Silver jewelry puts delightful pieces on our hands or ears at a fraction of the price of more precious metals. But because so many lacklustre pieces are made of silver– market stall junk that's cheaply fabricated or set with dull, badly-cut stones– it doesn't always get its due admiration.
Pure silver is soft, so metal alloys (usually copper, sometimes nickel or zinc and rarely, platinum) are added to harden it. Silver jewelry must contain at least 92.5% silver to be considered real, or sterling, silver. Some jewelry is 95% silver, stamped 950.
Exceptional silver pieces have weight and fine workmanship that rival the best goldsmith's. Here are a few of my bracelets and rings made entirely of silver.
1. Georg Jensen Biomorphic bracelet, designed by Henning Koppel, circa 1960.
An iconic piece purchased on eBay about 12 years ago.
I've also shot it held open so you can see the array of links, each different.
2. Sans-Titre silver ring, by Violaine Ulmer, bought in Paris ca. 2007. Five concentric stacked rings slide freely under the concave-disc top. A local silversmith told me this is a demanding ring to make. The face has a finely-etched irregular grid pattern.
3. Art deco bee bracelet by Toronto jeweler Susan Cockburn, who now lives in Dubai; bought around 15 years ago.
The clasp cleverly hides under one bee so it looks seamless.
4. Corset ring by Vancouver's Anat Basanta. The chased work of a vaguely Persian-style pattern seems to harmonize with whatever I wear. You can't quite see the delicate tracery of vines and leaves– our shy, senior tabby was unwilling to pose any longer.
5. One of the first pieces of jewelry I ever bought. I might have been twelve when an ad in a catalog for a silver ring made of your initials incited my first case of jewelry lust.
Think it was $35, which represented a lot of babysitting. Once, this ring fit my ring finger, now it fits the pinky. Forgot about it for forty years and found it in my mother's jewelry box when disbursing her estate.
What I'd buy today
William Spratling Silver Bracelet, ca. 1940. Stunning example of the famous designer's art. $1,850 from Go Antiques.
Bamboo Drop Earrings, 1 3/8” long x 5/8” wide, from Gump's, $150.
Salsa earrings, below, £35 (including VAT) from Braybrook & Britten.
Hoorsenbuhs Phantom bracelet, 1 1/2" wide, $1,550 from Barneys.
Scots Pine Bracelet by Malcolm Appleby, £625 from Thistle and Broom.
Vintage Diagonal Oval Silver Ring, ca. 1960s, by Torun for Georg Jensen, size 7, $350 from 20th Obsession.
For any occasion, a piece of vintage silver jewelry is a marvelous gift idea.