The Silver Persian has long been referred to as the "Rolls Royce" of the cat world. The look is timeless and elegant, and they have always been described as regal and exquisite in appearance. It is a "breed" of classic, incredible beauty, considered by many to be the most beautiful Persian color, if not "the fairest of them all." Along with the elegant Golden Persian, they have always been a challenge to breed, and silver and golden breeders are a dedicated and determined group. Most have found it more productive to specialize: almost without exception, the top winners of each era have come from catteries that have bred only these colors. Breeding silvers and goldens in addition to another color or breed means keeping two or more sets of cats.
The Golden Persian does not have as long a history in CFA as does the Silver Persian. The golden color is recessive to silver, and for many years before this color was accepted, "odd colored" kittens occasionally popped up in "colorbred" silver litters (see Breeding for Goldens). Most often these kittens, then referred to as "brownies," were placed as pets. By the 1960s a few interested breeders were working with them. The beauty of their golden coats with the contrast of their vivid green or blue-green eyes attracted more and more dedicated breeders, and gradually they grew in popularity until they were finally accepted by CFA in 1976.
Shaded tortoiseshells were accepted and were also added to the Shaded Division. Silver and golden breeders felt that shaded torties did not belong in their division, but rather belonged in the Parti-Color Division with other tortoiseshells. Many also felt that perhaps there should be a Green-Eyed Division, as neither the cameos nor shaded torties rightfully belonged in the same division as silvers and goldens. Although this was not accepted at the time, starting with the 1995-96 season the cameos and shaded torties were placed in the Smoke Division and the name of that division was changed to the Shaded and Smoke Division. Silvers and goldens were then alone in a division called the Silver and Golden Division (not the Green-eyed Division).
Color breeding was a necessity for many years in order to maintain the beautiful trademark coloring of the silver Persian. The gene pool was small, and certain physical characteristics appeared to be associated with the silver color: the cats produced were generally lighter in bone and eventually, smaller in size. Additional colors and patterns of the other Persians were developed over the years resulting in a larger gene pool, while the gene pool of the silvers remained the same. This led to an interest on the part of some breeders to include other colors in their breeding programs. One of the earliest pioneers in this type of outcrossing was Fannie Mood of Delphi Cattery, who was also a former CFA registrar. At the time she did this breeding, she lived in California, a stronghold of color breeding, and she was greatly criticized for breeding to a blue Persian.
The introduction of solids into a golden program to improve type and bone causes the same problems that it does in a silver program, if not more of them. It muddies the coat color and spoils the eye color; it also causes more tabby markings in a color that has not yet eliminated these markings. Silvers, having been bred in the United States for a century, have had a long head start on goldens, whose breeding history here is less than half of that time. Silvers were being bred before 1900, but goldens were not seriously bred until the 1960s. What was once written about silvers is now also true for goldens: "You've come a long way, baby!"
While breeders concentrated on and selected for type, less attention was paid to color. In no other Persian is color as important as in the shaded or "tipped" cats. Though the pale blue color of years ago has all but disappeared from the blue Persian, some things remain the same. A smoke is not a smoke without its dramatic color-on-top and white-underneath coat; and silvers and goldens must have the proper tipping in addition to black mascara and margins with the appropriate and distinctive nose and eye color. At one time there was a significant difference between chinchilla silvers and shaded silvers. Today, some of our silvers are referred to as "neither/nors" because they are neither chinchilla silvers nor shaded silvers. While many more silvers are registered as shaded than as chinchilla, we seldom see a true shaded silver with sufficient tipping to give it its lovely dark mantle. It was easier to breed a cat with less tipping than to breed a cat with not only enough tipping, but also even shading. It has come to the point that if a silver is not snow white, or if it has a bit too much shading on the body, it is registered as a shaded silver, even though it does not have enough tipping to be truly shaded.
Almost 50 years ago Jeanne Ramsdale of Dearheart Cattery was quoted as saying that one should be able to tell the difference between a chinchilla silver and a shaded silver "from across the room." Whether or not she actually said that, it was an accurate description; and until recently this was the case. Some years ago breeders were asked whether they wished to accept blue (dilute) silvers. The rationale was that since breeders were outcrossing to solids, these and other colors were occasionally showing up in some litters. The question was raised four times over a period of years, and each time it was voted down. Clearly the majority of breeders has not wanted them accepted. The last three times breeders were also asked whether or not to accept blue goldens, and this was also voted down. Golden breeders have many different shades of golden with which to deal, and apparently did not want to add to their color problems.
