catalog.
I find them fascinating. Some of your pieces look like theirs. ♥️
Ham-made4 months ago
Wealth of knowledge and a good read!
Thanks for sharing!
Mr. Ham
kimberlysrb4 months ago
Oh my word!!! An absolutely wonderful and detailed description of all the very hard work you do for each piece. I actually inherited an old wooden box of silversmith tools from the early 1900's and had no idea what to do with everything! Thank you so much :))
That's a very complete Instructable! You got my vote!
dessabailey4 months ago
This is an amazing piece of work! Thank you so much for sharing your talents with everyone, the amount of information and detail is just fabulous:-) You have such an eye for beauty Kristy. I love your work!
kristylynn84 (author)  dessabailey4 months ago
thank you so very much!!! <3 i really appreciate you stopping by to leave your love <3 <3 <3 :D