Ratty wrote:So THAT's why the 'smithy' holds the horseshoe over the fire repeatedly.
That's actually different - iron & steel need to be "hot forged", which means you need to do the work on them while the metal is hot because it will fracture if you do it when it gets cold. Their crystal structure locks into a rigid shape when cool.
Gold, silver, copper, brass, platinum are "cold forged", which means you work the metal cold. The annealing rearranges the crystal structure to make it less uniform, and when you quench them (put them in water) it locks the crystals into that random structure. Forging them puts it back into a more uniform (and less malleable) structure, which is why the more you're forging a piece, the more you need to anneal it (on some rings I'm sizing up a lot I might need to anneal them 2-4 times to keep them from fracturing).
If you really want to play with metals (and you can start fairly cheaply), I cannot recommend Tim McCreights "The Complete Metalsmith" enough. It covers tons of jewelry making techniques from basics to advance, but is only around $20. I have tons of reference & metal-working books, this is the only one that stays right next to my bench.
Kat: kids could dap easily, it's just something they need to learn to do a bit gently or they'll crack the metal. There is also the chance of jagged edges, so make sure you take that into account.