We need to improve the colors we already have before accepting a variation of these colors. Silvers are tipped with black, and often there are problems distinguishing between chinchillas and shadeds; goldens have had these in addition to other color problems. Many cats, both silvers and goldens, have less than desirable nose color, mascara and margins. Have you ever seen a judge rub a finger over the dense black mascara on the nose? The really good color has not been seen consistently, so the judge may question whether it is real! One may choose to use other colors in a breeding program, but perhaps we should show only those colors meeting the current standards, rather than continue to create new classes to fit the odd color we may encounter.
It has been suggested that there should be one silver class and one golden class. The chinchillas and shadeds would be judged together as two separate colors but in the same class, with one class for silvers, another class for goldens. Opponents feel this would be the end of the beautiful shaded silvers. Chinchilla silver lovers should also be concerned, because it might also represent the end of the pale chinchilla. While some color standards read "lighter shades to be preferred," we would probably end up with only neither/nors. It has always been accepted: "silvers with enough black tipping to give them that shimmering, silvery look vibrant green or blue-green eye color, and eyes outlined with black as if made up with mascara and with nose margin and lip liner to match." Black, not blue tipping.
The eye color in silvers and goldens has always been considered very important, which is why the standard is specific. It clearly states: "Eye color: green or blue-green. Disqualify for incorrect eye color, incorrect eye color being copper, yellow, gold, amber or any color other than green or blue-green." All silver and golden breeders want this eye color in their cats. This may be difficult to attain, but it does not change the fact that this is the standard, although some are willing to accept less. A silver or golden with incorrect eye color may be valuable in a breeding program, but it does not belong in the show ring.
Some breeders and judges say that they began by breeding silvers and gave up because they are too difficult. Goldens are even more difficult to breed to the standard than the silvers. With some exceptions, they are years behind silvers in type, which may be attributed to the small number of breeders working with them until recent years. While silvers have variations in the amount of tipping, they do have a white undercoat with black tipping, one shade of white and one shade of black, to simplify the description. The goldens are quite different. The golden standard calls for the undercoat to be cream, and the tipping black. While a cream cat with black tipping and green eyes would be beautiful, that is not a true golden. It would be more accurate to say, quoting Judith Legg, that "the undercoat is usually cream colored and sometimes it's gray with seasonal variations. The 'overcoat' of guard hair is ticked. Each hair shaft is banded with yellow, rust and dark brown or black. Goldens, including chinchillas, have tabby M's on their foreheads, and dark spines and dark tail tips." This probably explains why there have been many variations of the golden color. The color has ranged from pale amber to bright red-gold to the less desirable brownish-gold. Early golden breeders had tried for so long to have goldens accepted that they did not want to quibble over this color description; however, this was not what had been submitted as their standard. '
Rarely do two goldens have the same shade, even from the same litter, and the coat color can change until the cat is five years of age or even older. Some goldens are born with wonderful, rich color; some take two to three years to develop. The color of the undercoat can change with the seasons of the year, even achieving a gray, muddy color at certain times of the year. For years, further frustration came from the fact that if a golden had good color, it lacked type and was not showable; if it had type, the color was poor, so it also was deemed not showable. While some judges have bred silvers and appreciate the difficulties, no judge has bred goldens, so they have not experienced all the variations and changes in color. Nearly all golden breeders feel that if a silver and golden of comparable type are in competition, the silver is more likely to be chosen. There are so few goldens shown, usually only one golden in the ring, that judges have rare opportunities to compare their color.
Many goldens have been incorrectly registered and shown in the wrong color class. An apricot golden has been shown as a chinchilla golden simply because of its light color, not because of the appropriate amount of tipping. A darker golden color was more apt to be shown as a shaded golden simply because it was dark, with less attention given to the amount of tipping. Whether golden or silver color class has been defined by the amount of tipping, not the color of the undercoat.
From time to time, some breeders talked about the possibility of a "different" standard for Silver and Golden Persians; however, most feel that good silvers and goldens meet the standard as it is written. It has not been the standard or the cat at fault, but more likely the way the standard has been interpreted over the years. Sometimes we hear a cat praised for having "no nose." The standard calls for "a short nose"; how short is not defined, but it does not say "no nose!" It describes a "break," but does not specify how deep the break should be. What is far more specific in the standard is the location of the break, described as "centered between the eyes." Until the standard becomes more specific, silvers and goldens should not be penalized for not having noses as short, nor breaks as deep, as some Persians of other colors. During a discussion while judging silvers, one judge stated his opinion that silvers (and goldens) should have a nose "as broad as it is long." This meets the description in the standard for a "broad" nose, as well as contributing to the overall balance of the cat. While silvers and goldens may not have noses as short as some Persians of other colors, they have met the criteria of "as short as it is broad," and they are more likely to excel in round doming and small, well-set ears. Their skulls have been smooth and round, without the ridges and flatness often found in Persians of other colors.
