Silver Sizzles

Cuff bracelets image courtesy of Kara Ross.
Sales of silver are sizzling. Some 91% of the jewelry retailers said sales of silver jewelry increased from 2011 to 2012, according to the National Jeweler/Nielsen silver survey. The average increase was 19%.

One reason sales are rising is that the metal is catching the eyes of men, according to the November 2012 issue of JCK. They have a growing appetite for silver cuff links, money clips, and dog tags. It’s also more affordable than gold and platinum, which also appeals to consumers.

But it’s not just trendiness and affordability that’s driving silver’s popularity. As one of the three Noble Metals (gold and platinum being the other two) silver has prestige. It’s also the whitest and brightest of all metals, giving it unmatched luster.

Metalsmiths like silver because it has excellent working characteristics: it’s pliable, readily bends into new shapes, and stays in that position. It’s also extremely strong and can withstand the knocks and bangs that come with frequent wear.

There’s also another side to silver’s renewed popularity. “Traditional and commemorative high-end gifts like baby rattles, teething rings, and picture frames are making a comeback. These items are typically made from silver, and this has created a renaissance for the metal,” says Mark Maxwell, manager of Jewelry Manufacturing Arts, GIA, Carlsbad.

The majority of silver is mined in Mexico, Peru, China, and Chile. In order to be called “silver” in the U.S., alloys must contain at least 92.5% pure silver. Copper is usually the other alloy.

Contemporary designers like David Yurman and Michael Good continue to experiment with the metal, creating new and edgy designs. So while silver has a storied provenance – it’s the stuff of Peruvian crowns and Edwardian tiaras – it’s still very much a modern metal.

Cartier Cuff Links
Cartier cufflinks courtesy of C. Danforth.
Tips on Silver

  • Manufacturers are creating new silver alloys. Argentum, for example, does not oxidize.
  • Let your customers know that silver has cachet. It was more valuable than platinum during the Victorian era, and it was the metal of choice for making tiaras for the aristocracy.
  • Sterling silver is increasingly being used in jewelry. Manufacturers are setting diamonds and other stones in a variety of modern sterling silver alloys, and are offering a range of products that are more affordable. Lines of sterling jewelry with karat gold accents are doing well, especially because gold and platinum are at an all-time high.