Nina's Jewellery
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Nina's Jewellery
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Articles from STERLING SILVER JEWELLERY (866 Articles), GOLD JEWELLERY (686 Articles), RINGS - ENGAGEMENT (274 Articles)


White now

From diamonds with titanium to palladium bridal rings, the size and accessibility of today's white metal offering is unrivalled. CARLA CARUSO reports.

Australians are enjoying a love affair with white metals, and the romance is long from dead.

Not only are many brides opting for top-end options like white gold and platinum, but cheaper white metals such as silver and stainless steel are also providing worthy substitutes in fashion and dress pieces.

With palladium, titanium and tungsten-carbide also demanding attention, white metals are tempting consumers with a range of product not before seen. For humble yellow gold, on the other hand, there are no real substitutes.

Rachel Hehir, marketing manager of Adelaide jewellery manufacturer Peter W Beck, says the pale look continues to sizzle because it looks so fresh and relevant. "I think white metals have cleaner, crisper lines, especially in modern jewellery. Consumers are always looking for something different than previous generations and white metals are a great alternative. In wedding rings, ladies' platinum and white gold diamond sets are always popular, as are men's white gold wedding ring styles."

Craig Symons, managing director of Breuning and Oliva distributor Osjag, says he predicted white metals would be the next big thing in about 2000. "Though the look was coming out of Europe, it wasn't quite there at that stage," he says, but the prediction became true. "These days, towards the top end of the market, it is 70:30 white to yellow and, at the low end, the same in reverse," Symons adds. "The top end wants diamond-set jewellery and tends to believe diamonds look better in white gold. We've certainly got over the stigma of white gold seeming to look like silver to the consumer."

About 95 per cent of engagement rings would have been white gold in the last four years, estimates Russian-born designer Simon Kushnir, who runs Melbourne manufacturer Simon Prestige Jewellery. "I think people like the look because they believe it enhances the colour of the stone. When you put a diamond into white gold, it makes it look bigger."

Kushnir also does platinum by special order, but says white gold is largely preferred: "For those who can afford it, platinum is more durable and longer lasting and keeps its colour but, of course, it's much more expensive, so not a lot of people go for it."

Ilhan Demirel, director of Wollongong wedding ring supplier Infinity Rings, echoes this: "We get a lot of enquiries for platinum, but price can be an issue."

Barry Sadlier, the head metallurgist at Sydney custom casting service Palloys, says platinum demand is growing though: "I think more and more people are looking at the prospect of platinum versus 18-carat white gold. It's definitely on the increase," he says. "In Japan and China, it's the number one metal."

Still, Sadlier admits it can be almost triple the price of 18-carat white gold - a fact he attributes to its heavy use in other industries: "The demand has exceeded the supply for awhile. It's largely an industrial metal and the motor industry was chewing up a fair bit of platinum, so it was difficult to get hold of. Now, the US car industry is slowing down and the metal price is also coming down."

Brisbane jewellery manufacturer Marion Schweitzer has also taken note: "Platinum prices have dropped by at least 20 or 30 per cent in the last few months. So, at the moment, I'm doing an above normal number of platinum rings. In March this year, the price was really high, but it has been dropping gradually." (Though, still, of course, being more expensive than gold.)

Schweitzer also uses white gold and has had an increase in inquiries for palladium too: "The white metals produced today are of a much better quality - closer to platinum. The white look remains quite popular and trendy. Seventy per cent of my designs are in white metal."

White gold is being used with diverse colour combinations, but Osjag's Symons says one strong look is coming to the fore. "There has been the advent of white with rose gold in the last two years," he says.

Symons has also noticed a trend in 3D-style textured finishes on the metal. "There's a trend that's becoming popular, originating from Europe. It's having a 3D textured finish on the surface, with polished peaks and valleys in a matte finish."

Think lightning bolt-style, engraved prints on cufflinks and more.

In stones, the white gold and diamond minimalism look remains strong, though some are choosing to team the metal with a kaleidoscope of hues. Simon Prestige Jewellery opts for Colombian emeralds, Burmese rubies and Ceylon sapphires, while Sydney jewellery supplier Jenique teams white gold with precious and semi-precious coloured stones, often using one or two stones as centrepieces, accented with diamonds.

