Theology and The Silversmith: The Background

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, there are parallels in theology to the modern day silversmith. I was privileged to work as an apprentice for awhile and quite frankly, it was a great experience.

Looking back now on that time in my life, I have come to see and understand some truths of Scripture better, and perhaps from a different perspective than some, having gone through those days associating and learning from friends who were truly gifted.

Of course, at the time, I wasn’t focused on drawing theological lessons from the various processes, going from raw metal to finished product. I was just having fun, being fascinated and getting paid for it. Ah, youth.

I worked for a man whose father was the Master Silversmith at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. His talents were recognized by the American Institute of Architects which awarded him its Gold Medal. In 1975 he was the first American silversmith inducted into the Goldsmiths’ Company in London.

For decades, the little Silversmith shop I worked at has been commissioned to design and make presentation silver for every President since Kennedy, including reproduction of the famous Paul Revere lanterns to hang in the Oval Office of the White House. Presentation silver has been made for many foreign dignitaries as well: a tea service made for Queen Elizabeth, a Masters Tournament Trophy, a Rose bowl designed for Jimmy Carter and a bell carried by Winston Churchill.

That’s all very impressive isn’t it? Well, I took part in none of it. But I was tickled to learn from those who did! And what I learned, I now see more value in than previously.

Now, a large part of the work that went on in this shop was the making of jewelry and ornaments. After all, a Silversmith has to make money, and lanterns and tea sets are not exactly in high demand these days by the public, especially those made of silver and gold. Of course, in colonial days, demand was very much present.

All the jewelry and Christmas ornaments were made using what is called the lost-wax process, a process born in antiquity and used still today to make everything from jewelry to complex engines used in snowmobiles, the space shuttle and everything between. It’s been around for a long time.

I spent much of my time working on the various steps involved in creating small pieces of silver that, upon completion, were packaged and sold all over the world. My favorite time was sitting behind a grinding and polishing wheel, one of the final steps before packaging. Now, that may seem boring to you, but it wasn’t. There is something about removing nubs, blemishes and flaws from a precious metal that I found much pleasure in. Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve done it. It was exciting watching a piece go from dull and raw to a polished thing of stunning beauty.

Much like our lives in Christ.

And that is what this series is going to be about, drawing parallels between each step of the lost-wax process in jewelry/ornament making and our conformity to Christ. Stick with me, you might learn something.

Next, we’ll discuss the lost-wax process itself, and it all begins with a sketch….