Reviews: The Theory & Practice of Goldsmithing

Alan Revere
American Craft magazine

At long last, the definitive text for goldsmiths. Until now, the art of making jewelry has overshadowed its science. Unlike most other technologies, old or new, that of goldsmithing has eluded the English language until this book was translated from the German. Without such a resource, jewelers have had to rely on a mixed bag of books and experience to understand what they do. But here is a readable, comprehensive reference for those who want to know more about what really happens when they solder, file, saw, and create jewels in precious metals.

Although jewelry making has remained largely unchanged for centuries, this volume, originally published in 1961 as Theorie und Praxis des Goldschmieds, has the potential to raise the standards and understanding of English-speaking bench jewelers worldwide. To clarify the terminology, according to the author, Erhard Brepohl, who in addition to being a master goldsmith and professor, holds degrees in mechanical engineering and industrial design, a goldsmith is "a metalworker concerned especially with pieces of jewelry and fine decorative utensils of gold, silver, copper, bronze and iron." In the German definition, goldsmiths make jewelry while silversmiths make larger items.

With more than 500 pages and loaded with charts and illustrations, this publication answers questions that have perplexed goldsmiths forever: What happens inside the metal when a rolling mill reduces the gauge of sheet Why does a shear cut and how should it be sharpened? What is it about the internal structure of precious metals that makes them workable? What is age hardening and how is it accomplished? What is the difference between sinking, raising and stretching? In a nutshell, what is the scientific basis for the way tools and materials behave at the jeweler's bench?

Organized into sections on metals, other materials, chemistry, handworking skills, silversmithing, machining, joining, finishing, special techniques, plating, settings, findings and repair, the book presents the information logically and succinctly in a form that will satisfy serious inquirers yet not intimidate novices.

The visuals clarify and expand on the text, which can serve as both a manual during raining and a technical reference work. Encyclopedic, it offers a complete course of study for students at all levels, covering just about any way metal can be manipulated by a jeweler at the bench.

The publication in this country of "the Brepohl" (as the book is referred to by its German audience) is cause for rejoicing among English-speaking jewelers (not to mention others for whom English is a comfortable second language). Charles Lewton-Brain, Roy Ysla and Tim McCreight deserve credit for the monumental achievement in delivering this essential text to a wider audience.


This massive text has long been the standard reference for European jewelers and is now available for the first time to English-speaking craftspeople. It is a comprehensive collection of information about materials, tools and techniques of metalsmithing with unique emphasis on the science and calculations behind familiar studio practice. When the new edition came out last in Germany, it sold 30,000 copies in six months in Germany alone.

The translation and publication has been a labour of love for the distinguished goldsmiths and educators Charles Lewton-Brain and Tim McCreight, and brings into the English language a dominant text in the German education system.

Florida Society of Goldsmiths
Newsletter, Volume 11, #4

The long awaited Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing published by Tim McCreight's Brynmorgen Press is now available. It took Charles Lewton-Brain 13 years to translate Brepohl's monumental work into English. According to Charles, "this is the most comprehensive book in the world on trade goldsmithing. It is in its 13th edition or so in Germany. Almost all European countries use it as a standard reference. . . The ultimate resource book. It has literally everything in more detail than any other book." Tim reports the book "weighs in at four pounds. . . It offers scientific and engineering data unavailable in any other metalsmithing text."

Linda Kaye-Moses
Lapicary Journal

From the ambitious title and a quick look at its chapter headings alone ("Metals," "Other Materials," "Studio Chemistry," "Handling Metals," "Handworking Skills," . . . . .), readers of this book will recognize its unique position in the library of books on metalsmithing. This translated volume will be an indispensable tool for English-speaking jeweler/metalsmiths who have heretofore not had access to its original German edition. The author delivers concentrated information, although it is at times beyond what might be needed daily in a small jewelry studio, as in the sections on metallurgy and plating. However, as a research resource, it is a more than sufficient tool and the author's format is clear -- bringing to the reader both theoretical and practical information.

Throughout the book the author assumes and informal, conversational tone designed to engage the reader personally. Brepohl introduces each subject with the underlying theories that support the processes he then defines, describes and demonstrates, often using step-by-step instructions. The text is supplemented by numerous illustrations, photographs and charts, including a series of useful charts in the Appendix.

Brepohl's description of tools and equipment relates their form to their function in a way that makes their proper use apparent, even to the beginning jeweler. His detailed account of filing, for example, includes how files remove metal, various cuts and shapes of files along with methods for adding handles to file tangs. His discussion of bench pins offers methods and reasons for custom-altering this tool. His approach to measurement takes the mystery out of some of the more esoteric tools.

Distributed throughout the text are tips on how to use the tools more efficiently or achieve specific results. His exhaustive examination of forging includes detailed descriptions, definitions and the effects on metal of hammers, mallets, anvils and stakes. Finishing, a process that can be confusing owing to the bewildering number of choices available, is clarified by Brepohl's logical presentation. His extensive treatment of catches (beginning with a simple toggle catch and advancing to hinge-style catches), includes a valuable chart and summary of the specific applications and mechanics of catch forms.

When necessary, the author reminds the reader that many of the processes he is describing are dangerous if used carelessly. All the equipment and tools mentioned in the book can be purchased, but the author emphasizes that in many instances tools can be made, especially when needed for specific tasks. Such instructions are useful encouragement toward a studio or bench jeweler's independence and ingenuity.

The strength of "Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing" lies in its thorough coverage of skills and techniques for manipulating metal and this book will prove invaluable to jewelers seeking to a comprehensive understanding of their craft. One might be tempted to compare this book to others in the field (Oppi Untracht's contributions come to mind), but this book is complementary to them and no jewelry studio library will be complete without it.

Bookwatch Reviews

THEORY AND PRACTICE OF GOLDSMITHING first saw print in East Germany in 1961, becoming a major resource of jewelers, sculptors and others working in metals: this is the first English language edition, and any metalworker will quickly find it indispensable. From silversmithing to chainmaking and setting stones, techniques, melt diagrams, specifications, and heated metal effects are surveyed in very technical chapters appropriate for practicing goldsmiths and advanced students. You won't find these advanced discussions easily elsewhere, so any college-level library or studio reference collection needs to add THEORY AND PRACTICE OF GOLDSMITHING to their list of foundation references.