You can't think of an Indian festival without sweets. People consume lots of sweets especially during Diwali season. That means more demand in edible silver leaf, as it used to wrap sweets. In spite of a steep rise in silver prices this year, confectioners continue to use fine sheets of silver, called varq.
The price of silver has increased by about a third, to roughly $32 an ounce from a year ago; though it spiked as high as $50 an ounce in April. Still, manufacturers of silver leaf and confectioners say they see little impact.
The prices of silver leaves are at least 30 percent higher compared to the last festival season ... but there is not much effect on the demand, said K.A. Patel of Amee Enterprise, a silver leaf manufacturer from Gujarat, quoted in a report by Reuters.
There is more demand during the festival season as people like to indulge and binge on food, he added.
Once used to garnish the food of royalty, silver and even gold is gaining popularity as a garnish for chocolates and cakes, in the form of dust or leaves. Silver is flavorless but consumers still think it adds flavor to sweets.
They make them look nice, plus kaju katlis without the leaf just aren't the same, said Satyam Pati, a content writer from Bangalore.
I feel sweets are incomplete without it, said Wasim, also quoted in the Reuters report.
Interestingly, many think that silver has therapeutic properties. Some traditional physicians still recommend it as beneficial for the heart, stomach and the mind. A preserve of Indian gooseberries coated in silver is a popular cure and prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners for digestive problems and a variety of other illnesses.
Just yesterday, a girl came and bought varq from me for wrapping her herbal medicines in, a hakim (traditional medical practitioner) had recommended it to her for an eye problem, said Mohammed Wasim, a silver leaf maker from Lucknow.
However, questions have been raised about the adverse effects of silver on health, with spurious and adulterated products found. Some confectioners have even stopped using silver leaf.
Unless you buy sweets from a good store, you can never be sure of the quality of varq, so I don't really like it, said Mayank Tyagi, a marketing professional from Gurgaon.