Graduating in 1940, he first worked with the National Youth Administration and later Junior Achievement, helping teenagers find jobs. During that time, he took a night jewelry making course at New York University. He became friends with Winifred Mason, a jewelry designer who became his mentor. He first worked as her assistant and then opened his own jewelry studio.
His career began to take off, and soon he was selling to craft stores in Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. By the mid-50s he had business relationships with Bloomingdales and Milton Heffing in Manhattan, James Boutique in Houston, Black Tulip in Dallas and L'Unique in Minneapolis.
Dancer Tally Beatty introduced Smith to the dance world salon of Frank and Dorcas Neal, where he met leading black artists like writer James Baldwin composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn, singers Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, actor Brock Peters and painter Charles Sebree. Also through Beatty, he began to design jewelry for several avant-garde black dance companies. These commissions required work on a grand scale, which undoubtedly influenced some of his later large pieces, some of which would look as good hanging on a wall as worn on the body.
In the 1950s his work was featured in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and recommended in The New Yorker shopping guide. His work includes cufflinks made for Duke Ellington and a brooch given to Eleanor Roosevelt by the NAACP chapter of Peekskill, New York.
|Ad from Life magazine|
|Half & Half necklace|
|Smith's business card|