Another blog post from last year. Bears repeating.
Truth and Accuracy
While browsing today for various things, as you do, I came across this excellent explanation of 'tibetan silver'.
As a consumer economy we are so driven by brand names and the appearance of things that we don't look beneath the surface. Oooh, it says silver! Even silver-plate sounds elegant. Gold-plate... wow! It's all in the eye and not in the brain.
In the UK we're very restricted as to what we can use in jewellery, if it's sterling or fine silver we cannot have more than 7.5 grams in a piece without sending it off to be hallmarked. This adds cost to the item and involves an element of risk if some of the silver in the piece is tested and found to not be as thought. We trust our suppliers, jump rings and ear wires are only part of the equation. Crimps and crimp covers are also liable to be tested and if one element is off then the whole piece of jewellery is rejected.
The alternative is plated components, but who knows what the base metal is under the plate? You spend hours designing a piece, you put in time and artistic ability and then you have to settle for cheap plated options to avoid being put through the hallmarking mill! Alternatives such as plated pewter are great, as are the lovely metal-dipped and fired Greek ceramic beads, since they are plated rather than solid precious metal they aren't put under the stern gaze of the hallmarking process.
But 'tibetan silver'? Blech. Who knows what lurks in the heart of much of the stuff? It comes mostly from China, and unless you want to spend the money getting all your batches tested... it's a risk and also it's a bit of a problem because you can't call it silver unless you get it tested and hallmarked.
On the one hand, here in the UK it's great that the hallmarking system is stringent but it does not allow for the new styles of jewellery from artists who use small amounts of silver but are not traditional jewellers. It's a challenge to produce an item that has minimal amounts of precious metals, which requires creativity but it really galls when there is on the market a proliferation of dubious metal beads and findings under the umbrella of 'tibetan silver' that should be addressed. It will protect not only the buyers but the artists too if this stuff were more closely and carefully regulated and tested.