Silver has never been so exciting. It might not carry the cachet of 18ct gold, but there are arguably more creative artists working in silver.
The metal lends itself superbly to flowing lines and to architectural shapes. Its reflective surface has a personality, a character, born of the interplay of light and shadow, heightened in some designs by oxidation, the blackness of which can delineate features or give dramatic depth.
We generally speak of 925 silver, or sterling silver, two names for a metal which comprises 92.5 per cent silver and usually 7.5 per cent copper. Pure silver is even softer than 24ct gold and almost impossible to work into a jewellery piece.
The price of silver has dropped lately, but 925 is best. Buy it from a reputable source and look for the 925 hallmark on the piece. Silver oxidises fairly easily, so it is not too hard to see if you are looking at real silver or just silver plating.
It is said that if you are unsure of your silver (and marks such as 925, Ster, SS and Sterling are easily faked), test with a magnet. Real silver will not respond.
Silver jewellery can be excitingly diverse. Artists who handcraft jewellery use it a lot, often teamed with gemstones. This handmade, even rustic, or ethnic look is not just for the boho trend.
Handmade jewellery can be a wonderful contrast with an elegant, simple dress or suit. Silver with amethyst is a knockout look. On the other hand, silver is perfect for a sleek art-deco ornament, especially if it is teamed with onyx or some equally dramatic stone.
In the hands of the Danish jewellers, silver can become a striking statement piece.
If handmade, artisan jewellery is for you, try NOVICA, an online resource for jewellery collectors who love the look. The site is associated with National Geographic and features jewellery and artists mainly from India, Indonesia and Thailand.
Do not restrict yourself to any particular style of silver as there are many lovely designs. Because silver is less expensive than gold, there is a misconception in some quarters that silver jewellery is not to be valued as highly. Yet there are so many brilliant investment pieces in silver.
Tiffany & Co., for example, enlisted renowned designers such as Paloma Picasso and Elsa Peretti to create collections in sterling silver. Its Keys, Atlas, Enchant and Infinity collections are also interpreted in silver.
Georg Jensen, the Danish silversmiths, dates back to 1904 and is still in the vanguard of design. Its heritage designs draw inspiration from nature and its Archive Collection has plenty of collectors.
Georg Jensen designs can combine silver with gemstones such as smoky quartz or rock crystal, as in its dramatic Dew Drop pendants, or with precious stones such as black diamonds in its Infinity pieces.
Georg Jensen’s extraordinary Lamellae Collection is inspired by the principles of the late architect Zaha Hadid, and is a fine investment piece. Closer to home, Bali-based John Hardy combines ethnic elements with true sophistication for a very individual look. Its autumn 2016 collection features the introduction of the Gradient Chain, “adding volume and oomph to an iconic John Hardy favourite”, the Classic Chain.
John Hardy’s new works include additions to the established collections such as the Bamboo range, the Legends Collection and the Naga Collection. The Bamboo Brushed Blackened Silver Kick Cuff is a highlight, as is the combination of silver and gold in the Dot Collection’s hinged bangles.
Thomas Sabo, a very savvy brand, has fun with seasonal offerings, such as its recent Halloween pieces with charms of bats, pumpkins, black cats and skulls on silver chains.
The Thomas Sabo Coins defy seasonality and also demonstrate how silver can be well-teamed with yellow and pink gold. The brand has round and heart-shaped collectible Love Coins either engraved or set with stones in a choice of patterns such as heart, cross, tree or even an eye.
These are youthful pieces with a sense of fun. It is therefore easy to see just how versatile silver can be, running the gamut from ethnic to high fashion, from delicate to dramatic, from sophisticated to mischievous.