The Surprise of Silver

When silversmith Ruth Von Büren enrolled in her first metalwork classes at the Rochester Institute of Technology after coming to the U.S., she hardly spoke any English. It turned out not to matter because neither did the teacher. “A famous silversmith from Denmark was the teacher,” she says. “Since he couldn’t speak much English, he’d show us how to do something, and then we’d try to do the same.”  

Von Büren moved to Rochester from her native Switzerland in 1964 when her husband began teaching at the University of Rochester. “If I’d stayed in Switzerland, I’d not have had the opportunity to learn jewelry-making once I left school because the educational system is different there,” she says. “I did do some craft things before I moved here such as work in a jewelry store, but I didn’t make things.”

After completing the coursework at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Von Büren opened a studio where she specialized in jewelry and small sculptures, made the rounds of craft fairs to begin selling her pieces and taught silversmithing.


Today, the 84-year-old works out of a studio at her home in Eugene, Ore., where she and her husband moved after he retired. The 13-inch silver sculpture Four Views (pictured) is so named because you can see through it in any direction. “I made it out of scrap silver left over from other projects using a wax cast,” says Von Büren. “It’s a nice shape because of its continuous line.”

Von Büren, who also makes intricate, contemporary brooches, cuffs, pendants and bracelets set with stones and gems, rarely begins a project with a firm idea of how it will end up. “I go into my studio and sit down,” she says. “I don’t draw or anything. I just begin working and after a while the design comes. I prefer working with my hands to most other activities.” Von Büren’s jewelry starts at $100. Prices of her sculptures vary according to the amount of silver in them.

Contact silversmith Ruth Von Büren at 541-683-5405. Her work can also be seen at the Opus6ix Fine Art Gallery (22 W. Seventh Ave., 541-393-0743) in Eugene, Ore.