Silver Jewelry — a 20 Year History

Just for fun I thought I’d reminisce and retrospectively revisit the paradigm shift that has taken place in the jewelry industry over the past 20 years.

I started in this business on a lark — more about my jewelry story here — while I was in the Peace Corps a friend from my village in Nepal suggested I bring Nepal-made products back to the United States for resale. ‘What the heck,’ I thought as I filled a ginormous duffle bag full of gorkha knives, carpets, wooden ties and silver jewelry. Turns out, the jewelry was the only thing I could sell. Well, I sold quite a few ties, but the market for wooden ties was not so developed at that time (1994).

Between 1994-2000 I started a wholesale business — I imported and sold silver gemstone jewelry made in Nepal, to stores across New England. This was really just for kicks and I managed to pay for about 50% of my MBA through the sale of this jewelry — although I did a craft show or flea market here or there, mostly I sold to small businesses who wanted to buy wholesale.

 

historical silver prices -- chart 1995-2015

Back then, believe it or not, the price of silver was between $2-$4/ ounce! My most popular item was (and still is) these small wholesale silver & gemstone rings; I used to wholesale these for $2-$3!!! Considering that now the price of silver is $16 and as recently as 3 years ago silver peaked at around $48/ ounce — 1994 silver was basically free back then! Just goes to show you how our understanding and coherence of a situation can change slowly and imperceptibly over time.  In other words –those who bought and sold silver jewelry and other silver produtcs had it really really good! It was good for us because it was good for te consumer; they could afford to buy more silver jewelry. In the 2010’s and 2-teens that followed wholesalers like me realized that our previous paradigm (cheap silver) was not an absolute! When I started my wholesale silver jewelry business I never imagined my prices would have to triple in 10 years to keep up with the metals inflation.

Why did the prices change so dramatically? Partially, I imagine, was due to speculation and growth and sophistication of the investment market. Further, the tranformation in the technology sector — development and improvement of chips and processors at exponential rates caused a boom in consumer and industrial hardware — computers, switches, networks, etc. — all of which require precious metals like silver. Oh, did I mention that China became a contending industrial and economic powerhouse during this period — causing demand of EVERYTHING to increase?

There is a bigger message here: change happens. Change ALWAYS happens! So don’t let yourself get complacent. Be prepared, be ready to adapt, be willing to pivot and try new things. And enjoy the ride!