Eductate Yourself: Tibetan Silver - Real or Myth

As a jewelry creator I often get asked to include charms as part of custom orders. In recent years there's been a lot of customers asking if I can get what they ask which often times reads like so:
Customer: I want Tibetan Silver beads that look like turtles.
Me: You're sure you want Tibetan Silver charms? I can get Silver plated Turtle charms from supplier x for cheaper than I can get Tibetan Silver charms of turtles.
Customer: Yes Tibetan silver - you know monks make them out of pure silver and they're really valuable.
Me - to myself *sigh not another one* - to the customer I reply. "I do hate to be the bearer of bad news but Tibetan Silver is not made by monks, and in most cases contains microscopic amounts of actual silver. Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and the atomic number 47A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal."
Customer: Oh...then why do all of these ads online show Tibetan Silver as being more valuable than other components?
Me: Because mis-information leads to more sales for the Chinese Export Industry.

Unfortunately I've had this very typical conversation more than once every time informing a customer that Tibetan silver usually isn't even silver plated. Its usually something else entirely.

If you've read my other blogs you'll see that and informed consumer is my best customer. Informed customers will be back to purchase more things from me more often because I know my materials, I know my components and I refuse to charge extra for something that isn't real.

GENUINE Tibetan Silver may contain some silver in its alloy but most Tibetan silver isn't marked as genuine as it is made by counterfeiters in China and other Asian countries then sold for export at exceedingly low cost and low cost usually means low quality control as well.

Be informed - read the following articles for more information on what constitutes Tibetan silver - and just to be safe don't EVER put this stuff in jewelry or toys intended for kids. The odds of the pieces you have containing lead above the FDA standard of 600ppm is too high to risk your business.

For more information please read the following articles:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibetan_silver 
http://reviews.ebay.com/Tibetan-Silver-A-Buyer-s-Advisory?ugid=10000000003804484
This blog has a good test for determining if the pieces you have actually contain silver:
http://polyclaycorner.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/tibetan-silver-getting-what-you-paid-for/

Lastly a link that contains VERY useful information for those purchasing items containing silver and other metals - and their alloy content:
http://www.wedunit.com.au/pages.php?pageid=20

Simply put. Be informed, be educated. Know WHO you're buying from, ask questions, demand answers. If the person you're buying from doesn't know the answers to your questions, go somewhere else.

Information to ask:
Is this item .925 Sterling Silver?
Is this item solid silver, silver plated, or silver filled (more on this in another blog)?
If not .925 Sterling Silver, is it Argentium Silver (.925 alloy of Silver, Germanium & Copper), is it 99% fine silver, or is it something else? If its something else, ask them for the EXACT alloy components. If they don't know, they aren't informed and you could be buying something that is 99% lead.
Do you know if this meets the current FDA limits of no more than 600ppm lead content? If they don't know - don't buy it.

You and your business are important. Don't fall prey to buying cheap knock offs of fraudulently produced (stolen copyright) items with unknown origins. Don't put your business at risk because you don't know your product. CPSIA requires you know your product and your customers will come to expect it.

3 comments:

yoopergal said...

Great post. I run into this as well! I wish more sellers were this informed and upfront with their customers!

Bonnie White said...

Thanks for the information! I live in the Netherlands, and there is someone on our local market site who is attempting to sell "Tibetan silver"jewelry at ridiculous prices. Yes, this person is advertising themselves as Chinese: china-ly-chinees. Some of the jewelry on offer looks more like rough pewter than anything resembling silver. Some of it is quite beautiful. Silver? NAH.

Carol Chambers said...

I was wondering why this was so cheap, thought maybe it's just pot metal. Thanks for the info!

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