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Articles from STERLING SILVER JEWELLERY (846 Articles), STAINLESS STEEL JEWELLERY (156 Articles), PLATINUM JEWELLERY (49 Articles)











Image courtesy: Najo
Image courtesy: Najo

So hot white now

White metal options are rapidly expanding. Emily Mobbs uncovers the latest alloy innovations hitting the market and where they stand alongside old favourites.

Those white metals are a contradictory bunch. It seems that despite having a somewhat cool and nonchalant exterior, this group of alloys possesses properties that make the jewellery industry all hot and heavy.

White gold, platinum and sterling silver need little introduction and their worthy mention in this story will come in due course; however, this year, a new breed of white metals is vying for attention, promising to deliver on quality, price and design.

Retailers best listen up because the fairer metal narrative has officially reached fever pitch.

First cab off the rank is a silver alloy called Argentium. In mid-2014, A&E Metals acquired the rights to manufacture the material, which has a minimum silver content of 93.5 per cent compared to the 92.5 per cent found in sterling silver.

A&E Metals director Adam Wittig says the major benefit for jewellers is that the metal is firescale (red or purple staining) free, and also that Argentium’s high tarnish resistance reduces the need for plating.

“Many trade jewellers try never to work with sterling silver because firescale can be a nightmare,” Wittig explains. “At this year’s Sydney trade fair, we spoke to lots of jewellers who were all interested to find out more about Argentium and this [firescale resistance] was the main thing that they were interested in.”

Like working with anything new, achieving optimal results with the metal will probably require practice.

Andrew Cochineas, managing director for Palloys Group, which has been appointed the exclusive casting house for the metal, explains: “The only challenges we feel a jeweller would face is solder temperatures and treatment of the metal. It simply requires a little practice as it reacts differently to standard silver.”

Cochineas adds that Palloys has “seen many of our predominately-silver-casting customers trial or move to Argentium as their preferred metal”.

A&E Metals
A&E Metals
Disney Couture
Disney Couture
Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck

Platinum 600 is another metal relatively new to the local market and one with which RJ Scanlan & Co marketing manager Chris Scanlan is familiar.

The supplier introduced a collection of Dora men’s wedding rings made from the material, which is 600 parts platinum and 400 parts alloy, just last year.

According to Scanlan, the Dora Platinum 600 range “can be sold pretty easily to the right person if the retailer knows all the facts and is prepared to spend a bit of time with their customer explaining the many benefits of this new metal”.

The collection is said to maintain the hard-wearing, non-allergic and naturally white colour properties of platinum but with the benefit of a lower price tag.

Karl Schwantes from Xennox Diamonds in Brisbane is one jeweller who is having success with the metal.

”The platinum 600 metal is becoming the metal of choice for our gent’s wedding rings,” he says. “The extra hardness of a platinum 600 wedding ring –20 per cent harder than traditional platinum – that comes from the metal being alloyed with tungsten is extremely appealing to today’s groom.”

Alternative metals gaining strides
Chris Worth, head of sales and marketing for Worth & Douglas, notes that yellow gold is the top-selling metal for women’s wedding rings but also says white metals certainly lead the way for men. According to Worth, palladium and titanium have gained traction in the market, particularly among males aged 18 to 35.

“Other than being a good alternative metal for the guy looking for ‘something different’, titanium and palladium have a number of good qualities such as being extremely durable, hypoallergenic, requiring minimal maintenance and maintaining their natural contemporary colour,” he explains.

As a result of this increased interest, Worth & Douglas recently expanded its titanium offering with the launch of Titanium Treads, a collection that incorporates machine-cut patterns of popular tyre treads such as wet weather and all-terrain tyres.

Scanlan also highlights the rise in popularity for titanium, suggesting that demand has been impacted by metal prices.

“Gold is still very expensive so alternative options are imperative,” he says. “Gold combined with titanium accounts for nearly half of our sales.”

It’s clear that white metals within the bridal category are appealing to men but what about women? Are the fairer colours also wooing them?

RJ Scanlan & Co
RJ Scanlan & Co
Worth & Douglas
Worth & Douglas
Palloys Group
Palloys Group

When it comes to white metals, Schwantes says his store almost exclusively uses 18-carat white gold and platinum for handmade engagement rings. He adds that although white gold is still the most popular choice for brides looking for an engagement or wedding ring, platinum is definitely increasing in popularity.

