More Silver for your Gold: Strong Demand for Indian Silver Abroad

Amy Lin of Saffronart reports on a likely 35% increase in silver exports from India in the coming year 

An ‘Elephant’ Dish
Created in 2012
Contemporary & Period Silverware Sale, Saffronart Delhi

Saffronart recently concluded its Exhibition of Contemporary & Period Silverware in Delhi. Some pieces are still available for purchase on the website.

Mumbai: In recent Dhanteras festivals, the most popular precious metal amongst consumers is not gold, but silver. Dhanteras is the first day of the Diwali celebrations on which buying precious metals is seen as an auspicious sign of wealth. P.S. Singhvi, a 50 year old businessman stood in line with more than a hundred people waiting to buy silver coins at Mumbai’s busy Zaveri Bazaar. He told The Financial Express, “We are interested in silver coins for mahurat (auspicious) trading. We can buy more silver for a lesser amount. For gold we will have to pay a high amount.” It seems that the potential value of silver is no longer a secret in India but has caught on with the rest of the world.

For three consecutive years, the demand for Indian silver continues to grow worldwide. This is due to skyrocketing gold prices, and the slowdown of manufacturing. Rajiv Jain, chairman of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), estimated that the export for Indian silver will increase by 35% in the 2013 fiscal year.

Small-sized silver bars and coins dominated festival sales in India.
Image Credit: Reuters
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/silver-dominates-festival-sales-in-india/865147/5#

Already in 2011, an article from Bloomsburg News championed silver as the “common man’s gold.” Ketan Shroff, managing director of Pushpak Bullions Pvt. stated, “People are accumulating silver since gold is getting unaffordable to the common man.” Consequently, the common man’s demand has a strong reflection on the world market. From 2011-12, silver exported from India increased to 44% while gold exports remained at 30%. There are a lot of investments to be made in silver as an average overseas consumer can purchase quality silver pieces for less than $100 (Rs. 5,200).

In response, the import of silver to India has also increased as a response to demand. Prithviraj Kothari, president of the Bombay Bullion Association, stated in The Wall Street Journal last February that “India’s silver imports may top 5,000 metric tons in 2012 due to strong investment demand” compared to the 4,800 metric tons in 2011.

Shroff enthusiastically stated in India Times, “The trend is fast picking up. Investors and jewellery lovers prefer more of silver jewellery as gold prices go up consistently. If the positive sentiments can keep up the pace, silver prices may go over Rs 1 lakh, beating last year’s Rs 75,000 levels.”  With such prospects, silver may no longer be the common man’s gold but a precious metal just as valuable if not more.

A Tea and Coffee Set
Contemporary & Period Silverware Sale, Saffronart Delhi

Caring for Your Silver

Medha Kapur of Saffronart shares some details on how to care for your silverware

Mumbai: I adore the ultra glamorous look of a white living room with gleaming sterling silverware! I think the combination of the two is forever chic! I do, however, realize that sometimes this just isn’t practical…but all that silver needs, is to be taken care of properly! Here are a few tips on how to look after your silver:

Touch your silver pieces as little as possible as fingerprints accelerate tarnishing. All silver exposed to air will tarnish over time. It can also be tarnished by certain foodstuffs, including vinegar, eggs, etc. Silver is a soft metal which can be dented or damaged when handled roughly. Silver abrades easily and should not come in contact with other materials.

Here are a few things you could do at home to clean your silver:

Swab surface with methylated or white spirit to remove grease and dirt – some tarnish may also be removed. Use this method when you see the surface of your silver objects looking dull or yellowish.

If tarnish remains, try gently rubbing a silver cloth over the surface – this has mild abrasive particles embedded in it. To get into small corners with the silver cloth, cut out a small square, make a cotton wool swab, wrap the silver cloth round the swab and use the swab to push the silver cloth into the small areas.

Wipe with a clean silver cloth

Wipe with a clean silver cloth

You can also try a mild abrasive paste, cream or foam. Rub gently over the tarnished area in a circular motion. Remove silver foam residues with a swab moistened with distilled water.

Heavy tarnished silver (decorated surfaces) may need to be cleaned with a silver dip.

Silver foam contains very fine abrasives, mild soap and
chemicals that help remove tarnish.

Read more

A Walk Through of Exhibitions of Indian Silverware Worldwide from the 1850s to the Present

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on some of the main exhibitions of Indian silverware that have taken place around the world

Sugar Bowl and cover, Oomersi Mawji, Bhuj, ca. 1880

Tea Set, Oomersi Mawji, Bhuj, ca. 1880; Image credit: Victoria & Albert Museum, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O140168/sugar-bowl-and-mawji-oomersi/

In conjunction with the Silver exhibit at Saffronart Delhi, the Saffronart blog is publishing articles on the history of silver and its international popularity. Similar pieces can be viewed on our website.

