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Silver's White Knight


La Paz, Bolivia, is one of the highest cities on earth, occupying elevations from 3,000 to 4,100 meters above sea level and enjoying temperatures between 35 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Given its low humidity and thin air, one would hardly expect this sky-high city of over 1 million people to be among the world’s largest sellers of Argentium silver, the best-known tarnish-resistant sterling alloy.

Yet half the sales at La Paz’s four retail outlet stores for the country’s famous Anahi ametrine are of sterling jewelry using Argentium silver. The other half are gold.

Maybe the decision to use only Argentium has something to do with the mine’s location in rainforest country 30 kilometers west of the Bolivia-Brazil border. There, in old Santa Cruz, the climate is semi-tropical and sterling silver jewelry, a mainstay in this land with a still-strong indigenous peoples’ imprint, is a magnet for oxidation.

So is high-humidity Chicago where Anahi opened its first U.S. store last September in the upscale Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg near O’Hare Airport. Curiously, Ramiro Rivero, president of the entire Anahi mine-to-market enterprise, does not make a big ado about his commitment to Argentium. “For us to boast about our use of Argentium would be to call the consumer’s attention to a problem—namely, tarnish—they don’t expect with sterling silver and now have no need to fear,” he says.

As a result, you won’t find brochures about the alloy on counters or mentions made of it on their wall screen presentations about Anahi and its unique focus on the gem quartzes from its 2,600-acre mine site. “All customers are told is that we use a sterling silver that is very durable and problem-free,” Rivero says. “That’s all they want to know and need to hear.” With 50 percent of all store sales now in unadvertised Argentium, it is clear that use of this alloy is a low or no-fanfare selling point. “Think of it more as insurance,” the store’s owner says. “Argentium is a form of protection.”

Words like “protection” and “defense” are common among Argentium advocates. Faced with $2,000 per-ounce platinum and $1,000 per-ounce gold, jewelers who cater to budget-minded shoppers will have to ponder silver if they want to stay in the precious metals business. Argentium answers the most chronic and serious problems posed to both jewelry makers and takers by conventional 925 sterling alloys—and it does so for only around $1 more per ounce.

As a result, Argentium looks destined to help sterling launch a new beginning in American jewelry retailing by year’s end. Here’s who will help it do so and why they are counting on Argentium for success.

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Citrine bracelet and Amethyst ring in Argentium and 18k gold from the Lorenzo brand by Simon Golub
Citrine bracelet and Amethyst ring in Argentium and 18k gold from the Lorenzo brand by Simon Golub, suggested retail $895 and $495, (206) 762-4800.
Argentium silver wedding bands from a new collection by Novell
Argentium silver wedding bands from a new collection by Novell, suggested retail from $285 to $350, (888) 668-3551.
brooch in Argentium with amethyst
“Reine” brooch in Argentium with amethyst
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Bracelet in Argentium with citrine
“Libelula” Bracelet in Argentium with citrine
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ring in Argentium with ametrine
“Osaka” ring in Argentium with ametrine from the Anahi store in Schaumburg, Illinois, (847) 706-9051
(Images 1-3)
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