Silver jewels: No less a style quotient than gold at a fraction of the costAffordability is just part of the story. The metal is easy on the skin, comes with classy designs that can't be created in gold and is as just as good a style statement, if not better
Namrata Kohli | New Delhi January 10, 2020 Last Updated at 11:32 IST
Giva’s Leaf set made of pure sterling silver (925 BIS hallmarked) inlaid with best quality zircon (AAA grade). Price: Rs 2,499
It isn't really a girl's best friend. Not yet, at least. But it is getting there, slow and steady, and has already captured the fancy of Bollywood divas Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor, who flaunt their Amrapali jewellery along with classy designer clothes by Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra respectively. But it isn't just the stars. Just about every fashion-forward woman is seen wearing statement pieces such as 'Tree of Life' earrings, or a conchshell-inspired ring or a Ganesha choker or a peacock pendant -– all unique designs handcrafted in silver.
What is it about silver that allows a jeweller to play around with myriad designs and motifs, at a scale unheard of in other noble metals? "If you want to wear a 200- or 300-gram statement piece, you will not make it in gold as it will cost you a bomb," says Rajiv Arora, Founder of Amrapali, Jaipur. “Silver, on the other hand, is one precious metal on which you can do you intricate carvings and make beautiful motifs. The magnitude of designs that I can create as a jeweller is far greater in silver than any other metal."
Arora says people who are stylish and who don’t just want to “show off” their wealth by wearing, say, a four carat diamond worth Rs 25 lakh with all stone and no workmanship, would go for a finely handcrafted piece of silver earring costing just Rs 4,000. "But that piece will be a head-turner," he explains.
Incidentally the Jaipur-based Amrapali was commissioned to create the entire jewellery for movies such as Bahubali, Manikarnika and Ramleela. “It took us more than a year of research and hard work to create over 1400 designs for movie Bahubali,” Arora says. "The upside of silver is that the more it ages, the better it becomes. Oxidized silver gets a very good patina, turns dark much like Victorian black jewellery, and people simply love it."
Silver oxidised rhomb tassel drop textured mirror bangle (Left); Silver multi-mirror zig-zag cuff. Courtesy: Tribe Amrapali
Affordable, skin-friendly fashion
Silver jewellery has for long been an afterthought since most pieces were fashion jewellery (silverplated) masquerading as fine ornaments. In today’s world where gold and diamond jewellery are astronomically priced, silver represents affordable fashion. It doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket and lets you flaunt your style, says Giva's co-founder Nikita Prasad.
Giva, an online silver brand, retails a variety of bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pendants and rings made of pure BIS hallmarked 925 silver. The metal has known health benefits as silver is naturally hypo-allergenic, so even someone with extremely sensitive skin will not usually suffer rashes or other allergies donning it. This isn't quite the case with fashion jewellery.
Types of ornaments
The market abounds in sterling silver which is generally 92.5 pure with 7.5 per cent copper added in order to make ornaments. Jewellers generally manufacture three kinds of ornaments. In the first kind sterling silver is polished and made to look shiny and glittering, This variety is mostly used for creating contemporary designs. In the second, sterling silver is oxidised and used primarily to make traditional designs. The third is gold-plated sterling silver. Gold-plating costs Rs 30-40 more per gram than the oxidised variety, informs Arora. Each of these has different takers - a white salwar suit goes well with a silver piece but a kanchivaram silk saree needs a gold-plated set. Also in destination weddings, no one wants to risk carrying real gold jewellery, so women end up wearing gold-plated silver jewellery. Says Kajal Jain, Founder, Ahilya Jewels, “Gold plated silver is noworry, hassle-free jewellery and people don’t want to wear costume or imitation jewellery given the auspiciousness of wedding functions. They want real metal.”
Where silver scores over gold
The metal offers designers far more flexibility not only in terms of design, but also in finish and affordability. Anything that gold can do, silver can do better, says Giva’s Prasad, “I say that because silver complements things in a way gold can't – add a high-quality zircon and it shines like a true diamond, add a rose gold finish and it is practically indistinguishable from the real thing.”
Designers can experiment a lot with more intricate and detailed designs using this white metal. Complex patterns require multiple iterations, cuts and joints which leads to more wastage, which is why designs in gold tend to be more standard. "Intricate designs can't be done on gold even though it is equally malleable, because wastage is extremely expensive," says jewellery designer Divya Gupta, founder, Aliame Jewelry.
Because it is cheaper and quite malleable and flexible, designs with silver as the base tend to be far more intricate. Add to that the satisfaction that silver belongs to the noble metal family and yet much cheaper than other constituents like gold, platinum and rhodium. "Silver costs about Rs 51 a gram, today. In comparison, one gram of 22-carat gold cost Rs 3,830 and Rhodium is 10 times more expensive than gold," Gupta of Aliame Jewelry explains. Her jewellery is made from 925 sterling silver which is then plated with Rhodium to prevent the base metal from tarnishing. “A pair of earrings that I make for Rs 4,900 in silver would cost about Rs 30,000 in gold.”
Vaitaanika Studio's ruby-studded earrings with base in 925 sterling silver, plated in 22-carat gold (Left). Aliame Jewelry's science and astronomy design
New concepts in design
Nature and geometry rule designs in jewellery but new concepts like science and astronomy are being introduced as well. Aliame’s Gupta talks about how science has piqued an interest and found takers among Indian urban women today. Her bestsellers include minimalistic designs, unusual rings that are distinctly vertical or horizontal, two-finger rings; ear cuffs for both pierced and non-pierced ears, ear cufflike Bugadis and large nose pins. But earrings remain the most popular.
Chunky silver jewellery with tribal motifs is extremely popular, says jewellery designer Riddhima Kapoor Sahni. “Rajasthani-styled Vintage silver jewellery is pretty popular with inlay work, lotus motifs and Ganesh motifs. Silver chokers are very trendy right now especially if they have an antique or vintage finish,” she adds. Chokers are everygreen. “What is really trending, is to layer a choker with a long piece, particularly for festive occasions," says Jain. Her range of Ahilya silver jewels starts at Rs 200 and goes up to Rs 61,500.
The last few years has witnessed an overhaul not just in terms of design, but also in terms of availability and transparency with the introduction of online retail.
Due to the increasing demand, even mainstream jewellers such as Tanishq have a complete line, Mia, devoted to silver. According to Sandeep Kulhalli, Senior Vice President, Retail and Marketing, Jewellery Division, Titan, “There is an increasing demand for silver with inclination towards lightweight, modern and trendy jewellery.” Tanishq’s Mia, which focuses on western contemporary space, has the bestselling Sassy Silver collection with quirky statement pieces like a dragonfly pendant that can also be used as a brooch.
Silver has always had women enthralled because of its basic qualities -- lightweight and design flexibility. It is understated and not as loud as gold. It has an innate character - the burnished look of oxidised silver spells pure class. And right now the prices of gold are so high - one kg is worth Rs 38 lakh. A similar quantity of silver costs only Rs 50,000 or thereabouts. Besides, it is an ideal gift for every woman. Despite being relatively inexpensive, it retains its appeal for those who want to make a style statement with the jewellery they wear.
Here is the print version of the article published on 13th Jan