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Guiding the Silver Jewelry Buyer

Hi folks!

I’ve been hired to write a buyers’ guide to silver jewelry for a web
site, and I thought perhaps the knowledgable people here on Orchid
might have some suggestions regarding what should be
passed on to the consumer.

The reason I’ve been hired, rather than some marketing agency, is to
offer a clear, useful, hopefully readable, look at what constitutes
good quality silver jewelry in general. (As opposed to a “just buy my
product, then you’ll know you’re getting good quality” non-education
approach.) So I ask you, the experts, how do you tell a work of art
and a future heirloom from a piece of crap? What should I make certain
the customer knows before he/she buys?

Since I know many of you have been frustrated by poor quality goods
being sold to uninformed consumers, I hope you’ll consider this your
big chance to try and educate those poor customers before they buy
some piece of garbage! You can e-mail me directly at @Suzanne_Wade,
if you like, or give me a call at 508-339-7366.

Thanks in advance for your help!


Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (520) 563-8255


Lack of quality (alloy) stamping on the piece. A shabby venue, such as
a flea market, tarp spread on city street, under a worn trenchcoat.
High-pressure, cash-only sales tactics, which could betray stolen,
yet quality, pieces. On simple pieces, lack of good finish. On complex
pieces, only minor flaws to betray handmade. Lack of security
measures, like glass showcases, to protect valued inventory.


Hollow forming of pieces large in volume. This indicates a desire to
conserve costly material. A nice place and a pleasant face to greet
you. Long-established, uh, establishment? Explanations of materials
and processes in words you can barely understand, backed up by
independently published sources of term definition. Less-than-silver
items right-out called AFFORDABLE, with material terms disclosed, and
and assurance that there’s nothing silver about Nickel and German
Silver. Ditto Craft or Merlin’s Gold. Bright, pure white metal, as
opposed to the slight gray of Nickel. The help handles the pieces with
white gloves, and/or rubs items clean to put them back in the case.

Caveat Emptor,
Dan Woodard, Indian Jewelers Supply Co.

   Lack of security measures, like glass showcases, to protect
valued inventory.  

I disagree . . . I’ve seen worthless stuff in glass showcases.
People love to touch jewelry. (BTW, I order a lot of sheet and wire from IJS . . .)


I’ve repaired so many imported silver pieces, that folks should be
wary of some things about them. Don’t get me wrong, some imports are
lovely and I admire the exotic designs and the wonderful detail on
them. BUT, these are the most common problems I see on imports that
I repair:

  1. stones are poorly set - I replace lots of them and since the
    stones seem to be of non-standard dimensions, I frequently have to
    rebuild the bezel to fit the replacement stone

  2. clear colored stones like amethyst & citrine, are backed with
    colored paper, making the stone appear to have a deeper color
    (mounting is closed back to hold the paper in place)

  3. findings are fragile - either poorly attached or poor quality so
    that they break

  4. solder joints are sometimes incomplete and separate at the first
    strain or bend

  5. thin gauge metal ring shanks that easily bend and wear or break

  6. prongs on heads are not only thin, but also pliable - couple that
    with failure to shape and round the prong over the stone (work-
    hardens the metal), and the prongs loosen easily so the stone is lost

Obviously, many of these problems are not easily identified by the
average customer. If you could show close-up pictures comparing poor
construction and proper construction, I think readers would be able
to see the difference. After all, how “thin” is “thin”, without a

So far as indications of quality work, if the vendor can discuss
construction methods and freely guarantees her/his work against
defects, that offers some assureance. I do hate to see obviously
non- jewelers selling “Indian” jewelry at craft shows. You can tell
by the well-manicured nails that those people have never filed,
hammered, and polished the wares that they sell. I’ve usually been
polishing like mad to finish some work before the show and my hands
do look it!

