Silver Is In The Ascendant

Silver is a store of value and comes to a close second after gold in terms of popularity. During the lockdown, from April to June 2020, India’s silver jewellery exports shot up 93% to $324.59 million. Silver jewellery exports remained the only category that stayed in positive territory during one of the toughest phases in history. Solitaire International spoke to designers and silver export houses that cater to various international markets, and decodes silver’s potential for growth through their lens. 

Unlike the other two revered precious metals, gold and platinum, silver plays a significant role in both fine and fashion jewellery segments because of its affordability factor.  While China and Thailand offer stiff competition to India in terms of pricing, scale and quality, India banks on the skilled artisans for handcrafted jewellery as well as make machine-made collections.

But have we put our strengths to good use yet? Apparently not, and there’s room for improvement to push for exports in this category. Many Indian silver companies operate as contract manufacturers for their international clients. One such firm is Pinkcity Jewelhouse Private Limited, Jaipur. The company’s director Manuj Goyal, explains why:We are contract manufacturers for machine-made silver jewellery with expertise in casting and electroforming. We would definitely look to hire Indian designers who have a global perspective in terms of design, but unfortunately, we have a shortage of such talent who can design for the Western market.”

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Since online trading is the new norm, these days global markets are more comfortable working with companies that are ethical, properly audited and compliant. Goyal remarked, “We are an RJC-certified company, and therefore, we stand a good chance in terms of attracting business from abroad.”

India’s main export destinations for silver jewellery are the US, UK, and Europe. It is imperative to study the markets one is catering to, says Puja Bhargava Kamath, creative head and founder, Lai Designs, which operates out of California, USA and India. As a designer, Puja deliberately stayed away from the US-centric trends and realised early on that her collections were a strong fit for museum stores in the US where customers seek narratives that speak of crafts, myths and culture. “My brand subscribes to Fair Trade practices and most of my sterling silver collections are handcrafted in Jaipur. Finding your niche customer or market is very important. The US market is saturated at all price points. The crux is to find a sweet spot that works for your brand.”

Invest in studying the markets you are working in or want to tap, says Puja. Blend the time-honoured jewellery making crafts with technology to raise the bar in terms of quality and finish. Vivek Shah, Founder, Karma Designs, Ahmedabad, says that when his company started exporting, “Our clients wanted the best quality in terms of setting, and polishing and plating. Hence, the majority of our jewellery is cast with the help of state-of-the-art technology. We still have various processes that involve a combination of hand craftsmanship and machines – be it creativity of expert CAD designer, enameling or custom-cut gemstones. Jewellery makers in India enjoy an enviable position of having access to both craftsmen and machine resources — this is the core strength of India, which can be advantageous for us.”

To push India’s silver exports, two prerequisites are very important, according to Shah: high quality and capability to manufacture on a time-bound basis. “We still need more suppliers who can manufacture high quality jewellery at a mass scale.” 

Since silver being malleable, it offers more scope for experimentation. Sunaina Jain, creative head and co-founder of Adore Jewels, Jaipur, who exports jewellery across nine global markets, states that there is an increase in demand for handcrafted Indian jewellery abroad. “The expertise and craftsmanship of our Indian karigars is unparalleled, and our mission is to stay true to our roots and retain the essence of Indian heritage in our creations, which have a strong narrative.”

Silver jewellery exports will get a boost if an e-commerce policy to facilitate ease of doing business is implemented soon. Shah observes that the e-commerce trade will help to export even small quantities of silver jewellery directly to customers abroad.

A look at what’s trending abroad in the silver jewellery segment:

In the US, millennials are more trend-driven and wear layered necklaces, charm pendants, name bracelets, birthstones – they are fascinated by personalised jewellery. Then there is another segment that opts for Mexican and Native Indian silver jewellery, which is similar to Rajasthani silver jewellery. Consumers are willing to buy more luxurious silver jewellery pieces set with gemstones and pearls.

In Europe and other parts of the world, textured metals set with odd-shaped gemstones, high polish, bezel-set gemstone jewellery, finely designed silver jewellery is popular. 

Karma Designs
Karma Designs
Karma Designs
Karma Designs
Karma Designs

Key takeaways

  • Compliance Is Key
  • Shortage of Designers Who Cater to Global Markets
  • Ensure High Quality & Time-bound Manufacturing
  • Target Your Niche Market
  • Popularising handcrafted silver jewellery through generic promotions is crucial

Studying  market and fashion trends

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