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White metals are shining brighter
White metals are shining brighter
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Whiter shines brighter

From silver and platinum to palladium and white gold, lighter-hued metals continue to prove “white on” for today’s jewellery consumers. CARLA CARUSO reports.
White, pale, snowy, silvery – whichever way it is described, the cool, clean lustre of white metals continues to resonate with jewellery consumers in Australia.

It is little wonder too, with the wide spectrum of white metals now available in the jewellery trade, from white gold and platinum to palladium, sterling silver, titanium and stainless steel. There really is a pale variety to suit everybody’s price point and sense of style. 

Craig Symons, managing director of Sydney supplier Osjag, says the verdict is out: “There is no question that white metal has become the most popular colour. White gold began to be the metal of choice in diamond jewellery at least five years ago. Therefore, the transition to silver and stainless steel has been easy from a fashion perspective.”

White gold continues to reign supreme in the bridal category, according to Stephen Brown, general manager of Dora wedding rings distributor RJ Scanlan & Co. “We have seen a consistent rise in sales of white gold over the past four or five years,” he says. “Because of the relatively high price of platinum, it has remained constant, while white gold and palladium have increased in popularity.”

Pairing white gold with black is a particularly fashion-forward look, says Chris Worth of Worth & Douglas: “We have recently added a range of white gold rings with black rhodium plating through the grooves and patterns to our collection of men’s jewellery.” 

Doing a similar look in women’s rings, pairing the metal with black diamonds, as well as black rhodium, is Sydney’s Karl Rossi Collection. 

White gold, though immensely popular, is not without certain shortcomings, concedes Brown: “White gold, being composed of gold and white-blending metals, has a yellowish, white appearance, resulting in the need to continually rhodium-plate it to make it really white.”

Continuing its everlasting allure is platinum, despite (or maybe because of) its price – again, largely in the bridal market. 

“The density of platinum means that the metal is heavier than white gold, resulting in a more solid feel,” Brown adds, “and like pure gold and palladium, platinum is non-allergenic as well as very easy to maintain, as it does not require plating after a period of time.”

One metal that has really caught the eye of Worth & Douglas is palladium: “We market palladium jewellery on three major points: affordability – it looks like platinum but it’s cheaper; weight – it’s 40 per cent lighter than platinum; and purity – it comprises 95 per cent pure palladium,” he says, adding that the general public is beginning to catch onto its charms: “At the consumer level, awareness of palladium as a jewellery metal is growing, though there remain many areas of the country where it is not yet well-known. 

This being the case, there may be reluctance from jewellers, who fear consumers are too unfamiliar with the 95 per cent pure metal; however, the many favourable qualities of palladium should raise awareness in the market.”

Titanium is another of the new-breed of white metals getting suppliers like Nathan Hartnett of Allhart Australian Enterprises all hot and heavy – particularly in the men’s arena. 

Dora - Titanium
Dora - Titanium

“Titanium is often marketed as a modern and cutting-edge metal as it is used in high-end racing cars, space shuttles, fighter jets and even top-end golf clubs,” Hartnett says. “While the Australian consumer is aware of titanium’s ‘cool factor’, there are many other benefits to wearing titanium than just its reputation.”

These virtues, Hartnett adds, include palladium being similar in colour to platinum but more affordable, strong yet lightweight, and hypo-allergenic. Still, Hartnett concedes, “Titanium is a difficult metal to work with and this can restrict the general design process. 

Titanium earrings are popular due to the hypo-allergenic nature of the metal, but finer aspects, such as posts and butterfly clips, are difficult to produce in titanium. This is the reason why many titanium earrings on the market actually come complete with stainless steel posts and clips.”

Nonetheless, the designs continue to catch the eye – particularly for Andrew Ross, the director of Sydney wedding ring manufacturer Savoy Jewellery, who has devised a novel look: “We heat the metal to a vibrant blue, giving a ring a two-colour effect and providing for an interesting display in a shop.”

