Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Material World Part I - Precious Metals...

I’d originally planned a sort of ‘Costume versus Fine Jewellery’ post, after a discussion with a friend who was questioning the prices of designer costume jewellery. It’s spiralled into a more general musing on materials in jewellery, however, as that’s a pretty interesting topic at the moment, given metal prices and consumer attitudes to what our jewellery is made of.

Designer Silver - William Cheshire 'Libertine' Pendant

Prices of gold, this most desirable of metals, have rocketed in the last few years, resulting in frustration for designers no longer able to afford to work with it, dismay as people rush to turn heirlooms and antiques into scrap cash, and disappointment for consumers who find once attainable pieces out of their reach.

Zoe and Morgan Cluster Ring

The results of price increases on the industry have been varied. As well as designs tending towards lighter and open-work pieces, hallmarking of lower quality gold alloys has increased. If 9ct strikes you as a bit ‘Argos’, have a look at the above and following pieces from Zoe and Morgan - all beautifully designed and crafted, and all made from 9ct gold;

Zoe and Morgan 'Poison' and 'Antique Star' Rings

Although I love the above pieces, I’d actually personally prefer to have a piece made of silver, despite 9ct gold being a more expensive metal. At 9ct, you are getting an alloy that predominately consists of base metal (copper, nickel), with only 37.5% actual gold content. I’d much rather have a higher content of a precious metal that’s not ‘worth’ quite as much - and vermeil, where gold is plated over sterling silver, offers the look of yellow gold without the price.

Alex Monroe 'Peacock Feather' Bracelet in Gold Vermeil

There will, of course, be people that want to buy gold because of the intrinsic value of the metal in itself. But picking silver allows you to invest in a whole raft of incredible designers working in this metal, and design adds far more value to the fundamental worth of the metal alone. I don’t know many people who would buy a piece of contemporary design wondering what the scrap value will be in a few years.

William Cheshire 'Burlesque' Ring

Silver jewellery can and will last - even gold vermeil is easily re-polished and plated by a jeweller. The relatively cheaper medium of silver allows designers to experiment far more than in gold, but still use precious and semi precious stones and fine jewellery techniques such as enamel, pave and intricate detail.

Ana De Costa 'Sirus' Studs

Choosing silver doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice any luxury. Like the William Cheshire ring above, Ana De Costa’s new range sets diamonds in silver - only the price giving any indication that the stunning designs aren’t white gold.

Ana De Costa 'Sirus' Pendant

Links of London have had a diamond-set silver range for a number of years, including this moon charm, which makes such a lovely pendant. I actually bought it for my mum as a Christmas present one year – diamonds always make an impressive gift, whatever metal they’re set in...

Links of London 'Watch Over Me' Moon Charm

Featuring... Alex Monroe, Ana De Costa, Links of London, William Cheshire, Zoe and Morgan

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