It’s no secret that the price of silver clay has been going through the roof in the last few years. Even jewelry artists new to metal clay have noticed the rapidly rising prices in the last several months and are asking, “What’s up with the price of silver clay?”
The answer is easy. Silver clay is getting more expensive because the price of silver is going up. Since fine silver is the main ingredient in all PMC and Art Clay silver products, any fluctuation in the silver market can make a big difference in the price of silver clay.
Mitsubishi Materials introduced silver clay in the United States in 1996. At that time silver was hovering around $5 an ounce. The price of silver clay was fixed in those days because silver prices were steady and had been for many years. The fixed price meant that no matter how the price of silver fluctuated in the market, silver clay prices were firm. You knew what you would pay and it did not change.
This silver honeymoon lasted all the way through 2003 while silver floated between $4 and $5 per ounce. But then, in 2004, the price of silver started to creep up. Every month a new high in price was set and by December, 2005, silver had closed as high as $9.23 per ounce, more than double what it was just a few months earlier.
The following April a new silver-backed ETF fund was introduced allowing investors to trade silver funds in the stock market, something that had never been done before, and rumors of the coming ETF had probably fueled the run-up in price that began the previous year.
In 2006, the year started out with silver at $8.79 per ounce. On the day the new Silver-backed ETF went on sale, it gained an astonishing 7%. Silver then closed out the year at $14.85 for an incredible one-year gain of almost 69%; an unheard of return on an investment of any kind.
At this point the price structure of silver clay was changed and silver clay began to float with the “spot” price of silver. That meant that when the spot price of silver went up, silver clay went right along with it, and it’s been that way ever since.
For example, a 50-gram package of PMC 3 clay nets a total of 50 grams of fine silver. 50 grams of fine silver equals 1.608 troy ounces*. At a spot price of 30.00, the silver value is $48.24. To give you some perspective, that same lump of silver clay had an average silver value of $8.04 from 1996 through 2003.
So what is the “spot” price? The silver “spot” is the daily price of silver. Because silver is a market commodity, the price changes each day. In London a group of 5 bankers sets or “fixes” the spot price for fine silver bullion and coins each morning. The price set in London is called the “London Fix” price. In the US, a company called Handy & Harmon sets its own spot price called the “New York Spot”. In the US most dealers follow the New York spot.
Note: When looking at current prices or historical charts, be sure to notice whether the prices are London or New York. This information is usually noted in the title or footer. The two spot prices vary.
Since 2004 silver has continued its aggressive upward march in price and according to most pundits, it’s heading higher. Although I personally believe that silver-backed ETFs have played a large roll in the volatility of the spot market, it’s certainly not solely responsible.
Here are just a few reasons that have been argued as contributing to the rise in silver prices, and why silver is expected to continue moving upward:
- Silver supply is short of what it is contracted for. In other words, more people have notes that say they own silver than there is actually silver to cover those notes.
- Silver is being used in more products and industries than ever before, and the demand is forecast to continue increasing at a very fast clip.
- Silver is consumed in industry. Most of it is used in such small amounts that it is not recoverable. Consider that every electronic thing you own or use or have thrown out contains silver that will never be recovered.
- Silver is undervalued based on the historic gold/silver ratio.
- Silver has gained attention with its huge gains prompting many new buyers, setting the scene for a bubble.
- Depleted world stockpiles = less available physical silver.
- 75% of silver mined is a byproduct of base metal as base metal production declines, therefore less silver is being produced.
- Mining for silver is presently too costly to make a profit. More mines are closing than opening. (But this will soon change)
- Worldwide economy has driven investors to hold silver (and gold) as a store of wealth.
- Price manipulation. Bart Chilton, Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said, “I believe that there have been repeated attempts to influence prices in the silver markets.” Many others agree with him, so it warrants mentioning. Don’t believe it? On Jan 18, 1980 the price of silver hit an all time high of nearly $50 per ounce due to the attempt by Nelson and William Hunt to corner the market. (More on this in a later article.)
Lots of people have an opinion on where the price of silver will go in 2011. I’ve seen predictions as high as $65 per ounce and as low as $21, but most seem to think $35 is the number that we’ll settle at. There are some who argue that silver will be upwards of $100 per ounce. It sounds outlandish, but then so did $30 when silver was trading at $5. My personal prediction is that it will continue to move upwards in its currently volatile pattern. I would not be surprised to see it over $40 by the end of the year.
Even with a rising price, silver is still a great bargain as a jewelry making material. Whether you are working with silver in clay form or by traditional means, a rising silver price means more value to every piece of jewelry you make in silver (and everything in your current stock as well). And as the price goes higher, silver becomes more precious in the mind of the consumer. So a higher price means that more thought and care will go into the use of silver and silver clays.
Here are some ways of keeping the cost of silver down:
- Design your projects before opening your clay. Have a plan of action when the clay is open so you make just the components you need without allowing the clay to be exposed to the air.
- Incorporate sheet and wire into your projects. Everything doesn’t have to be made of silver clay. Fine silver sheet and wire is much less expensive and can be fused to the silver clay.
- Use thinner slabs. If you normally make slabs 6 cards thick for a pendant, make it 4 cards thick. The clay will go much further.
- Try making your item from the new PMC PRO alloy clay. This version is much stronger than fine silver clay. You can make shanks as thin as 2 cards thick and still maintain the strength needed.
- Try adding other metals to your creations. Use brass, copper, aluminum, titanium and other metals in sheet, wire, stampings and castings.
- Learn to saw, solder or form metal wire and sheet so you can incorporate more money saving techniques in your work.
For those who are feeling squeezed by the price of silver and are looking for less costly ways to work in silver clay, PMC PRO offers a very strong product that is 90% silver and can be used in much smaller quantities due to it’s strength. There is also a new and more reliable version of bronze clay called FASTfire BRONZclay that is very affordable. Copper clays are also much lower in price than silver, and copper clay can even be fired with a torch. And since base metal clays are ideally fired in a kiln, consider that a kiln can be had for less than the cost of 300 grams of silver clay.
Learn more about base metal clays in the Cool Tools Learning Center at www.cooltools.us
*Did you know? A troy ounce is not the same as ounces used for weighing food and other commodities. A troy ounce is a unit of measure reserved mainly for precious metals and gemstones. A “regular” ounce is what is used for dry measurements and is called an “avoirdupois” ounce. Isn’t that a beautiful word? Avoirdupois. It’s pronounced “av-wah-dew-pwah”
Avoirdupois vs. Troy Ounces Avoirdupois vs. Troy Pounds
1 avoirdupois ounce = 28.35 grams 1 troy pound = 12 troy ounces
1 troy ounce = 31.1 grams 1 avoirdupois pound = 16 avoirdupois ounces
Be sure you always weigh your metal clay with a scale that weighs in troy ounces for an accurate measurement of the silver weight.
Why Are Silver Clay Prices Going Up? © 2011 Mardel Rein / www.cooltools.us
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