Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chinese Sterling Silver Findings

Sterling silver findings from China vary a great deal in terms of price and quality. You really end up getting what you paid for. In general, quality has improved dramatically in the past 5 years and many sterling silver findings made in China are now world-class.

There are ISO 9000 certified companies, many of which house Italian and German machinery to make their findings. The prices from these companies are not cheap, but they run about 15% less than Italian and Israeli companies for comparable items. The intricacy and precision in many sterling silver pieces will often be higher from these Chinese factories. I have found them willing to make difficult to make sterling silver findings which the Italian, Israeli and Indian factories are not willing or able to make. Many Chinese factories use the latest CAD machinery in their model making. Asians like precision designs, and appreciate machine made perfection, much like the Germans do. However, Asians like either a cutesier or more elegant look, whereas Germans appreciate a more minimalist industrial look. And because of this, Chinese factories have been willing to invest in machinery to achieve this look in their sterling silver components, and they have large talent pool of fine craftsmen, whose art has been passed down from generation to generation from which to draw. You can find some of the sterling silver findings which I've designed and got made in China: Double Hollow Pears, Circle Pendant with Leaf Filigree, Leaf Pedants , Circle Filigree Pedants and more.

I have also dealt with some Chinese factories that just can't make good sterling silver findings, no matter how hard they try. And generally, these are the common characteristics that are visible at tradeshows: their designs are thick and chunky, their samples have visible solder marks, they don't understand North American taste (and thus, generally its quality expectations). You can spot, and should stay miles away from these sterling silver suppliers. These factories tend to be much more labour intensive, and for sterling silver findings, there are some designs which you can't make by hand, let alone cost-effectively. Especially with the labour shortage of late, many factories rely on unskilled labour from northern provinces in order to maintain competitive prices for sterling silver findings. Price of sterling silver has risen, so raw material cost has exacerbated the situation. Always do a small test order, if you must import yourself. Try using a buying agent whenever possible. They have much more business leverage and the factories are much more eager to satisfy their demands than a small independent. The agent will charge you 10 -15% for their services, but it is well worth it. However, wholesale prices for sterling silver components has been driven so low by competition that quite often, the margin is only 3% to 7%. So, it is much better to just order from your local suppliers than to venture and risk getting burned and working extra hard. And we haven't started talking about travel costs.

Chinese factories in the past, in keeping with common Asian custom, will never embarrass a customer by saying no to an order. However, they just don't deliver or respond when you enquire. This is no different for sterling silver findings factories, which predominantly serve the western market (Asians still prefer gold, or if costume jewellery, they like base metal). However, this annoying custom is changing as the markets have opened up more. Nonetheless, it is up to the customer to push for things, be it better quality, or more timely delivery.

I've become increasingly happy with Chinese sterling silver findings suppliers. Some of the best quality sterling silver findings I've had made come from the 3 factories I work with. They've bettered some of the best Italian and Israeli sterling silver findings companies we work with.

To see some of the sterling silver components that Stones and Findings carries (that we import from all over the world), click here!

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