Also riding this trend is silver, according to Janine McLennan, the co-director of Brisbane wholesaler Mountain Creek Jewellery. "You can coordinate the gemstones in our silver pieces with your outfits, including amethyst, garnet and blue topaz," she says.

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Mountain Creek has made a major move away from gold to sterling silver in recent times. "About three or four years ago, we were still doing quite a bit of gold, but around that time the price of gold started going up," McLennan explains. "It went up so much; it made silver a lot more popular. We've found people want more than just one-off pieces today. They want to be able to afford different accessories to go with different outfits and to keep up with the trends, while still having an up-market look."

The brand replicates antique-style matching jewellery sets, comprising earrings, rings and necklaces, usually found in white gold and diamonds, sterling silver and cubic zirconia. "We're finding the jewellers who haven't embraced silver are really stuck behind," McLennan says. "Just about everyone - any age group - can wear silver; it is not a harsh, brash look. You can go big and bold if you want to or just wear a dainty pair of earrings."

Silver is also a favourite with Osjag. "As far as white metals go, silver is here to stay," he says. "The silver that's coming out today is also of a higher quality. And, everything that you see happening in gold is happening in silver as well."

Through Osjag, Breuning has just released a branded silver collection onto the Australian market, which includes sets in earrings, rings and necklaces, and individual bracelets, bangles and necklaces. Styles normally seen in gold, including textured finishes and colour combinations, are being translated across, such as silver with rose gold or rhodium plating.

Stainless steel is also doing well as a more affordable white metal, according to Darren Roberts, director of Sydney men's jewellery and cufflinks wholesaler Cudworth Enterprises: "With our stainless steel cufflinks, we're adding a lot of coloured fibreglass for the summer, such as aquamarine and pink," he says. "I like to look six to eight months ahead at the upcoming colours for ties and shirts and use the highlight colours in our range." The brand is also using mother of pearl and onyx and silver.

Another champion for stainless steel is Duraflex Group Australia, which distributes steel brand Bonnard, offering rings, necklets, pendants, bracelets, cufflinks and earrings. "I first saw stainless steel pieces 10 years ago, but the designs weren't so appealing," says sales director Rod Kearns. "Five years later, it had evolved. While we wouldn't have thought of stainless steel as a viable market in the past - people are more concerned with the look today than the perceived value of a metal."

More affordable pricing also opens up stainless steel to the youth market, says Kearns: "Young people can enter the jewellery-wearing market at a relatively low price and they are often more open to contemporary, cutting-edge looks."

Men's jewellery remains the mainstay for steel, with popular styles including large clip or cuff-style bangles - blending polished and satin finishes - military-style dog-tag pendants on ball chains, and crucifix neck pendants.

As well, Kearns says: "Carbon fibre has become very popular as an inlay in necklaces, bracelets and rings, providing a chequered look. They're also using it in a lot of cars these days and high-tech, sporty material."

While steel has been slower in the women's market, Bonnard is looking to rectify this, bringing out a new range of lightweight, heart-shaped designs in the metal. And, in the past, who would have thought stainless steel would be teamed with diamonds? But it's being done.

Bonnard sets diamonds against polished stainless steel - darkened with ion plating.

"You only need a single stone to make a statement. The black/steel combination really highlights the diamond," Kearns says.

Titanium - once mostly used in watches - is now also using diamonds in its jewellery, according to John Rose, director of wholesaler Silvercove Australia, which distributes brands like Colibiri of London. "Titanium is popular in men's jewellery because of its masculine look," Rose says. "The Colibiri of London men's range has a collection setting diamonds in black titanium."

Versatility, choice and price are the driving factors behind a global love of white metal. Whether it's a gent looking for cufflinks, a bride scouring for the perfect engagement ring or a career woman wanting to spoil herself with a new pair of earrings, there are plenty of styles, designs - and price tags - on offer.

And the romance, it seems, is continuing.

Carla Caruso • Journalist
Carla Caruso has been a jewellery junkie for as long as she can remember, has covered the Vicenza gold fair in Italy and one day hopes to pen a novel about all that glitters. She has been a freelance contributor to Jeweller since 2005.
Duraflex Group Australia

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