Silversmith carries on Lopez legacy with SM Western Silver
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
Shayne Beckham has been an artist for most of his life, drawing and sketching whatever caught his eye, especially rodeo and western scenes.
For the last two and a half years, however, he has been polishing his skills as a silversmith.
"I had admired the work of Bill Mains for a long time," said Beckham.
Mains, referred to as the "last of the old school hammer and chisel engravers" began engraving guns in the mid-1950s. He worked as the primary engraver for Colt and for Ithaca Gun Company for many years.
Beckham met Mains by chance one day at the Bandera Gun Club. Since Mains spends a lot of time traveling around, "I knew there was no chance of studying with him," said Beckham.
But he shared his desire to become an engraver and silver smith with Mains.
Mains responded by recommending Bandera's own talented engraver, the late Tony Lopez, who was also at the gun club that day.
"Tony invited me to his shop and taught me everything," said Beckham. "If [Tony] hadn't been so generous, there is no way I would have been able to do it."
In addition to the generosity of both Mains and Lopez, Beckham credits his wife, Cindy, with making it possible for him to work at his craft full-time. "She works," said Beckham, "which makes it possible for me to take the time to get established as an artist." Beckham's jewelry business is SB Western Silver, Custom Silver Designs, Handcrafted in Bandera, Texas.
Beckham is a native Texan, born in Hondo. His dad was in the Army, so the family traveled around some. Beckham has also done his stint of service in the Army, having served in Korea and elsewhere before returning to the Hill Country.
He sells his works at shows around the country and via his website, www.sbwesternsilver.com. The silver items can also be seen at Bunkhouse Leather, 1207 Cedar Street, in Bandera.
The silver pieces are solid .925 sterling silver, with each one being hand engraved by Beckham, not stamped. He offers two finishes: polished or antiqued.
As would be expected from a silversmith operating out of Bandera, Beckham produces the to-be-expected western trophy-type buckles, along with gun grip caps and Ranger-style buckle sets. In addition, he creates one-of-a-kind cuff bracelets, pendants and money clips.
He has recently added designs that include black diamonds and gold for a truly classic - and classy - look. He occasionally uses Swarovski crystals for a little color and bling.
Prices for Beckham's custom pieces range from around $150 to much, much more. "I don't price a piece by the value of the silver in it," he said. "I price them by the time I spend on the piece." Some of his pieces take a week or more of work to complete.
Beckham uses a computer program to design his pieces. For a trophy buckle, he transfers the design to a flat sheet of silver. The next step is to create all of the letters, overlays, scrolls and borders to be soldered onto the flat template. The piece is then slightly rounded on a press.
He then solders the belt bar and hook on the back and begins stippling or engraving the background of the buckle. After mounting any stones, he gives the piece a high polish, or a dark antique finish that really makes the design pop.
Beckham recommends using dishwashing liquid and water in a sonic jewelry cleaner to clean good silver pieces. "Or scrub it with an old toothbrush." Finish the cleaning with a good quality polishing cloth. "Clean it every day, or with every wearing, and it will stay looking like new," he said. For pieces that aren't worn daily, he recommends storing them in anti-tarnish bags.
If you are looking to invest in a quality piece of silver jewelry that will give you years, and most likely, generations, of wear, consider buying a piece of SB Western Silver.
You can call Beckham with questions about his products or the cost of a specially designed piece at 210-218-3911.
Pictured: Shayne Beckham
A black diamond enhances the Texas star on a Ranger-style buckle custom created and engraved by local silversmith Shayne Beckham of SB Western Silver.
A unique cross pendant features a Swarovski crystal set in yellow gold, designed and created by Shayne Beckham.
A sterling silver cuff bracelet with Masonic emblems typifies the custom work of SB Western Silver.