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Articles from STAINLESS STEEL JEWELLERY (147 Articles)

Image courtesy: Pastiche
Image courtesy: Pastiche

Stainless steel: defying the odds

Challenging early predictions, demand for stainless steel jewellery continues to harden. GEORGIA WESTGARTH reports the one-time street metal is slowly but surely proving its value in local stores.

Does stainless steel belong in a fine jewellery store? It wasn’t that long ago when jewellers might have laughed at even the thought of such a question. Fast-forward to today and there are retailers who are reaping the rewards by offering a stainless steel jewellery option, albeit mostly for male consumers.

This makes sense. For many, stainless steel jewellery belongs in a man’s world – it’s chunky, heavy and grungy; made for men, worn by men – but what about offering steel to the fairer sex?

Stainless steel jewellery ranges targeting women have existed for some time but queries have often been raised about whether there is enough consumer demand to justify carrying such pieces in stores, even though female consumers arguably have far more jewellery options than their male counterparts.

Jeweller set out to gain a sense of how the category is performing in both the men’s and women’s sectors, what sales opportunities are currently on the table and, ultimately, whether retailers should consider (or re-consider) stainless steel.

Retail Edge Consultants specialises in retail software and monitors monthly data for jewellery stores across Australasia and the US. Australasian sales manager Michael Dyer says the company’s research shows a lift in recent sales for stainless steel jewellery.    

“From a target sample of Australian stores in the last 12 months, sales of steel jewellery represents 0.6 per cent of dollar value of sales and 1.9 per cent of units sold,” he explains.

This may represent only a small portion of a jewellery store owner’s overall business but Dyer says the figures are positive: “My gut feeling based on our observations is that these past 12 months have been the biggest result for stainless steel jewellery ever.”

Dyer explains that having a range of stainless steel jewellery can help attract new customers in store, including those who may not be traditional jewellery consumers. He likens this behaviour to how the bead market several years ago “attracted non-jewellery people into the jewellery market, with a number of those having then migrated into fine jewellery”.

“In this day and age where the market is flat, we are seeing several clients that are between 20 and 30 per cent up (in total
sales) on what they were in the previous 12 months, and 12 to 15 per cent up on the 12 months before that,” he says, adding, “and this is in a flat market.”

Jewellery Centre
Jewellery Centre
Cudworth Enterprises
Cudworth Enterprises

Dyer believes the key to steel success in these stores is that they reach out to existing customers and give them a reason to return, which is not always because of the product but sometimes because of a service or relationship-based offering.

“Sales assistants have been using some of the new [stainless steel] product as ‘sides on the main menu’ of the jewellery industry,” he says, adding that the category can play an important role in a successful product mix. “The analogy I use is that it might be closer to the bottom rung of the ladder but if you don’t have the bottom rung of the ladder then it’s very awkward to leap up two or three steps.”

Cudworth Enterprises was reportedly one of the first suppliers to introduce stainless steel to local jewellery retailers. In that time, Cudworth director Darren Roberts has observed changes within the category.

While Cudworth will remain focused on the men’s jewellery market as it has for more than 12 years, Roberts agrees that stainless steel has increased in popularity among women.

“I tried a ladies range of steel about 10 years ago and retailers were not interested at that time as it wasn’t considered for women’s jewellery,” he says. “Fast-forward 10 years and I notice that the leading women’s jewellery wholesalers have now introduced steel collections. The feedback from retailers and consumers is that some women consider wearing our steel jewellery as they see it as less feminine and more comfortable, especially in the different IP [ion-plated] colours we offer.”

Ted Pevy, managing director at Jewellery Centre, believes adding colour to stainless steel jewellery through ion plating, a treatment that gives the effect that the piece is made from gold, is largely responsible for steel’s expanding appeal to women.

“Ion plating is a process that lasts for years,” he explains. “It has helped promote a different image of stainless steel jewellery to women.”    

Pevy says pink and yellow gold ion-plated stainless steel basic pieces are female favourites: “We’re selling increasing amounts to women – studs, hoops and bangles are top-sellers, especially in yellow and pink gold ion plated.”

Comfort fit bangles are also apparently selling like mad.

Jewellery Centre
Jewellery Centre
Cudworth Enterprises
Cudworth Enterprises

“They look exactly the same for a tenth of the price and last for years,” Pevy adds. “Ion plating has really kicked stainless steel jewellery on and made it more fashionable and wearable for women.” 

Pastiche is another supplier that has experienced success with stainless steel men’s ranges over the years yet founder and director Barbara Hastings says the industry wasn’t ready for the company’s women’s stainless steel range when released in 2007.

“Though we loved it, we felt a resistance towards this material for women; I think the industry wasn’t ready for it then,” Hastings explains.

With the sophistication of stainless steel production improving in recent years, Hastings says designers are now able to achieve lighter and more intricate designs. One of her tips for selling stainless steel jewellery to women is to include the benefits of steel as a material in its own right.

“It is not only a great material because of the desirable price-points over precious metals but also because of its strength, durability and ability to produce a range of colours with the sophisticated process of ion plating,” Hastings says, adding, “The fact that it is also hypoallergenic and tarnish resistant is a great selling point for customers who struggle with other metals.”

Hastings, Roberts, Pevy and Dyer are all confident in the longevity of stainless steel jewellery and its increasing popularity, and suppliers seem genuinely excited to keep pushing the boundaries with design. As the industry has recorded some of the biggest results in stainless steel sales over the past 12 months, this multi-functional alloy appears to be proving its worth in local jewellery stores. 

Georgia Westgarth


Having sold jewellery for four years, sales assistant turned journalist, Georgia Westgarth has a strong understanding of the industry and customer needs. She is a freelance contributor for Jeweller with a particular interest in jewellery brands and trends.

Sunday, 18 March, 2018 04:36pm
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