Good luck on your article. Hope you will tell us where we can read
it. Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

Dear Suzanne, The shoddy silver goods syndrome is not showing any sign
of abating anytime soon! The latest item to show up in my business is
a chain which is a twist of a light bulb ball chain wrapped around a
snake chain. This pile of poop will probably attract flies before I
get done with it…But, all kidding aside, it was taken in without
my knowledge and I am NOT going to repair it for this reason: the
commerce without consience crowd will ONLY respond to economic
considerations…they are true whores. The only way they are going to
respond is by hurting them in the pocketbook. I tell my customers to
send them back and I also tell them to use my name as an excuse when
doing so. They can then say that a jeweler advised them to do so. As
long as people buy this junk without taking recourse when it fails
,we in the jewelry business are going to suffer the consequences. Ron
at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Hello Suzanne

Sorry for this late respond,but I wasn’t in the position to answer
any e-mail untill today. I would like to add some about
the subject “buying silver jewelry”.

Looking for the silverstamp mark is one thing.Getting what the stamp
says is another point!!However,the jewelry should have a nice an
visible stamp if any stamping is used.If the item is silver plated
then a simple ink eraser will remove the silver plating if you rub it
on a hidden spot.

Sterling silver has a mark showing "925"or “sterling”.All other
silver may not be called “sterling silver” if a lower alloy is
used.The lowest silver alloy is “800”,all other lower alloy’s may not
be called silver as a standard in Europe.

I still hear from people that real silver doesn’t tarnish!ALL silver
will tarnish in time,the more copper in the alloy the quicker it
tarnishes.The blacking of the silver has nothing to do with anybody’s
health as people believe here in Europe.Human sweat contains sulfur
whitch will darken the silver and that is it.

Nice jewelry is made by care and love for the art and the piece
itself.So in this contents,it should look like a jewel and not like a
piece of silver made to make some money.Here are a few points to look
for: - Solder joints may not me seen. - Good quality craftsmen use
just enough solder to combine the pieces.Solder is not used to
fill a gap! - Texturing of the jewel add something nice to the
piece,but scratches and/or pits are not allowed in good
craftsmenship.I’m not talking about used or antique items. - If stones
are set,they should be set correctly,straight,careful and save. -
Prongs should be well finished.No gaps between the stone and the
prong. -The prongs are not allowed to catch anything like nylons or
silk.They should be rounded-of and firmly holding the stone. -Prongs
should be made strong enough in order to hold the stone in place.
-Clear and right names for the right stones are a must.Now,the’re too
many nicknames for stones and people should buy a pocket size booklet
about stones if they would like to deal with them.As I’ve
experienced,too many people do not know what they buy and go into
monkey bussines without knowing about it. -A 10x power loop is also a
must to have. -You can purchase the best loop on the market,but you
still need clear daylight.No bulps or artificial light but beautyful
and simple light right out of the blue sky(it’s for free!!)!!The type
of light may effect the color of the stone,that’s the whole deal
behind it. -A good jeweller takes care about his display.Some stones
get discolored by sunlight (amethyst,citrine,opals etc…),so direct
sunlight or intensive artificial light are stonekillers!!Pearls dry
out in a hot and not ventilated display !!! -My humble advice about
buying is “T A K E Y O U R T I M E”. This is the very best advice
that I can give to anybody.Do not stumble in the rush of <I want
it,whatever it costs!!>, or< I just need something nice and expensive
for my honey,but I don’t have enough time for the deal!>. -The second
best advice is … enjoy and learn from it !!

I hope that this contribution will help people before the run into
buying cheap stuff for big money.I know that fellow orchid members
may have more about this subject,but those points are the
ones where I can think of right at this moment.

Regards Pedro

I just want to thank everyone who replied to my question regarding
what to look for in good quality silver jewelry. Some were things I
knew, some were things I had forgotten, some were things I didn’t know
at all! Thank you so much for all your assistance.

The silver buyers’ guide is scheduled to go on line in a couple of
weeks at Of course, their marketing people
may make some changes in it before it goes up, but I figure at least
they’re starting with accurate I’m optimistic any changes
will be minimal, since you’ve all given me such good advice.

Thanks again!

Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (520) 563-8255