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Articles from MEN'S JEWELLERY (162 Articles), STAINLESS STEEL JEWELLERY (158 Articles)


Urban metals gain stronghold

'Urban' metals have become firmly established in Australian jewellery stores. Carla Caruso asks why the increasing popularity.
It’s an urban jungle out there. Tough metals like stainless steel, titanium, aluminium and tungsten are no longer just the domain of specialist suppliers; more mainstream brands are being wooed by the allure of these metals too.

While such materials have long been commonplace in the men’s watch market, their extension to jewellery has been more recent – and their presence in mainstream shop windows is even more so.

Helen Hagerty, operations director of Sydney “urban” jewellery brand Tuskc, believes the popularity of these metals is largely due to consumers being presented with more wearable pieces. “Stainless steel jewellery has benefited from the introduction of stylish, contemporary designs, refinement of metal treatment and increased technology in the manufacturing process.”

Growing awareness of 'urban' metals has also helped the category, believes Melinda Benecke, NSW regional manager for Nomination, which has stainless steel collections. “We believe the increasing popularity of urban metals is due to cost and fashion, but also a more informed retailer and consumer,” she says.

The issue of cost is particularly important, according to Eryn Behan, director of Melbourne fashion forecasting business Ginger Trend Consulting. She says the economic downturn has definitely had an impact. “Consumers are wanting more affordable pieces, with the economy still enhancing a sense of financial uncertainty and instability for most people. And with the price of gold skyrocketing, we are seeing consumers opting for cheaper alternatives.”

Yet despite 'urban' metals like stainless steel being cheaper, that doesn’t mean the designs are any less innovative, according to Stephen Brown, the general manager of jewellery wholesaler RJ Scanlan & Co. “We have a range of German steel jewellery, called Teno, which utilises many other components for highlights, such as diamonds, gold, mother-of-pearl, wood and ceramics,” he says.

Affordable metals also give suppliers more scope to refresh ranges more often, says Laurian Ryan of jewellery wholesaler Pastiche, which has added stainless steel collections to its traditional silver offerings. Plus, Ryan says, “You can lighten the jewellery without it being subject to denting or breakage, which makes it perfect for statement pieces at a more affordable price.”

Benecke is quick to sing the praises of Nomination’s metal of choice. “Stainless steel is an excellent material to use for jewellery as it does not tarnish and is more resistant than softer metals like silver and gold. Nomination uses highest quality stainless steel – surgical quality – which is hypoallergenic.”

Bijoux Bemmille
Bijoux Bemmille

Stainless steel and tungsten dominate Tuskc’s collections for men and women. The Sydney brand teams these metals with leather, rubber and carbon fibre. Hagerty says there is still a fairly low level of awareness of tungsten, which has a higher selling price than steel, but believes the market will grow.

 “Tungsten has a rich, dark, grey colour and a convincing dense weight. The name is derived from Swedish – tung, meaning ‘heavy’, and ‘sten’, meaning ‘stone’. It is the hardest metal in jewellery manufacturing.”

Hagerty says Tuskc is using a number of techniques in stainless steel to make its designs more innovative. “Many of our designs involve treating the stainless steel with physical vapour deposition (PVD) – heat-treating the surface with a colour such as black, gold or rose gold. We also use a combination of brush, matte, reflective and sandblast finishes on various designs.”

Theresa Mexson, business manager of Leading Edge Jewellers’ Albany store in Western Australia, has been stocking Tuskc for about four months and says it’s doing really well. “The guys like the term ‘stainless steel’. It sounds a bit more macho,” she explains. “We’ve had stainless steel jewellery before, but it’s just a bracelet or a ring, whereas this is the whole package together. It comes with a nice box and it just presents really well. It comes across that you’ve got something really special.”

The fashion jewellery category now makes up about 50 per cent of the store’s offerings, compared with just 10 per cent some years ago, according to Mexson. “At the moment, fashion jewellery is what people want. They want to be able to change. They want to be able to afford it. It’s a little bit whimsical.”

Aluminium – a light, malleable, corrosion-resistant metal – is prized by Brisbane’s Ikon Wearable Art, which co-creates jewellery with licensed artists. “It is an exciting medium, translating our artists’ work into rich and vibrant colour, creating a luminous appeal from the metal. When coupled with precious stones and metals, the results are stunning,” says founder Lisa Engeman.

Aluminium is also popular with Sydney jewellery gallery Bijoux Bemille, which carries pieces such as multi-chain necklaces and chain earrings in the white metal.

A man’s world?

Whether it be aluminium, tungsten or stainless steel, these increasingly popular metals have undoubtedly captured a segment of the market. Yet all this talk of ‘tough’ metals and ‘urban’ design could be perceived – as Mexson puts it – as “a bit macho”. So does that mean demand for these metals will always be limited to a traditionally male-oriented niche market?


The hard-wearing metals have certainly tapped into the growing men’s jewellery market, offering masculine appeal. Titanium, for example, is also used in racing cars, space shuttles and fighter jets.

Yet, perhaps surprisingly, these metals are finding favour with women too. Behan, for one, points out that it is women who are driving the ‘fast fashion’ market that these cheaper metals are most suited to. “Women [particularly] are now more inclined to purchase trend-driven, ‘fast fashion’ jewellery to complement seasonal garment trends,” she explains.

And there’s an increasing number of women’s lines on the market. Nomination has just launched its fourth Fuoco collection (meaning ‘fire’), which is part of its 4Elements line. The range – aimed primarily at women – features colour-treated, black stainless steel and Swarovski crystal.

Pastiche, too, is further developing its steel collection for women, as well as already having a popular men’s Blu steel range. For the girls, Ryan says, “We have steel set with cubic zirconias and coloured mesh chains and are playing with etched designs and enamel detailing.”

Ion plating has also allowed the opportunity to play with colour, from black and gunmetal grey to golden hues. “IP plating is one of the most advanced surface-finishing processes, producing a more durable coating with a higher brightness,” Ryan explains.

Plating is also the go for Melbourne jewellery label Damselfly in its I Hate Myself For Loving You collection, which is strong on chains. Matt black and antique silver-plated metals are mixed with leather, feathers, and fabric for a rock-inspired aimed at women.

However, one question still hangs in the air: will the popularity of these cheaper metals wane once the economic good times return?

Ryan shakes her head, highlighting stainless steel in particular. “This metal has a more urban aesthetic and is a different element to silver with different surface treatments and, consequently, different results. Both achieve different things that will stay popular as the economy stabilises.”

Indeed, it seems, when the going gets tough, the tough metals really will get going.

Trend tip

"Multiple chain necklaces with mixed metals such as titanium, stainless steel and silver are strung together. Bracelets are stacked and worn together using mixed metals. The ethnic tribal look remains popular, so expect to see large necklaces – big chains and pendants – and cuffs."

Eryn Behan, Ginger Trend Consulting

Nationwide Jewellers

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