Reflecting on last year, the figures compiled by all four UK Assay Offices show a 9% dip in silver hallmarking in 2016, compared to 2015, with 925 experiencing one of the steepest declines in the category.
925 experienced a decrease of 9.1% compared to the same period the year before, with 4,479,514 articles being hallmarked overall. However, despite this decline, when you compare these results to gold, the amount of sterling silver items hallmarked surpassed both 9ct and 18ct, which, in order, reported 3,435,213 and 862,509 items assayed.
Across the year so far, silver has outperformed gold in terms of hallmarked goods, with the latest figures (March 2017) showing an increase in the amount of silver articles assayed. Of course, hallmarking figures only show what’s entering the market, but it’s a good place to start painting a picture of how silver has been performing overall for the UK jewellery industry.
Many independent jewellery retailers from around the UK have been reporting a positive start to the year with silver, with many predicting a bright future for branded goods.
At Iconic by Fitzgerald in Canterbury, silver has been outperforming rose and yellow gold, with Mococo highlighting sterling silver as its bestselling material by far.
“Rose has proven to be a real hit with consumers as some pieces are still at a reasonable price point, however we are still seeing silver being the most popular metal,” reveals Mococo’s merchandising team.
Lancaster-based Silver Tree managing director Oliver Gibson says despite a turbulent trading environment, silver has continued to perform well across its branded jewellery collections throughout Christmas and the start of 2017.
John Pass Jewellers director, Andrew Pass, echoes: “Silver has continued to perform well in our stores over the last six to 12 months, particularly when it is manufactured by leading global and national brands.”
While the sales of many brands have been slightly down for Fabulous, founder Jo Stroud is still positive about the future of silver jewellery.
Notably, Stroud and other jewellers Professional Jeweller spoke to has seen an increase in consumers purchasing silver pieces as gifts.
“We have certainly noticed that the gifting market for silver jewellery is still strong, but the self-purchase market has declined,” shares Stroud. “To some extent, people are buying to a price point, but the main reason they are buying, when it is a gift, is for meaning.”
As such, silver brands with a meaning have been as a general rule performing better for Fabulous, as long as they fall into a giftable price point. However, Stroud notes that charms and the concept of adding to a collection has declined as consumers favour buying something completely new as a gift, rather than adding to a range the recipient already owns.
“The most important thing for our customers is that a piece is relevant for the recipient — so the meaning of the piece is the compelling factor in what people are asking for or deciding on, rather than just its look,” Stroud affirms.
Following this trend, at Fabulous gifting price points up to around £50 has been the most popular for consumers buying silver jewellery, with higher price points of £200 to £300 working well when people feel they are getting more for their money.
At Silver Tree, the average sale has almost doubled over the last 18 months, which Gibson remarks is key due to the decline in footfall on the high street. For the store’s silver ranges the £75 mark price point is most popular. Similarly at Iconic by Fitzgerald items under £99 perform best.
For Neil & Barker, while the store is still selling pieces between £75 and £150, the most popular price points are £30-£60, with charms and stacking bracelets falling into this category.
For the most part, independent retailers do not feel consumers are being too price sensitive, rather they are after good value for money. For one person this might mean buying more items at lower prices, for others they will splash out on a product they believe is the perfect gift, or an item they will wear for a very long time.
Andrew Pass shares: “People don’t appear to be too price sensitive to silver jewellery up to about £150, after which it appears to become more of a considered purchase as opposed to an impulse purchase. However, customers need to feel like they are getting ‘great value for money’ at all price points — which means our customer experience, store environment, visual merchandising, packaging and even our coffee has to be the best.”
At John Pass Jewellers branded jewellery has been selling really well, with Pass mentioning Pandora, Clogau, ChloBo and Vamp as strong performers.
“The rise in popularity of branded silver jewellery means that it is a great category to trade within,” Pass explains. “It provides so many customers with an ideal gift solution, and opportunities to self purchase as a ‘pick me up’ without feeling guilty.”
“It is the personalised pieces that perform well,” says Gibson. “As long as our customers are educated in what they are buying they tend to want the silver pieces from brands. There are, however, a huge majority of customers that are ‘shopping’ the brand and do not necessarily seek out silver.”
At Silver Tree Thomas Sabo’s Charm Club and Love Bridge collections have been performing well, alongside Hot Diamond’s latest brand Anais, and its range of personalised necklaces.
For Fabulous, Dower & Hall’s Cherish collection is really strong, as well as ChloBo and the store’s own brand Mantra — both of which are up on last year.
While Thomas Sabo charms have been on the decline for Neil & Barker, ChloBo bracelets have been doing well, although the store struggles with the brand’s more expensive necklaces.
“Engelsrufer has really surprised us,” shares Neil & Barker co-owner, Allison Aldridge. “This has grown really well over the past 12 months especially the sound ball necklace concept. Clogau is also doing well and I think bridges the gap between fashion and fine jewellery.”
She continues: “Recently, I think customers are looking for more longevity and are turning to more classic pieces of jewellery with pendants and earrings. Customers are quite price conscious but are always looking for something new and their spend is still often brand name driven, this makes it a slow process for new brands to become popular.”
Trends wise on the shop floor, alongside continued demand for personalised jewellery, stacking continues to provide the opportunity to sell multiple bracelets and rings, whilst ear jackets show no signs of slowing down.
“Layering is a big trend, and a key point for how our jewellery is worn,” comments Daniella Draper, founder of the eponymous brand and independent store. “All my designs are designed to be worn together, layered and stacked, and from this we have seen how our customers like to collect the items to get the ultimate ‘look’.”
