Silver Streak

Silver is well established as a style staple in any woman’s fine jewelry wardrobe. Jewelers describe it as “still the best selling opportunity in female self-purchase,” according to market research released by the Silver Promotion Service (SPS).

Jewelers report selling silver across the board, increasing their silver branded lines to attract a younger client, offer options for all customers in all price ranges, build relationships from gift purchases, and make customers feel they’re getting more for their dollar.

Nearly 90% of retailers surveyed said they’re optimistic the current silver boom will continue for the next several years. Despite the resurgence of gold with lower, more stable pricing, silver has carved its niche in the fine jewelry realm as a must-have category. “Based on our most recent research, silver sales remain strong,” reports SPS Director Michael Barlerin. “The SPS believes it would take a much greater decline in the gold price, and the belief that the price would remain low over an extended period, to have any impact on silver demand.”

According to SPS, 67% of jewelry retailers said their silver jewelry sales increased in 2014—with 48% reporting increases between 11% and 25%, while 13% realized increases over 25%. Nearly half said silver experienced the best inventory turnover rate in 2014, while 29% cited diamonds and 15% bridal. In fact, silver jewelry sales, as a percentage of overall jewelry sales, were on average 34% of unit volume and 30% of dollar volume. Moreover, silver ranked as the jewelry category that gave 43% of retailers the best “maintained” margins during the holiday season, with 31% citing diamond jewelry and 19% bridal.

Year-over-year comparisons since 2008 showed that on an annual basis silver delivered sales increases between 67% and 87%; holiday sales specifically between 61% and 82%; best “maintained” margins between 36% and 57%; and as a percent of overall sales, units were between 29% and 37% and dollars 20% and 30%. A third to nearly half consider silver very important to their business.

Silver is a wonderful opportunity for jewelers, especially independents, hails Debra Puzio, executive creative director, for Ariva Living in Fine Jewelry, a Pranda brand, Rhode Island. “Collections with a unique point of view attract silver lovers who are often self-purchasing females with discretionary income. Silver lines generate foot traffic. The price of entry is affordable. Our brand has four unique points of positioning and many of our customers select from all four so that they have something to offer every woman’s taste in silver.”

Silver Style
Silver is a popular color and element in fashion and accessories. Spied on recent runways: piles of different silver bracelets at Bottega Veneta; chunky silver chains at Alexander Wang; and face jewelry at Givenchy. “Silver also has a place in celebrity styling and continues to pique the interest of their stylists,” says Isabel Cajulis, SPS project manager in New York, who cites silver rings with bright gemstones stacked on Maddie Marlow of country music duo Maddie & Tae at this year’s Country Music Awards; and simple silver dome earrings adorning Lesley Ann-Brandt of “Gotham” at Comic Con.

Silver has captured the fashion fine jewelry market, as designers regale in their ability to push boundaries and work in larger scale with an affordable yet precious metal. Designer Sara Blaine, a Benchmark partner based in Atlanta, Georgia has always loved the metal. “It’s an easy color to wear for everyone. Silver has become a staple and will never go away in the fine jewelry industry. While skyrocketing gold prices may have set the stage for silver’s rise in popularity, it is a metal with its own strong fan base. My customers look to me for quality, good pricing and on trend designs and silver delivers.”

White metal will always be synonymous with silver, but as silver continues to grow in the jewelry market, new designers have introduced innovative and unique textures and finishes. “We’re seeing more designers working with oxidized silver, which makes a beautiful backdrop for diamond accents,” says Cajulis. “We’ve also seen organic textures inspired by vines, coral, and other natural elements.”

Nature inspired designs are in vogue says Cajulis, with a focus on floral and leaf motifs. “Ariva Fine Jewelry has several pieces that fit in this category in their new East collection. Dramatic drop earrings also are growing in popularity. This earring style is often the focal point of a whole outfit, and silver provides a big impact at an affordable price point.”

Ariva’s “East” collection, says Puzio has garnered the most attention of the three new lines launched at JCK this year. “A true provenance brand, this collection brings to life gorgeous floral necks, exotic birds and revered elephants—inspired by the flora and fauna of Thailand. The majority of this soft, romantic collection was designed for the bride or special occasion.”

Puzio notes that retail prices in silver can range from $100 for a small pair of elephant stud earrings to $3,300 for a diamond and gem pheasant brooch pendant. “Retailers and editors are fascinated by the articulation of the metal and choice of gemstones used for accents.” She says with gold prices stable, the company will start to design and layer in more 18K accents in its “Silk” collection.

“Rhodium stabilization—now $770 but was as high as $2450 in the last five years—is a big help because we use this for all our jewelry as a fine finish/anti-tarnish ingredient,” says Puzio. “Since the majority of our product is textured, we use a lot of it. We also use a fair amount of rose gold plating over silver in our Rittenhouse collection. We see pink as very viable and will continue to offer it because demand is there. Silver styling in multiple color-plating and finishing offers a point of interest when people are browsing silver collections.”

Blaine concurs that as gold continues to become more prominent, more of it will show up in silver designs. “Most women like to mix it up with colors and materials. I’m working a lot with earth tone gems and mother-of-pearl.” Key trends in silver: geometrics, chevron pattern, fringe/tassels, layering/stacking, bold statement rings, big cuffs, small pendant necklaces and earrings.

Silver Tongued
Silver jewelry resonates most with female self-purchasers and for gifting, says SPS research. Cajulis advises retailers take advantage of these two groups by dedicating a few window displays to silver such as stacking bangles, layering necklaces, and silver rings, highlighting price points under $500.”

SPS also provides point-of-sale tools like SilverMark branded presentation trays, acrylic plaques and polishing cloths. It also has an e-learning module for sales associates that offer facts and selling tips about silver, all available at savorsilverretailconnection.com.

To effectively market silver, Puzio advocates retailers articulate the advantages of this metal. “The biggest advantage I see is scale. We create very large pieces that would otherwise be price prohibitive even at today’s gold market. Some of the best jewelry innovation of late has been routed in this metal. Silver is a noble metal and continues to gain popularity among consumers.”

Blaine also encourages jewelers to teach customers how to layer. “Show them how to consider their jewelry to style their own signature look. Consumers want to know how to look at their jewelry. Sales associates need to help them realize what they can do with their jewelry.”

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