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Articles from STERLING SILVER JEWELLERY (846 Articles), RINGS - GENERAL (776 Articles), RINGS - WEDDING (200 Articles)











Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck

White knight delight

White metals have long been objects of desire for the local market as extensive metal options and alloy innovations keep consumers wanting more. Emily Mobbs reports.
TWM Co
TWM Co
Once upon a time in a fairytale setting far away, Rapunzel, Snow White and Cinderella all found their prince charming though while they may have lived happily ever after, the girls didn’t exactly have a whole lot of choices when it came to suitors. The same cannot be said in Jewelleryland where there exists a white knight in shining armour for every taste. 

White gold, platinum, palladium, titanium, sterling silver, stainless steel – the white metal offering is today abundant and the local market’s love affair with fairer materials is not cooling down. If anything, the relationship is spicing up due to an influx of new design and alloy innovations.   

Marketing manager Maria Ulas at wedding ring specialist TWM Co believes the most sought after metal is “definitely white gold”, which she says has dominated sales for at least five years.

Other suppliers working within the bridal category have similar sentiments, but perhaps a larger trend that should be highlighted is the popularity of two-tone or combination rings that use both yellow gold and a white metal. Two-tone designs are top sellers in the Dora wedding ring range, followed closely by those in white gold, says RJ Scanlan & Co’s marketing manager Chris Scanlan.

RJ Scanlan
RJ Scanlan
Furthermore, Twin Plaza’s Victor Donovic notes that 50 per cent of the group’s sales come from rings made from 18-carat white gold or two-tone 18-carat white and yellow gold.

But this is just the beginning of the story. For couples seeking an alternative to white gold, a host of options are available in platinum, palladium, titanium and even silver. Ulas says that titanium pieces recently have become popular, especially when combined with gold, while Twin Plaza has received an increase in platinum sales over the past few years. 

Platinum made headlines last year after its price dropped – and stayed – below that of gold, an occurrence that previously happened in December 2008 and then lasted just three days.

Jeweller Phillip Schmidt runs Platinumsmith, a Melbourne-based business specialising in platinum jewellery including engagement and wedding rings as well as bespoke pieces. Not surprisingly, Schmidt explains that the fall in price has seen more jewellers working with the metal.

While platinum has returned to the top position, prices only differ marginally against gold and Schmidt believes those jewellers who armed themselves with the skills and techniques required to work with the material will continue to do so.

Platinum Smith
Platinum Smith
Retailers are reporting that consumers are also becoming increasingly responsive to the metal. Ross Duff of Duffs Jewellers in Geelong states that platinum pieces have definitely become more popular over the past few years due to the small price gap between it and white gold.

Across the Tasman, Jannine Pearce from Te Puke Jewellers has received approximately 10 platinum ring orders in the past 12 months. 

It’s a unanimous belief among suppliers that the love for white metals will continue for the foreseeable future; however Peter W Beck marketing manager Laura Sawade indicates that there remains confusion at consumer level.

”We still see some confusion about the properties and look of white gold, platinum and palladium amongst consumers.”

But Sawade attests that the demand for white metals offered by the supplier has increased for men’s and women’s designs.

Pastiche
Pastiche
“Nine-carat, 10-carat, 14-carat and 18-carat white gold sales have increased, as have platinum and palladium purchases,” she says. “Platinum is still more popular than palladium although the interest in palladium is increasing, too.”

Alternative metals
Interest in palladium may be set to rise further with the arrival of a new alloy that has just hit local shores. Palladium 500 (PT 500) was introduced by Twin Plaza in October this year and is composed of 500 parts palladium and 345 parts silver with a balance of ruthenium and traces of other metals.

According to Donovic, the alloy provides an alternative to 9-carat white gold, as both have similar weight and price. In addition, the supplier has also started offering a metal called Platinum 600 (PT 600).

Sound familiar? RJ Scanlan received attention earlier this year when the company released a Dora range made of the same alloy. A selection of the new rings featured on Jeweller’s July cover and Scanlan says the business was fielding about six retailer enquiries a day after the magazine hit desks.

Donovic explains that Platinum 600, made of 600 parts platinum and a balance of ruthenium and other trace elements, is comparable in colour to traditional platinum but with a lower price tag closer to that of 18-carat white gold. He adds that the new alloy has greater design capability unlike standard platinum. 

Najo
Najo
“Our thoughts are that they will sell as the cheaper cousins to the traditional platinum and palladium alloys [much in the way 9-carat gold is a cheaper cousin to 18-carat gold] but with the added benefit of a much wider choice of pattern and diamond cutting possibilities,” he says, adding, “We are now able to offer the full range of designs that we currently make in the standard gold alloys.”

These alloys have been developed in Europe and are only suitable for machining, and not hand-making.

A quick visit to any jewellery retail store will indicate that sterling silver and, more recently, stainless steel pieces play an integral role in the white metal narrative.

At Duffs Jewellers, silver jewellery ranks first in the popularity stakes based on number of units sold, a result said to be due to the metal’s lower price point.

Furthermore, Pearce mentions that her New Zealand store has certainly had an increase in silver jewellery sales last year as a consequence of the spike in the gold price.

Sue Sensi
Sue Sensi
It begs the question: has there ever been a more pertinent reason for stocking lower price-point jewellery options?

There’s no denying silver jewellery is a well-established category in the local jewellery market with brands like Pastiche and Najo already racking up more than 20 years in the industry, but stainless steel is quickly gaining strides and shaking off its long-time perception as the ugly duckling of white metals.

While the metal’s hardwearing, rigid properties make it an ideal choice for men’s jewellery, it is now an object of desire for women due to a raft of economic, technological and design factors.

In fact, steel’s impact is now so strong that brands like Pastiche, Innerpower and Najo have introduced dedicated stainless steel ranges – Innerpower Australia and New Zealand general manager Sonia Merlino attests that the brand’s stainless steel pieces are starting to receive the same level of attention as the group’s silver lines, if not more.

Ellani Collections
Ellani Collections
So, is stainless steel competing against silver or can the two play fairly?

Najo released its first stainless steel collection about one year ago, and managing director Jo Tory says the metals fall into completely different categories.

“Silver has always been a precious metal, and I do not think that stainless steel has moved into that category at all. It is something quite different,” she explains, adding, “The popularity of stainless steel is due to its reasonable price for bold designs and its very durable plating.”

Sue Sensi, director and designer of her eponymous sterling silver jewellery brand, adds that both metals work well together in a retail environment because they attract two different consumer demographics and, hence, help to expand a store’s customer base.

Similarly, Ellani Collections director Paul Hicks believes stainless steel and silver jewellery each play their own role in the industry.

Cudworth
Cudworth
“Stainless steel jewellery meets another section of consumer demand where price points sought by the consumer are lower. With the rise in the silver price, some heavier jewellery pieces that were previously manufactured in silver are now being manufactured in stainless steel to enable the price points to meet the consumer demand,” he says.

If there was any proof that consumers are prepared to invest in jewellery made from both metals, men’s jewellery supplier Cudworth Enterprises might just be it.

After taking a two-year hiatus from working with silver – a decision based on the metal’s rising prices – the business launched a new silver jewellery range at the 2013 Sydney fair that director Darren Roberts says was very well received.

Looking forward, it’s clear that white metals are excellently positioned for the year ahead. With a white metal option to suit every budget and taste, suppliers, retailers and consumers now all have the opportunity to live happily ever after.










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