Metalworking Techniques - Piercing
by Jerry Smith
originally published as CIHA Indian Craft Series No. 1007

Most of us are amazed when we first see the uniformity of the small cut out portions of a piece of German silver such as the one pictured above. The design of many brooches and other German silver items worn for every day wear, woman costumes or worn to peyote meetings is often created by a simple method called “piercing.” Rather than cut each area out with a chisel or jewelers saw each piece is individually punched out. Such a technique was introduced by many of the trade silver items and German silver items acquired and manufactured by the eastern and southeastern tribes. When these tribes such as the Delaware, Senecas, Shawnees, Caddo, Choctaws and Seminoles brought these light (thin gauge) pierced brooches, earrings and turban bands they became a design source for the Indian smiths of the Southern Plains, and such design techniques are used to present.


German Silver Stamped Brooch



The technique is as follows. Grind down the end of a 4-5 inch piece of tool steel, drill rod, old file, etc. to one of the shapes shown below.

German Silver Stamp Designs
Make the ground 1/2 - 3/4 inch surface as perpendicular as possible to the stamp face, (Fig.l). The larger the face the more difficult the stamp is to work with. Practice with a small round or diamond shape first.
Metalwork Stamp Illustration
Next, melt some lead (1 or 2 lb. fishing sinker) into an old pot with a propane torch and let it cool. Later, dump out the hardened lead.

Most brooch work is done in 22 gauge silver or lighter. Pierce the metal as follows:

  1. Place metal on lead block-good side up.
  2. Hold stamp firmly in place, hit 2 - 3 times with hammer, punch will pass through metal and a piece of metal the exact size of the punch face will be left in the lead.
  3. Pull metal off the end of the stamp.
  4. Hit front side of metal with rawhide or plastic hammer.
  5.  Turn metal over and pound back of pierced portion with a small ball peen hammer until the metal is flat. Now go to the next position to be pierced.

This technique, though simple, takes practice. The stamp often wants to “jump” out of its original position after the first hit and other such problems occur. Inner edges of the pierced portion need not be filed. Do your piercing before the regular stamping then finish the surface. The end of a piece of hardwood may be used in place of the lead. When surface of lead is covered with dents filled with pierced pieces, melt and use again.


German Silver Stamped Brooch German Silver Stamped Brooches SOURCES

 “Smoke Signals”, Indian Arts & Crafts Board, Room 4004, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington D.C. 20240 - it’s Free!!

Metallic Ornaments of the New York Indians by W.M. Beauchamp, published by Buffalo (Send to Del Trading Post)

(Editor's Note: This article was originally printed more than 40 years ago. Del Trading Post is long out of business. We're not sure about the Smoke Signals article. Be aware that since it's original publication, lead is now classified as a more hazaradous material. We suggest you use the alternate hardwood method. If you choose to use lead, be sure you fully understand safe handling procedures before you start.)


Last modified on April 29. 2019
Copyright © California Indian Hobbyist Association & Jerry Smith
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