“The durability, weighty feel and colour [of platinum] is extremely popular with brides looking for an engagement ring that they can cherish for the next 50 years,” Schwantes explains.

Judy Cameron of Cameron’s Fine Jewellers in Swan Hill, Victoria has also noticed a distinct swing towards platinum.

“White gold diamond jewellery became very popular about 10 years ago. A lot of clients that have had jewellery of that vintage are disappointed in the rhodium maintenance of such a piece,” she explains, adding, “I suppose for us that is what makes up-selling to platinum so easy – it’s maintenance free.”

Peter W Beck marketing manager Laura Sawade believes rising gold prices in recent years have possibly played a role in platinum’s increased popularity but she also suggests this might soon change.

“This year gold, has decreased in price to similar rates that we have not seen for four years (since mid-2010) so we may see a shift in metal choices again,” Sawade says. She adds that yellow gold remains the “hero” metal choice when compared to white gold or platinum alone but that there’s only a minor sales difference when comparing yellow gold and white metals as a whole.

According to Sawade, the fairer metals’ appeal largely comes down to choice: there’s simply more of it, which is in stark contrast to its golden-hued counterpart. This is a feature that retailers should leverage.

“Show a range of different white metals in store,” Sawade says. “Let your consumer touch and feel the weight and quality of different metals so they make an informed choice and have information handy about what the properties of each is.”

Silver shines bright
Speaking of choices, the white metal story wouldn’t be complete without sterling silver. The metal has solidified itself as a stable offering for many jewellery stores across Australia and New Zealand and it looks set to continue its firm holding in the market.

“Sterling silver is and always will be very popular in the Australian market,” Najo managing director Jo Tory attests, “however, we are seeing a trend towards more interesting statement pieces rather than the more plain classic pieces.”

Put it down to economics or a simple case of aesthetics but plated sterling silver jewellery has become widely popular in recent years. It’s a trend embraced by Najo, which offers a range of yellow and rose gold-plated jewellery.

Even so, Tory says these pieces represent a relatively small proportion of overall sales and that demand for traditional sterling silver still reigns supreme. “I believe that it is the inherent beauty of silver that is sought after – high polished, textured or oxidised.”

Renee Blackwell is another advocate for sterling silver jewellery, who states that not only is it stylish and contemporary to mix with other metals such as yellow gold, but that silver’s tendency to tarnish is part of its charm.

Disney Couture
Disney Couture
Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck
Worth & Douglas
Worth & Douglas

“It’s a funny thing. When asked if my jewellery tarnishes I say ‘Yes’ loud and proud,” she explains. “I then give them a (branded) silver-polishing cloth, acid-free tissue paper and a velvet pouch in which to keep the piece. I turn it [tarnishing] around to be a positive, which is easy to do!”

Sharp retailers might take this on board when handling their own sales discussions.

Moving on to stainless steel, which is becoming an increasingly popular choice for men and women looking for budget-friendly and on-trend jewellery, Tory says there has been a broad acceptance of the metal in the market.

“The durable IP plating is perfectly suited to the active, outdoor Australian culture. This more consumable metal also enables the production of bold design pieces, but at a reasonable price point.”

Unlike silver, she says that sales for the rose and yellow gold-plated pieces in the Najo Steel range outweigh that of the traditional stainless steel colour.

Plated jewellery using white metals in particular is also proving worthwhile for Disney Couture Jewellery, which specialises in pieces inspired by Disney animation and movies. Disney Couture director Phillip Corelli explains that the supplier launched a white gold-plated collection earlier this year in order to satisfy requests from customers for yellow gold-plated styles to be released in the fairer metal.

“The response to the collection was phenomenal,” he says. “The decision to substantially expand our white gold-plated collection was a fantastic decision for us. Some things are simply more glittering and magical in white.”

On that note, it seems the magic of white metals continues to inspire suppliers, retailers and consumers alike. From trusty white gold, platinum and silver to an ever-growing list of exciting new alloys, this is one group of metals that is anything but dull.

The takeaway lesson: never underestimate a white metal. 


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