London: Indian silverware is renowned worldwide for its beauty, design and quality. The first time Indian silverware and other artifacts from the subcontinent were exhibited in Europe was in 1851, at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, in the “Indian court” space. The great success of this exhibition and the popularity of Indian silver led Liberty and Co. of Regent Street and Proctor and Co. of Oxford Street to create their own workshops in India. The response to the exhibition also prompted the construction of a space where these objects could be displayed permanently. Thus, the Museum of Manufactures was built in Marlborough House, London, especially designed to educate people in art and design. Later it became known as the South Kensington Museum, and today, is named the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Some years later, in 1883, the Calcutta International Exhibition was held in the Indian Museum. It was the first exhibition of this genre, dedicated to arts and crafts from India. The show was opened by H.E. Lord Ripon, the Viceroy of India, in the presence of Queen Victoria and the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. More information about this exhibition can be found here.

In 1903, on the occasion of the Grand Durbar celebrating the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and Empress of India, the assembly waiting for the royals to arrive in Delhi organized an incredible exhibition of jewelry and every Indian prince present at the ceremony was adorned with magnificent gems.

Claret jug made by Oomersee Mawjee, Kutch, c. 1890

Claret jug made by Oomersee Mawjee, Kutch, c. 1890; Image Credit: http://www.themagazine
antiques.com/articles/indian-silve
r-for-the-raj/

Much more recently, in July 2007, Wynard Wilkinson, a British specialist in antique Indian silverware, organized an exhibition displaying more than 400 items. These were made during the three ruling regimes in India (Mughal, neoclassical Georgian and British Raj) and reflected the taste of their patrons.

According to Wilkinson “India’s long and tumultuous history is arguably nowhere better reflected than in silver objects produced to the order of those who once ruled the vast subcontinent. My July exhibition began with items designed to appeal to the sybaritic tastes of the Mughal emperors who controlled India from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. The next group of objects reflected the neoclassical ‘Georgian’ restraint that was favored by the first generations of European merchants and soldiers who arrived under the auspices of the East India Company. The last group consisted of objects produced during the British Raj, the style of which is truly indigenous.”

Wilkinson in this exhibition mainly focused on functional objects and tableware. Look here for more information.

The following year, Vidya Dehejia curated an exhibition at Columbia University’s Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery titled “Delight in Design, Indian Silver from the Raj”, focusing only on Indian silverware produced during the Raj period (1858-1947).

Detail of Water jug featuring the Descent of the Ganges, Calcutta, ca 1885

Detail of Water jug featuring the Descent of the Ganges, Calcutta, ca 1885; Image Credit: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/wallach/exhibitions/
Delight-in-Design/credits.html

Raj silverware is characterized by the adoption of European shapes and purposes, but retains innate Indian patterns and decorations. In fact, Indian silversmiths had to satisfy the increasing demand for silver objects from European customers. Some of the most common objects produced during the period were tea sets, goblets, beer mugs, claret jugs and so on. Interestingly, every part of the country was characterized by a different decorative style that mirrored local tastes and traditions. For example, silverware from Kutch would often be quite heavily decorated. Some of the recurrent designs were snake-shaped handles and elephant trunk-shaped spouts. On the other hand figures of Gods and Swamis are often present as decorative elements in silver objects from Madras. This is why the silver from this region is often referred to as Swami.  Lastly Calcutta’s silverware usually bears rural scenes decorations.

The most refined works of silver were made during the Raj Period, and some of the most popular firms were P. Orr and Sons of Madras and Oomersee Mawjee of Kutch. More information about this exhibition and the different local styles of the Raj period can be found here.

Finally, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is currently hosting (until February 2013) the exhibition, ‘Indian Silver for the Raj’. This show presents the VMFA’s latest Indian silver acquisitions. The exhibition is divided in two parts.

Five Piece Tea Service, P. Orr & Sons, Madras, 1876

Five Piece Tea Service, P. Orr & Sons, Madras, 1876, Image Credits: http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/indian-silver/

The first part focuses on the fusion of Indian and British culture through silver making. Thus, as a material example of this blending, calling card-cases, rosewater sprinklers and tea sets are exhibited. The second part of the exhibition focuses on the different regional styles of Raj silver.

