Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Silver Plate vs. Sterling Silver - What to Do?

Was at a show a couple of weeks ago where there were wonderful pieces of gorgeous jewelry made by true artisans. In the midst of all these talented artists was a guy selling decent looking jewelry who was out in the aisle hawking his wares like he was at a carnival. I kept expecting a teeny car full of clowns to be following him.

His main pitch to prospective buyers was that his jewelry was silver plate rather than sterling silver. His jewelry wouldn't tarnish and was much stronger than sterling. Now you need to know he wasn't charging more for his superior product though - he was willing to sell this advanced product at a price equivalent to the vendors selling sterling just so people would buy his stuff, and once they bought his stuff they would never buy sterling again.

Now this is happening at a time when sterling silver prices are through the roof and I've had to adjust how much silver I can use in pieces to try and keep my jewelry affordable. I have tried working with other metals, but they do not compare to the look and feel of sterling for me.

Now my first reaction was to whip him in the head with something - but I resisted because that's not who I am. My second urge was to stand next to him and yell "Liar Liar Pants on Fire" - but I resisted that too. He wasn't really lying - silver plate doesn't tarnish. He was being a politician - telling a half truth - and "Half Liar, Half Liar" doesn't have the same ring to it. Urge number three was to stand idly by and try to ignore him. That wasn't working for me at all. As the show went on, I noticed that other artists were having a negative reaction to him as well. It was so helpful to not feel alone. We talked about things we could do, but in the end we didn't do anything. The plotting was fun though.

I guess part of my issue is that there should be some courtesy and respect among artists. Last year at a show in New Hampshire I caught another vendor whispering to customers who were looking at my jewelry that they should go to her booth and buy from her. So maybe respect among artists is a lot to ask for. (I did go to her booth later and tell her that she needed to stop or I would report her to the show promoters).

Now this guy wasn't a buy/sell guy. He actually did make some nice jewelry -- but where was his ethical sense? Do we want to sacrifice our loyalty to other crafts people to make a sale? I guess he did. But that's not who I am. And I'm figuring most of you aren't either.

I have had many many wonderful experiences participating in craft fairs and even though there is an abundance of jewelry artists, most of the time we get along very well, helping each other out when we can, especially if someone is working alone and needs a break. I believe customers will come to my booth if they are drawn to it. My openness and desire to communicate and offer great customer service is based on a love of what I do. It matters to me that I am honest in describing the components of the jewelry. That's all I can do, and it works!



  1. I totally agree with you on this one. It is annoying to hear another "artist" telling half truths about silver plate. Do you ignore the statements made by this business or get down and dirty and explain to potential customers that sooner or later (usually sooner) the silver plate will wear off and the customer will have a piece of wearable art that is now just base metal. It doesn't have the shine of sterling silver and if the owner has allergies to nickel or other metals they are at risk of a having a reaction.

    The salesperson has a great sales line but the reality is that only silver, gold and platinum are listed daily. I have yet to see any silver plate prices included. This is definitely a good example of "Let the Buyer Beware".

  2. LOL! I'm giggling thinking about you yelling "half Liar! Half-liar!" ... HA!
    Keep doing what your doing... good will, and love of your craft will see you through... Rock on!