Monday, November 29, 2010

Silver Prices - The Good and the Bad

by Patty Lakinsmith

First the bad news: The price of silver is through the roof. Many jewelry artists depend on this metal for their work - some exclusively, and others partially. Either way it's not good, as the cost of buying it as a material or a finished product has never been more expensive.

I started out using exclusively sterling silver findings (headpins, ear wires, accent beads), and over the years have used more and more fine (pure) silver as I worked more with precious metal clay. The two materials work well together - you can embed fine silver wire into metal clay to make very functional components.

What are my options? Well, 50 grams of metal clay that cost me around $70 at the beginning of the year now cost close to $100. I could bit the bullet and buy more, or I could consider other materials. Perhaps the key is to just use less silver in my work, and to consider it more of an accent than a main element. Raising prices right now is not something that artists want to do. I've recently been using more alternative metals like brass and copper in my pieces, and liking the results.

One of the bright sides is that maybe this pressure will nourish a spate of creativity in us all as we look for new alternatives. Maybe (I hope) we will come to appreciate more kinds of beauty than just that associated with this one particular metal. Maybe repurposing and recycling itself will become the sought after, instead of some arbitrary, manipulated commodity.

This necklace by Reworkd on Etsy incorporates recycled vintage typewriter keys and steampunk elements, typically consisting of watch parts and other mechanical bits. Typewriter key jewelry is rampant on Etsy.

There are tons of recycled elements found in jewelry these days, from scrabble tiles, bottle caps, license plates, skeleton keys, dominos, plastic shopping bags, bullets, saris, broken china, skateboards, vinyl records, and even recycled sneakers and more.
Kathleen Plate is using recycled wine bottles for jewelry, home decor, and even clothing. This kind of work just makes me feel good inside. You know someone had a good time drinking the wine, she likely loves making things from the bottles, and when you bring one of her pieces home it makes you happy to look at it and for helping the planet.

I doubt that a rubber bracelet will ever convey as much value to its wearer as a silver one, but the other bright side of this is that now is a great time to sell your silver scrap. I'm also taking it as a personal challenge to find more creative elements to use in my jewelry, and I think that's a good thing.

How are you dealing with the price of precious metals these days?


Christine said...

I started out using silver almost exclusively, but now I have made a shift to almost exclusively using copper. I adore that metal -- love the way it looks, feels, works, and the colors it can take on. There's a bit of education to do about it to the general public, though, as I am sometimes questioned as to whether it will turn a wearer's skin green! No matter, I love copper and plan to continue developing my designs around it.

Carol said...

Its not just precious metals...its all metal. I am the purchasing agent for a machine shop. I buy all tooling and the steel, stainless and aluminum that we use to make parts. Prices are ever upward, and it seldom corrects itself.

As a consumer, I love sterling, but am glad to see jewelry artists incorporating other metals and components in their work.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

SummersStudio said...

I cringe everytime I order silver and find myself using it as an accent rather than main component. I love seeing all of the alternative materials people are using in jewelry. But in the end my heart will always long for silver.

mairedodd said...

this is such a wonderful post - i love seeing how people are repurposing...
i view the darker metals not as secondary to sterling, but as having their own value and contribution... afterall, the most magnificent church doors were cast of bronze... and copper is believed to have great healing properties...

Patty said...

Great comments, ladies! And thanks for reminding me of that very apropos quote, Carol.

Alice said...

I started with just using sterling silver and a little gold filled, and swore I would not use plated metals. Then I fell in love with Vintaj Natural Brass. Recently I've been working with copper and love the look. I still reach for sterling as accents or spacers for most pieces, but the raising prices will soon take care of that.

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