This showcase aims to highlight the similarities yet originality within the Raj period silver, perhaps the most successful era of silver making.

Tours of the exhibition will be organized twice in October. More information on the exhibition and associated events

Apart from temporary exhibition, pieces of Indian silver can also be appreciated in the permanent collections of several museums around the globe. Some of the best works can be viewed at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Musee Guimet in Paris, and at Harvard University’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum in Boston. If you happen to be in any of these locations I would highly recommend a visit to these institutions to view and enjoy these extraordinary objects.

Indian Period Silver

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart offers a brief history of Period Silver in India

New Delhi: Crafting silver in India dates back several centuries. But what is seen as the golden era of silverware is the colonial period. The time of British occupation in India which lasted from the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth century was when silversmiths in India produced some of the most exquisite and luxurious silver tableware.

A Tea Kettle with Burner
House of Dighapatia, Bangladesh
20th century
Image credit: www.saffronart.com

From tea services, bowls and cutlery sets to card cases and picture frames, silver items came to be associated with prestige and nobility. Initially made by silversmiths as gifting items, they were soon viewed as basic necessities in any well established home.

Historically, silver has been produced in various parts of India and some of the manufacturing houses remain popular to date. The silversmiths or sonars would receive ingots and recycled silver to create items of use by remolding and then a patterner would draw a design over the object. These processes were repeated time and again to get the right finish.

The prominent establishments were divided by region. Kashmir, Madras, Bangalore, Kutch, Lucknow, Bombay and Calcutta became the centers for handcrafted silver – blending traditional designs and patterns with western forms. Madras silver came to be known as Swami Silver because of its frequent depiction of gods and religious festivities. One of the most prominent firms in the area was P. Orr and Sons, a Scottish firm which received several commissions for gifts presented to British crown.

A ‘Samovar’ or Hot Water Fountain
20th century
Image credit: www.saffronart.com

The silver from Kutch in Gujarat was known for having heavily embossed patterns that enveloped the entire surface of the object. Almost always using some kind of dense foliage pattern, Kutch silverware was considered the most popular in the late nineteenth century and appealed a great deal to westerners. World renowned silver craftsman Oomersee Mawjee’s designs were among the favourite of the colonial period.

The patterns in Madras and Kutch silverware could appear quite abstract and would often  have more than one standard pattern running within an object. The tea pot could be depicting a foliate patten while the handle would be in the shape of a serpent, or the spout in the form of an animal’s head.

While many would argue regarding the difference and range in the purity of silver from region to region, the labour and aesthetic value of period silver has always been given more importance.

Select Period Silver pieces are currently on view at Saffronart, Delhi till 5 October, 2012

View the collection here

Period and Contemporary Silverware Exhibition at Saffronart Delhi

Manjari Sihare shares details of the Contemporary & Period Silverware exhibition, currently on view at Saffronart’s gallery in Delhi 

A ‘BIRD’ VASE
Image credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/Jewels-Exhibition.aspx?pt=2&eid=3500

New Delhi: This week, Saffronart is hosting an exhibition of contemporary and classic silverware in their Delhi gallery at the Oberoi Hotel. On view and sale are about thirty collectible pieces, from intricately engraved period vases and objets d’art, to minimalist one-of-a-kind contemporary pieces, hallmarked and certified.

Silver lies at the heart of several Indian traditions. The use of this precious metal extends back possibly 5700 years, with the earliest discovered silver ornaments dating to at least 3000 BCE in the Saraswati civilization of western India. The prevalence and use of silver has not waned with the passage of time. As per the Indian social order, silver is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune and finds its way into every auspicious practice and occasion. The tradition of gifting silver is thus deeply ingrained in our culture. The current exhibition highlights the important role silver has played in India as well as the ways in which talented designers in the country continue to interpret this heritage.

Through the week we will be featuring posts on this blog that provide basic information (sometimes detailed) about the history of silver object making in India from the British Raj onwards, contemporary trends in silver craft, information from the point of view of investment, and details about the handling and care of silver. Our aim is to provide new insights into the history of silverware, as well as present both period and contemporary silverware as highly desirable collectibles. The posts will be compiled from a variety of authoritative sources including our extensive library of books on antiques and collecting, other informational resources on the web and insights from our editorial and client servicing specialists.

The pieces are on view at Saffronart, Delhi, until October 5, 2012. Select pieces are also available to view on Saffronart’s website.

Dates: September 24 – October 5, 2012

Venue: Saffronart, The Oberoi Hotel, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi 110003, India

Timings: Monday to Saturday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, and Sunday 11:00 am to 4:00pm

 

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