Silvers and goldens may never look exactly like other Persians. Breeders have used careful selection to improve boning and head type, but the "extreme" genes might not be there. Occasionally a kitten has been born with the "extreme" type similar to that of a solid Persian, but these cats have not consistently reproduced that look. Outcrossing to solids has resulted in some unusual colors, and by the time coat and eye color have been regained, type has usually reverted to what has been known and admired as "the silver look." Perhaps, as in the Peke-face Red Tabby standard which has an "allowance" for a difference in type, an allowance could be included in the Silver/Golden standard so that these beautiful cats do not lose their unique look.
Many have used or are using other colors in their breeding programs, but should resist showing a silver or golden with gold eyes even if they are very typy. Would a gold-eyed Himalayan or a green-eyed white be acceptable? Certainly not. Breeders ask for the cooperation of judges to help improve our silvers and goldens. Our cats need to be judged by the standard as it is written and not as it is interpreted by a few. We have worked very hard to meet the standard in every way, and we stand behind the judges when they withhold for poor type and incorrect eye color, as they have done for poor condition or tail faults. Constructive criticism will always be welcomed!
Silvers generally have lower birth weights and leave the nest box quite early. Although they mature sexually at an early age, they do not look their best until they are three to five years old. Some silvers and goldens are smaller in size and lighter in bone when compared with the other Persians. The phrase "medium to large" in the standard has not been defined, and size is relative. The standard also says "Quality the determining consideration rather than size."
Silvers and goldens are outgoing cats with unique personalities; they are intelligent, affectionate and people-oriented lap cats. While they are wonderfully decorative Persians, they are not "couch potatoes," as Persians have often been described. You will seldom find these colors dozing on grooming tables in a show hall, as you often see other Persians. They are sensitive, so they need to be socialized from an early age, and they do not take well to isolation and confinement. Many have profuse coats, and some have the difficult-to-groom "cotton candy" coat, but all seem to have fine textured hair that breaks easily. They may have more sensitive skin. All of this means that grooming had best be started early and done gently to prepare them for the care required to keep the long, flowing coat at its breathtaking best.
There are many articles available that show the development and changes of silvers and goldens since 1900 (See CFA Yearbook articles), but our attention here has been directed to those of recent years. For more reading about Silver and Golden Persians, as well as Silver and Golden Exotics, see the United Silver Fanciers Quarterly publication, which reprints many of the listed articles and some otherwise unavailable articles.
Editor note: Since the late '60s Janice Reichle has enjoyed phenominal success in breeding and exhibiting Silver and Golden Persians. She has granded 60 cats in her career and three of which have earned the prestigious Distinguished Merit Award: GC Diadem Personality Plus, DM, GC Diadem So Sweet, DM and CH Jenwilli Blanche of Diadem, DM. GC, RW Diadem Charm and GC, RW Diadem Tammy of Elegre earned Regional Win Titles. To cap her career Janice campaigned GC, BW, NW Diadem Dilemma to a National Win. Only 10 Silvers have earned the title National Winner. Over the years Janice has made an enormous contribution to the Silver and Golden Divion. In addition to her success breeding and exhibiting Silver and Golden Persians, she served as Editor of the United Silver Fanciers Quarterly from 1982 to 2003. Please join me in thanking Janice for her many invaluble contributions to the Silver and Golden Persian Division. To view the original pdf version of The Silver and Golden Persian sent by Janice Reichle to Karol Cummins for posting on the former USGF website in 2009, please click here. Additionally, on May 5, 2013, Author Jancie Reichle granted Webmaster Karol Cummins permission to post this article and the article about GC, NW Diadem Dilemma on the DSGF Website.
To apply for membership in the Dixieland Silver and Golden Fanciers' Club for 2013, please send our President Tracy Smith or a Board Member your application stating your commitment towards working and supporting the club produce the annual Dixieland Cat Show. Your membership application will be submitted to the Board for approval. Thank you!
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