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Different kinds of precious metals are used in the jewellery trade, but silver has always stood out to be a classic addition to any jewellery collection. Just like gold jewellery, silver jewellery is quite popular among the Indian audience. Ornaments made of silver, like earrings, rings, anklets, necklaces, toe rings, etc. are considered an integral part of Indian jewellery.
Silver jewellery is known for its elegance and versatility, and is appropriate for any occasion. It adapts well to fashion, ranging from classic to glitzy. Women residing in rural areas and tribal areas are particularly known to wear heavy silver jewellery. Along with being a source of adornment, these ornaments serve as financial security during contingency.
Jewellery refers to the ornamental pieces made of materials that may or may not be precious and are often set with genuine or imitation gems. Jewellery shops can be found in all the cities across the country. There are traditional jewellers as well as modern jewellers, catering to the requirements of all kinds of consumers. While gold is regarded auspicious and seen as a status symbol, silver is not far behind. The popularity of silver jewellery can be attributed to its affordability, with many in the low-income group making it their first choice.
Silver jewellery has been used for adornment since centuries. In ancient India, the rulers started the trend of wearing heavy jewellery made of silver and other precious metals. Both men and women preferred to adorn themselves with junk jewellery. People would adorn their waist, wrists, feet, hair and neck using the silver adornments. As years passed by, silver jewellery was used with precious and semi-precious stones.
A range of silver beads have been found across the country, especially in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh. Their availability has led to the development of bead jewellery, popular even today.
The different kinds of silver available are:
Fine silver - Fine silver, also referred to as pure silver, is the purest silver used in jewellery. It contains 99.9% silver and 0.1% other elements. Fine silver is lustrous, and can be used to create delicate jewellery pieces.
Sterling silver - This is the most famous silver alloy. In most parts of the globe, it is the standard silver alloy. Sterling silver contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper (to create a durable metal).
Argentium silver - This was created specifically to combat the tarnish that occurs when silver oxidises as it comes in contact with air. When compared with sterling silver, argentium silver has a higher percentage of pure silver.
Nickel silver - This encompasses a range of alloys of nickel, copper, and zinc. While nickel silver is yellowish brown in colour and silvery in appearance, it actually does not contain any silver. Its formulation is generally 60% copper, 20% zinc and 20% nickel.
Coin silver - This is an alloy of 90% silver and 10% copper. It is quite similar to sterling silver - the main difference being how much pure silver is used. Coin silver is stamped with .900.
Silver-filled - Here, the underlying base metal is covered by a thin layer of silver. It sits between sterling silver and silver plated in terms of value. Silver-filled is not an alloy, rather it is a kind of plating with a heavier layer of silver.
Silver plated - The ornaments are such that the base metal is covered by an extremely thin layer of silver. Now, as the layer is very thin, it can wear off with time and usage. Silver plated jewellery does not have a quality stamp.
Tribal silver - Similar to nickel silver, tribal silver does not have any silver element. They are made from base metal alloys that make it look like real silver jewellery. Tribal silver simply has the term ‘silver’ tagged on it as they look like silver.
One can find a number of ornaments made of silver, like chains, necklaces, rings, bracelets, nose rings, earrings, toe rings, armlets, etc. in the market. Silver anklets, for instance, are worn by many people across the country. Besides this, silver is used to create bangles, funky necklaces, earrings studded with precious and semi-precious stones, stylish rings, etc. Jhumka, hansli, nath, chokar, and bracelets made of silver are high in demand among women in India.
Silver consumption in the country has reportedly risen multi-fold over the past decade. In 2008, about 601 tonnes were used for jewellery making in India. This figure rose to 2,058 tonnes in 2017, according to the World Silver Survey 2018. The country’s share of silver demand for jewellery and silverware in the world market rose to 39.2% in 2017 from 14.7% in 2008, Business Standard has reported. There is a large demand for silver in rural and semi-urban areas. A large portion of rural silver demand has been for making 'payal'. Silver is generally the preferred asset for buying by farmers when they have liquidity. It is also the first to be sold when they are in need of funds.
The most obvious way to ascertain if a piece of silver is pure and the extent to which it is pure is by looking at the markings stamped on the jewellery. The markings will show the percentage of silver present in the metal mixture. E.g. a piece of jewellery made of sterling silver will have "Sterling," ".925," or "925" etched on it.
Some of the tests that people can conduct at home to check for the purity of silver include:
|Magnet Test||magnet slides down||magnet will stick|
|Acid Test||red or brown colour||dark brown or blue colour|
|Nitric Acid Test||creamy white colour||green colour|
Technique 1 - Baking soda and salt:
Step 1 - Line a glass container or baking pan with tin foil and pour hot water in it.
Step 2 - Add one or two tablespoons of salt and baking soda.
Step 3 - Soak the silver jewellery in this mixture and let it rest for five minutes.
Step 4- Rinse the jewellery with water.
Technique 2 - Baking soda and white vinegar:
Step 1 - Create a solution that is half a cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda.
Step 2 - Soak the silver in the solution two or three hours.
Step 3 - Rinse it and dry.
Technique 3 - Olive oil and lemon juice:
Step 1 - Take a bowl. Pour half a cup of lemon juice and one tablespoon of olive oil.
Step 2 - Dip a cloth in the solution and polish the silver with it.
Step 3 - Wash it with warm water.
Silver is next to gold when it comes to the jewellery buying preference of people in the country. It has been able to hold its price and even witness appreciation during instances when gold has seen a decline. The demand for silver jewellery is only expected to grow in the years to come. Besides jewellery, demand for silverware, tableware, décor items, etc. may also see an increase.