You'll find many roads to learning silversmithing--the one you choose is a matter of personal taste and your own learning style. You may best absorb information on your own, taking your time to learn, practice and review techniques such as hammering and soldering. But many people prefer interaction--watching silversmiths, asking questions and getting feedback. You may want to sample both styles, taking a class at first and then studying from a silversmithing book or CD.
How to Learn Silversmithing
Get familiar with the basics. Find out how to set up a space for silversmithing and what tools you'll need. Web sites such as Silver Spider Forge introduce safety measures and step-by-step techniques to start you out.
Take a silversmithing class via email or on CD. These classes take you through the basic steps and provide photos to illustrate each one. They're often interactive, giving you the ability to call or email an instructor as your questions arise. A good example is the Academy of Silversmithing and Art Metal. See Resources below.
Use a good book as a guide. Hard-copy manuals usually have explicit instructions and detailed illustrations you can refer to again and again. Some good places to start: "Silversmithing: A Manual of Design and Technique," by Keith Smith, and "Silversmithing," by Rupert Finegold and William Seitz.
Take a beginning silversmithing class at a community art school or college. Watching a teacher work is invaluable and so is asking questions on the spot. You'll get immediate feedback on your work, and you'll be able to learn from your--and other students'--mistakes. Materials are usually provided, so your only investment is the cost of the class.