Silver is a store of value and comes a close second after gold in terms of popularity. During the lockdown, India’s silver jewellery exports from April to December 2020 shot up nearly 51% to $1.53 billion as compared to the same period in the previous year. Silver jewellery exports were one of the few categories that stayed in positive territory during one of the toughest phases in history.
Unlike the other two revered precious metals, gold and platinum, silver plays a significant role in both fine and fashion jewellery segments because of its affordability factor. Since it is more malleable, it offers versatility in terms of experimenting with textures and volume.
While China and Thailand offer stiff competition to India in terms of pricing, scale and quality, India banks on the skilled artisans for handcrafted jewellery as well as tech-aided collections. The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has been aggressively promoting the silver jewellery segment. Even during the course of the pandemic, the GJEPC held a three-day virtual buyer-seller meet for Silver and Fashion & Costume Jewellery, on 17th November, 2020. The event connected silver manufacturers from India to buyers from 34 countries, including the USA, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Russia-CIS and Latin America.
Ram Babu Gupta, Convener, Silver Panel, GJEPC, notes, “Silver exports are growing steadily year-on-year, and there is a strong demand for Indian silver jewellery abroad. Silver studded with diamonds and gemstones is our core strength.” The strong growth of silver exports has been attributed to two main factors — high quality and finish, and India’s capability to manufacture on a time-bound basis.
India’s main export destinations for silver jewellery are the US, UK, and Europe, and manufacturers believe that in order to grow and expand their footprint across the globe, it’s imperative to study consumer behaviour in each of the regions.
Since online trading is the new norm these days, global markets are more comfortable working with companies that are ethical, properly audited and compliant. Some of the Indian silver jewellery designers operating in the US market opine that following Fair Trade practices can help brands stay ahead in competition. Finding one’s niche segment is the key. For instance, India’s handcrafted jewellery collections backed by a strong cultural narrative can be ideal for museum stores in America. The US market is saturated at all price points, and Indian exporters believe that the crux is to find a sweet spot that works for company.
Some silver jewellery exporters, who have a strong base in Europe, note that clients prefer the best quality in terms of setting, and polishing and plating. Hence, the majority of the silver jewellery is cast with the help of state-of-the-art technology; these processes involve a combination of hand craftsmanship and machines – be it creativity of expert CAD designers, enamelling or custom-cut gemstones. Jewellery makers in India enjoy an enviable position of having access to both craftsmen and machine resources.
The expertise and craftsmanship of Indian karigars is unparalleled, and India’s mission is not only retain the essence of Indian heritage but add a modern slant to its silver jewellery collections in order to appeal to global sensibilities. Gupta believes that silver jewellery exports will get a boost if an e-commerce policy to facilitate ease of doing business is implemented soon in India. It will also help to export small quantities of silver jewellery directly to customers abroad.