Also in the men’s market, stainless steel continues to generate interest – and strong sales. Neil McCammon, a director of Sydney men’s cufflinks and jewellery wholesaler Cudworth Enterprises, says the metal suits the homegrown consumer: “Stainless steel is good for the Australian man, because he’s not always very kind to his jewellery. The metal wears very well. We sell a lot of stainless steel rings and they don’t go out of shape like gold rings.” 

McCammon does admit that stainless steel rings can’t be re-sized, so a wide range of ring sizes need to be kept in stock. In terms of new styles in stainless steel jewellery, McCammon says a lot of coloured, ion-plating is coming through, including black, brown, purple and navy. Cudworth distributes a men’s range of necklets and bracelets, dubbed Hardware, which feature masculine-looking nuts and bolts. 

Inori is a unisex stainless steel brand distributed in by Seriously Twisted Jewellery. Supplier Megan Wisheart says the brand uses Swarovski crystal, cubic zirconia and PVD plating to add interest. “Inori is coming out with a new range using lots of textures on the metal surface – for example, brushed or hammered effects. It also uses black PVD to add patterns.”

Also at the more affordable end and going great guns is sterling silver, according to Jo Tory, director of Najo Contemporary Silver Jewellery. 

“Sterling silver has become really popular with Australian consumers over the past five or so years due to a number of factors, including the high price of gold and the growth in the accessories market. This trend looks now set to continue as seasons change and time goes on.” 

Najo pairs the metal with such materials as 18-carat gold, enamel and ceramic, which has helped broaden its appeal. 

“In the past, many consumers have been unprepared to pay a lot of money for a sterling silver piece,” Tory says. “However, this trend is now changing and we have many retail customers, who are happy to put silver pieces that retail at $1000 – and more – into their collections.”

Peter W Beck - White Gold
Peter W Beck - White Gold

Sydney silver label Sybella Jewellery has also gone for a luxe look, with pieces based on antique jewellery proving especially popular. It uses cubic zirconia, freshwater pearl, mother of pearl, and semi-precious stones, and attracts women aged “18 to 80”. 

Gina Kougias, the director of fellow Sydney silver label Georgini, which teams the metal with cubic zirconia, semi-precious stones and crystals, says sales are up 120 per cent: “At Georgini, we present silver in a more luxurious way than it has been traditionally marketed,” Kougias says. “Our customers are replacing their white gold purchases in exchange for an equally luxurious, but more affordable, silver look.”

Ciara Fulcher, marketing manager and designer for Pastiche, which distributes the Lovelinks, Petite and Mix n Match labels, says a shift towards branding in the silver trade has boosted its image – as have fun designs that push the envelope. “In addition to bright, enamelled surfaces, we have embellished pieces with coloured cubic zirconia and rhodium plating. 

We have also had huge success with the use of new finishes on our classic silver collection – mixed high polish and steel-brushed finishes, as well as pieces that have been acid-treated to create new textures.” 

Unique design is also integral to Sydney silver and silk label Missie Von Lubbe, according to the brand’s Mark Sundin: “We have been integrating designs from nature – the sea’s detritus of the high-water mark and fallen leaves from boutique gardens in mid-winter, incorporating gemstones for colour and perspective.”

Osjag’s Symons says its silver brands, Breuning and Bastian, also offer something different for the customer: “Designs in these collections tend to be big and bold, using a variety of finishes, including fine Florentine matte, heavy ice matte and even a lizard skin finish. We are also using several semi-precious stones, such as smoky, green, pink and white quartz.”

Symons says Osjag is offering a great variety of both silver and stainless steel pieces now. “Trading in gold has been tough in the last 12 months, regardless of colour. Taking-up the slack has been a massive upswing in the demand for silver and stainless steel.”

For silver though, there are detractors, Najo’s Tory admits: “Many people are not aware how to care for sterling silver properly and can be put off by its tendency to tarnish.” 
Rhodium-plating, of course, helps this.

With all of the options available and exciting, new methods of “pushing the envelope” being seen in design, it is easy to see why white metals continue to attract consumers. With an appeal stretching across all target groups and budgets, it seems pale varieties will continue to be a white knight for the jewellery trade, galloping into the mix, with its shining armour, to continue to save the day 










ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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Saturday, 14 December, 2019 10:03pm
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