As far as white metals go, most people choose either white gold or platinum. When they choose silver it seems a matter of whether or not they can afford it rather than them actually loving the metal. Why is this? Is it simply a matter of prestige and being able to say “my ring is white gold, not lowly silver.” Or is there another reason silver has fallen out of favour?
I’m not sure that silver has fallen out of favor. And if it has, I think that we need to be a bit more specific as to the context. Are we talking about trends in the fine jewelry market? In the couture side of the fine jewelry market? In the world of contemporary or non-traditional or academic jewelry? (To be honest, in the latter category, metal itself has fallen a bit out of favor.)
In any case every metal presents its own inherent abilities, advantages and disadvantages.
Silver is the whitest metal, sterling a little less so. Nickel alloyed white golds (in the US) tend to be a bit yellow, with a few exceptions.
Palladium whitened golds seem, to my eyes, either brownish or decidedly gray (gunmetal), while platinum is steely.
Sterling, argentium and do-ox silvers, in my opinion are too soft for wedding rings and thinner bands or rings intended for year in and year out everyday use. I wear a forged sterling ring myself but the shank and body are quite thick—over 2mm—and even at that it is wearing.
I try to steer clients away from the softer metals. So much of the cost of a ring, at least in my studio, is labor. It makes sense to me that a client’s money goes into a product that will last a while and saving money on materials doesn’t add up to me.
But I am happy to make even wedding bands in sterling if that is what the client wants, as long as we are all on the same page expectation wise.
Some people really like the whiteness of silver or it’s associations. And a sterling band picks up an age patina that is quite beautiful. A nice thick sterling band comes to mind. But I wouldn’t trust sterling to hold detail for long in a high wear scenario.
Just my take.
I sell a lot of silver. This is in part because we have a silver market that was started with our father over 70 years ago. My brother and I have continued to nurture the silver market that we inherited for the last 45 years. The other part is that I like to work in silver. I am interested in trying Argentium, especially if it will justify my buying a pulse arc welder. The cost of silver allows me to be prolific in my work and experiment in ways that I never would with gold. That being said, I love working in yellow gold. White gold is another story. I have not tried other white metals. My two cents about silver…Rob
Like Rob has said between us we sell silver. We continue in a market that is growing because our father started it for us in 1941 as his business cards used to say. And we continue to do well in that market because we have some pretty high standards about the work we produce.
I really enjoy working in 14k yellow gold. To me it “Looks Like Gold” should look. And I especially like the way it looks when paired with sterling. I am always happy to tell anyone who asks about a piece of jewelry I make that I can reproduce it in gold if they wish. That has happened exactly once in the last 15 years.
In my market with my customer base the cost of any gold white or yellow is prohibitive to many if not most of my customers.
Rob and I keep separate shops and separate businesses so I won’t speak for him but for myself my customers want silver. For a lot of reasons I suspect but chiefly because it is affordable and it looks good with minimal care. It holds up over time well and it ages into a look that is warm and attractive. Like well cared for old leather. And there is the tradition Rob and I keep locally. People always ask what is new for this year regards to bracelets with our hallmarks.
I have worked with Argentium in the past and while I am sure it is great stuff to use in other applications I will stick with sterling. My experience is the few pieces I have made and sold don’t look the same when compared to identical pieces I made of sterling some five years later. Perhaps they are best viewed as the CD and Vinyl of the silver market.
In our area the silver market for craft made silver jewelry appears strong.
Andy, Rob and Don,
Please give Continuum sterling silver a shot and let us know your valuable opinions. Others who have worked with Continuum have stated that it is one of hardest sterling silver out there. As-cast hardness of a Continuum jewelry item is about 33% more than that of standard silver-copper sterling. Because of its hardness it feels like you are working with gold. If your customer wants to you to set a significantly expensive stone in sterling silver, nothing comes close to Continuum in having the assurance that stone will stay set for a long time especially after a single step heat hardening treatment.
Rob - you would find a pulse arc welder useful with regular sterling or argentium. The new ones work well with silver. I like the PUK 5.
Andy- Give Continuum silver a try. I love it and make my eye wear or anything in silver out of it. It is as hard and springy as white gold when wrought or cast and kiln hardened. It’s wears very very well. It bead sets like a dream. As far as I’m concerned it is the best silver alloy out on the market. If you don’t believe me a mere bench monkey wth a GED just check out what Shan Aithal a real metallurgist with a white lab coat and a bunch of letters after his name has to say. Jame Binnion another of my favorite smarty pants metals guy loves it too. If you have any questions about using it in the studio feel free to contact me.