For thousands of years, men and women have been captivated by silver's spell and by its splendor. A silver spoon has symbolized great fortune at least since the 17th century when Cervantes cleverly acknowledged that everyone wasn't born with one in his mouth.
Silver has adorned castles of kings, the knee buckles of Bobby Shaftoe, dining room tables and Christmas tree stars. It has dangled from the ears of elegant ladies and free-spirited women. It has linked the cuffs of powerful men and rattled in babies' hands. Silver has glowed in candlelight on antique sideboards and gleamed in the sun on tables filled with trophies.
To see what's happening today with one of the earth's most precious metals, we peeked into area stores and talked to some local people who keep a eye on the sterling silver market.
JEWELRY AND GIFTS
"Generally, women who buy silver are looking for a big fashion statement without the expense of gold," says Steve Weinstein, owner of Dahne and Weinstein. Tiffany designers Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso oblige with their designs, many of which can be had in both metals.
An open heart and a shape that closely resembles a lima bean are Ms. Peretti's signature looks. Her hearts and beans can be found as pendants, pins, earrings and even, in the case of the bean, on elegant, lady-like sterling ball point pens or as gentlemen's cuff links.
The scribble design, usually turning up as earrings or pins, is purely Picasso, as are her well-known x's and o's, or love and kisses. Ms. Picasso has also turned her dove designs into highly polished silver pins.
"One of the hottest looks is mixing gold and silver," says Mr. Weinstein. On display at his new store at Green Spring Station are a very feminine Tiffany bow necklace and earrings in silver with gold and highly sophisticated, strong silver jewelry pieces created by Michael Bondanza and David Yurman. Mr. Bondanza's silver snake chain necklace and suit pin are adorned with art deco-like inserts of deep amethyst, onyx and gold, while Mr. Yurman's cuff bracelets of twisted tube sterling are set at the ends with a touch of gold and semiprecious stones.
Baltimore jewelry designer Betty Cooke has been mixing silver with gold and gems for years. One handsome piece is a choker necklace that alternates tubes of silver with sections of cultured pearls or lapis, a design she created more than 15 years ago.
"I think of jewelry as sculpture," says Ms. Cooke, whose long silver tube necklaces often include tassels of silver and bits of materials like black onyx, turquoise, amber, pieces of wood, and even beach pebbles. Although the jewelry is understated and sophisticated, "a lot is happening," says the designer, who is known for using geometric shapes in free-form patterns. A curved bangle bracelet in polished silver is a Cooke classic.
"What I see in my shop are artist jewelers experimenting with mixing metals and finishes," says Carol Brody, co-owner of Craft Concepts in Green Spring Station. "They are working with texture, playing with rough vs. smooth or matte vs. polished, to create an effect." As they move away from plain pieces of polished silver, many artists are adorning their work with gold, jasper, lapis, onyx, other semiprecious stones, and beads of all types.
Lewis and Heubner, a design team from New York, uses a half dozen geometric silver and gold shapes, dangling them in infinite patterns from ear wires. Trace Pettingill overlaps silver and gold shapes. Baltimorean M. K. Dilli works silver into her intricate bead designs. And Pat Garrett creates very detailed designs that range from silver dragonflies to silver abstract shapes.
"Silver is very strong today," says Ginny Tomlinson of Tomlinson Craft Collection. "It has a great '70s look and is very well-designed." Ms. Tomlinson's stores showcase several Baltimore artists who design and make their own silver jewelry, including Lauren Schott, Laurie Flannery, Jill Beninato, Bruce Blackburn and Jim Fixx.
Marley Simon of Marley Gallery of Contemporary Jewelry in Pikesville says some of his customers use personal stylists who recommend silver rather than gold for particular clients. In silver, the custom look is geometric, large and tailored, he adds.
For people who like very traditional silver jewelry, Kirk Stieff makes a few pieces, such as a cuff bracelet and a bar pin, based on the Kirk's Repousse pattern. And, for a Southwestern look without tripping to Santa Fe, Jurus Ltd., in Mount Washington, has handcrafted silver buffalo pins.
"The hottest thing in collectible silver jewelry is anything from the 1930s, '40s and '50s from Georg Jensen of Copenhagen," says Bruce Levinson, vice president of Alex Cooper Auctioneers. "A piece of jewelry with 2 ounces of silver might bring $1,000 to $1,500."