Wholesale jewelry can be a great way to jump-start an accessory business, since silver never goes out of style and, where there is demand and supply, profit will inevitably follow. Now, in case you’re considering such a business venture and you’re a potential bulk buyer or retailer, there are several things about wholesale sterling silver that you need to know before you get started. Issues of evaluating silver, caring for it and tips on how to turn a random idea into a successful business follow below, courtesy of the experts we talked to, over at Wholesale Sterling Silver Jewelry.
1. Make Sure the Silver Is Clean
The first step you need to take before making any silver purchase is to carefully and thoroughly evaluate the pieces in question. Of course, there is no way to do that if the silver is not clean. Any debris or residue on the surface of the jewelry will not allow you to appraise it properly and make sure the price asked (or, conversely, the price you’re thinking of demanding from your customers) is the right price.
2. Clean the Silver
Contrary to popular belief, which recommends using toothpaste for cleaning silver, this is an entirely wrong method. The problem with toothpaste or other recommended cleaning agents, such as sodium bicarbonate, is that they are abrasive. Using such materials to clean the silver will only result in unwanted scratches on the surface of the jewelry. Scratches and other forms of deterioration will consequently drive your asking price down. Perhaps the easiest and most accessible way to clean silver is by using a polishing cloth.
3. Understand What Sterling Silver Is
You cannot get into the sterling silver business until you understand what the material is, specifically. Pure silver is never used for manufacturing jewelry, for the mere reason that it is too soft to be manipulated into rings, bracelets or necklaces. Such items would change their shape shortly after having been produced. Wholesale silver rings and other similar objects are made from an alloy, which consists of 92.5% pure silver. The remaining 7.5% is usually copper, which makes the silver more durable and easier to shape. The problem with copper is that it makes the silver darker in color, producing those unwanted black marks on the jewelry wearer’s skin, after coming into contact with certain airborne gases or other substances.
4. Properly Care for Sterling Silver
Aside from cleaning, sterling silver must also be cared for throughout its life, in order to avoid scratches, dents or other forms of deterioration. The best way to care for your sterling silver items is to keep them individually stored, in specially designed bags or pieces of cloth that allow you to avoid tarnish. Such textiles are treated with special substances that slow down the tarnish process, besides the fact that they allow you to avoid scratches. It’s also advisable to store the jewelry in a place that’s cool and dry.
5. Understand Sterling Silver Markings
In the United States, sterling silver markings are regulated by the US Federal Trade Commission, or FTC. According to the FTC, only items which contain a minimum of 92.5% pure silver can be labeled, described or sold as “silver, solid silver, sterling silver, sterling” or under the “Ster” abbreviation. That’s why you will notice that the wholesale sterling silver jewelry you intend to purchase is marked 925 or 92.5. Never buy any purportedly silver items that do not bear this marking, as, under current laws, you will not be allowed to sell them—and chances are, they’re not silver in the first place.
6. Patina or No Patina?
You may have noticed that, as it ages, sterling silver jewelry will develop a soft glow, as well as darker areas on its surface, which may be more or less extended. This is popularly known as the silver’s ‘patina,’ the indicator that the material has aged. You can either clean off the patina, if you prefer a bright shimmer to your jewelry. Vintage or retro jewelry items, on the other hand, tend to look better and display more ‘character’ with the patina, rather than without it.
7. What Is Vermeil?
Since at some point you may want to expand your business, it’s probably also useful for you to know and understand the definition of vermeil, since some might try to sell you vermeil items marketed as gold. Note that vermeil is, in fact, sterling silver, coated in gold of at least 10k fineness and no thinner than 2.5 microns (1/10,000 inches). Other metals may be used in the composition of vermeil, in between the sterling silver base and the layer of gold, but their presence must also be disclosed to the seller.
8. Different Markings for Different Types of Silver
Remember that, while silver sold in the United States bears the 925 or 92.5 markings, this is not a worldwide standard. Some countries use pictorial marks, while others allow each jewelry manufacturer to inscribe the jewelry with their own initials. Silver experts can even go as far as to recognize what country a given piece of jewelry is from—all at a quick glance. Tiffany, Whiting and other manufacturers have also used their particular markings throughout history.
9. Stay Updated on Current Jewelry Trends
One year hoop earrings are in style, the next is all about pendants, dangling chandelier earrings fall in and out favor with the fashionistas—and so on. Charm bracelets, angular bracelets, ring shapes—if you plan on going into the jewelry selling business, you will need to have a thorough grasp on trends and styles. Also, remember that the bridal jewelry niche is a sure-fire way to sell your products. While silver is nowhere near as precious as the current popular favorites, platinum and palladium, its affordability will ensure its perpetual popularity.
10. Remember the Timelessness of Sterling Silver
Possibly the best quality of sterling silver is its timelessness. You can be sure that jewelry made from this material will not soon go out of style, since it’s been used ever since the most ancient of times. Tools, coins and accessories have been made out of it and the silver mines discovered across the Western hemisphere during the exploration period in history has made sure that silver is here to stay. The 18th century marked the explosion in the popularity of this material, which has since never become outdated or fallen out of style.