Draper adds: “The bulk of our sales are in silver as not only is it more popular, but it is more affordable on a more regular basis. We have certainly had an increase in sales over the past six months due to the popularity of silver, the growth of our brand and the appreciation of handmade jewellery.”
For many brands silver has been performing extremely well. At Dollie Jewellery, sales are double what they were last year, and silver jewellery designer brand Lucy Quartermaine has noticed a strong rise in sales over the last quarter.
Elsewhere Thomas Sabo has seen an increase in average transaction values, suggesting customers are spending more per purchase, while Clogau reveals that silver still dominates its sales mix, accounting for over 90% of its volume, and Curteis says it’s seen strong growth, with a surge in demand for bespoke collections though the company’s Curteis Creates products.
Rachel Galley has also been enjoying robust sales, especially during the lead up to the festive trading season. The designer explains: “We have had great sales this year, in the months leading up to Christmas we were up by 200%, which was predominantly wholesale into stores.
“We launched 10 new ranges at International Jewellery London 2016, so we had lots of new product to show our retailers which allowed them to buy into new products alongside any existing stock to refresh their collections, and it brought new retailers also with the large selection we have which is emphasised by our competitive retail prices and our generous mark up.”
For Gecko, silver was a particular focus at Jewellery & Watch, with the company placing its sterling silver brand Beginnings centre stage.
Gecko creative director, Desiree Pringle, shares: “Gecko launched three new silver jewellery collections – Beginnings, Elements Silver and Fiorelli Silver – this spring. Each one is very different from the other but I am delighted to say that all three have been very well received and that they, and all our silver lines, are doing well this year.”
SS17 products have also been performing well for Kit Heath, with retailers praising the new seasonal ranges.
“Our Kit Heath SS17 has been particularly well received by our customers this season,” says Kit Heath creative director, Katie Nickell.
“Achieved, I would say, by improved internal performance, responding to sales analysis, and further defining and focusing our brand’s core and commercial appeal within our collection offering.”
For jewellery brands present in the UK, when it comes to silver, as mentioned by the retailers, the stacking trend is still one of the biggest trends. Chrysalis has even noticed a trend for consumers buying stacks as a whole, rather than one piece at a time.
Head of brand development at Clogau, Sonia Menzes, says: “Stacking is still a popular trend and this is reflected in our current stats. Our
Affinity stacking bracelets and glass lockets have been particularly popular. Our new David Emanuel collection featuring Swarovski Genuine Topaz is also doing really well.”
When discussing Dollie Jewellery, executive director for distribution at Somers Distribution, Stephen Reece-Raybould, remarks: “Stacking bracelets and rings are still growing in popularity for our customer, but the latest trend coming through is definitely stacking necklaces. In response to demand for this from retailers and consumers, we are now offering stacking necklaces in three different lengths.”
“Layering is undoubtedly still a strong trend, creating a sense of individuality and offering of personalisation through jewellery is a trend that we are still seeing,” echoes Nickell. “We have designed specifically both shorter and longer neckwear options in complimentary profiles to create a variety of looks at different price points.” Other trends coming through from jewellery brands include a pop of colour, mix metal adornments and simple shapes and symbols.
Thomas Sabo has also noticed a trend influenced by the ‘selfie’. UK managing director, Jon Crossick, shares: “We are definitely seeing growth in our earring and ear stud business. The selfie culture has meant that it is all about the face, and so big bold earrings, as well as lots of studs, are doing well.”
He adds: “I don’t think the trend for earwear will stop, and if anything will continue to grow further with the trend for more piercings becoming bigger and more mainstream.”
Looking to the future, consumers seem to be complementing their fine, stacked up pieces, with heavier jewels.
Many brands Professional Jeweller contacted said they have seen a move towards consumers buying bolder, more extravagant silver jewellery pieces.
“We have noticed a rise in the larger necklaces this quarter, it’s the statement designs that have sold well, especially within our retailers,” says Lucy Quartermaine, founder of the eponymous brand. “It’s all about jewellery with a twist — statement pieces that stand out and offer something different.”
Desiree Pringle adds: “We have definitely seen a move in our Beginnings collection towards bigger pieces and our recently introduced torques and bangles have been a huge hit. Our retailers tell us that plain, statement styles are being asked for, including torques and chunky bangles as well as pieces that can be personalised.”
In response to this trend Rachel Galley is focusing more on showstoppers within the brand’s collections, to sit alongside essential every day pieces.
Whether jewellery becomes heavier, or the focus continues to be on stacking, or adorning the ear, all trends at the moment lead towards a longing for consumers to express themselves, either through personalised jewellery, or creating a unique style which reflects their individual personality.
While gold has started to increase in popularity again, silver will always have price on its side and a place in the market for consumers looking to self purchase, or buy gifts.
The question is, how will brands and retailers selling silver stand out from the crowd and battle for consumer spend?
No matter the price, jewellery is a very personal purchase, and today’s generation of silver buying consumers are more focused on individuality than ever before.
With the vast amount of silver jewellery on offer today, retailers also have an opportunity to express themselves with the way they stock their selection of brands. Using silver jewellery to create personal displays is one way retailers can stand out from the competition, and also show consumers how they can use pieces to style themselves too.
“The requirement for branded jewellery will always be strong but we have seen some very astute customers use Curteis product to build their own collections and tailor a range that is specific to their requirements and customer’s needs,” explains Curteis sales and marketing manager, Claire Davies.
“Some of the shop displays consisting of cherry picked products have been really inspiring. As a company we hope to engage in this trend and provide our customers with the right products to achieve this.”