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?