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Qudo
Qudo

Innovation keeps white metals glistening in 2017

Gleaming white metals continue to shine. EMILY MOBBS discovers the truth about different alloy properties and new technical innovations.

White metals need little introduction – these cool, luminous alloys have been hot property in the bridal and fashion categories for years.

Yes, trends typically go out of style eventually but a host of technical innovations and fresh designs are keeping this bunch forging full steam ahead.

“We are noticing that all white metals are still on trend within our extensive wedding ring range,” Twin Plaza Metals managing director Victor Donovic says.

“The upper end of the market is where consumers seem to be spending,” Donovic continues. “Leading the way are 18-carat white gold and platinum but also on offer are 9-carat white gold, palladium 500 and platinum 600, which enable great value for money.”



"We have done extensive research and introduced a new alloy, ‘platinum ruthenium’, driven by our clients."
Andrew Cochineas, CEO of Pallion

Pallion CEO Andrew Cochineas is another supplier experiencing strong demand for white metals this year.

“It is our highest selling colour above yellow and rose gold,” Cochineas says, adding that a notable point is the fact that the percentage of platinum sales has increased.

“Although platinum has traditionally been more expensive than gold, in the current economic market, platinum is trading lower than fine gold,” he explains.

At the time of writing, Cochineas states that, “ABC Bullion is currently trading platinum at $1,197.30 per ounce whereas gold is $1,636.67 per ounce – the price drop has definitely contributed to the rise in platinum sales.”

Pallion is developing more platinum alloys as a result of this rise in popularity and demand.

“We have done extensive research and introduced a new alloy, ‘platinum ruthenium’, driven by our clients,” Cochineas says, adding, “Platinum has traditionally been difficult to cast but with advances in technology, and specifically investment material, we are producing a superior product and are able to cast products that were not previously possible.”

Platinum has long been known as one of the ‘difficult’ members of the white metals family. It is used in an almost pure form, about 95 per cent, and has a much higher melting temperature than its white gold cousin, making it a challenging material to work with.

Phillip Schmidt runs Platinumsmith, a Melbourne-based business specialising in platinum jewellery – the metal represents about 80 per cent of sales.

He suggests that more jewellers have mastered the metal, regardless of its difficult reputation.

“I notice most retailers with hand-making skills are doing well with platinum,” Schmidt says. “I think every competent/experienced goldsmith is up to speed with most aspects of platinum, and has been for the past five years at least.”

Industry confusion

Platinum, of course, is only one chapter in the white metals narrative.

Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck

According to Peter W Beck founder Peter Beck, white gold is the most popular metal across his wedding ring and precious metals departments.

Beck says that confusion in the market currently exists when comparing white gold, platinum and palladium.

“White gold has some advantages over platinum as it is easy to repair and to refurbish,” Beck explains. “One negative to white gold, that many consumers are unaware of, is that it does require rhodium plating to maintain its white appearance, which will dull from wear.

“Platinum is very good for fine filigree type work and stone setting due to its very good wear resistance. Platinum does not require rhodium plating so in turn does not need to be refurbished as often; however, platinum is somewhat more expensive due to manufacturing costs and the cost of the raw material.”

Like Cochineas, Beck highlights his business’ endeavours to keep up with the latest technologies and alloy developments.

“We are currently researching a white gold alloy that does not require plating,” he says. “The challenge is to create a very white alloy that can still be easily melted and fabricated and withstand daily wear.”

Beck confirms that the alloy will launch once the supplier is satisfied with its durability and ability to be fabricated.

Further, he states that there is confusion amongst manufacturing jewellers about which white alloy is best suited to their requirements.

Dyrberg/Kern
Dyrberg/Kern

“Peter W Beck acknowledges this need and has produced multiple white alloys to accommodate demand, including setting alloys, general fabrication, palladium-rich alloys and nickel-free alloys for the growing number of consumers with nickel allergies.”
Donovic adds that overcoming confusion regarding white metal properties involves a constant education process for retail staff and consumers.

“It is really important to understand the difference,” he says. ”Our best performing customers are the ones that are prepared to have real live stock and variety of white metals in their windows to be able to explain to consumers the difference. The bigger the selection of live stock the more chance you have of making the sale and up-selling your product.”

It is understandable that there are misconceptions given the large number of metals and alloys available.

Cochineas is another who notes the confusion in the market when comparing white gold, platinum and palladium: “We have found that customers don’t understand the difference between platinum and white gold and there is also confusion between the properties of 18-carat and 9-carat white gold – customers tend to think that 9-carat gold is harder than 18-carat gold; however, the exact opposite is true.”

Silver truths

According to Indiri owner and designer Josh Smith, misunderstandings also exist in the world of sterling silver.

Indiri
Indiri

“There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between 925 and sterling silver, when in fact there is no difference,” Smith says.

“I always try to give a simple answer that sterling is any silver that is 92.5 per cent pure silver or higher. I explain that sterling silver is way too soft to work with when it is pure, so it is most frequently mixed with copper to give it strength; this is a story I find myself saying over and over, particularly at trade fairs. I’m amazed there is still a lot of confusion about what constitutes sterling silver and how it relates to ‘925’.”

In a well-covered corner of the market, one way Smith is distinguishing his product is with a unique alloy.

“We use our own proprietary alloy of sterling that gives our items the right mix of strength, flexibility and tarnish resistance,” Smith explains.

Cudworth Enterprises
Cudworth Enterprises

“One of the biggest issues with sterling silver is tarnish. Being able to add tarnish resistance helps a lot as it greatly reduces time spent polishing silver jewellery on store shelves.”

Darren Roberts is director of men’s jewellery supplier Cudworth Enterprises. He too believes there is confusion regarding the properties of sterling silver, particularly amongst males.

When discussing new technological innovations and design methods employed by Cudworth, Roberts points to gun metal and pearl rhodium plating.

“Gun metal is a dark grey colour and pearl is similar to brushed with a slight satin finish,” he explains, adding that the plating gives the pieces a more modern and masculine look while also preventing tarnishing or oxidising.

Jodie Tilia, director of Fervor Montreal local distributor JLM International, explains that a recent addition to the Solitaire collection is a brushed finish designed to highlight the sparkle of the Swarovski crystals used in the sterling silver pieces.

Pallion
Pallion

When asked about recent technological advancements, Tilia discusses the Crossfor technology incorporated in the Canadian range’s Dancing Gems collection.

Using the technology, the crystals are set in a way in which they imitate the movement of a swing.

Understanding the properties of sterling silver and being able to communicate these to consumers is also important given the influx of plated base metal jewellery, according to Smith.

“With so much plated base metal jewellery in the market, it raises the perceived value of solid sterling items,” he explains, adding, “For those of us producing high-quality, solid sterling silver jewellery, there is no point in competing on price; however, it is important to educate stores and sales staff so they can explain the differences between solid and plated jewellery.”

Steel appeal

Stainless steel is also no stranger in the white metals family, having established its own foothold in jewellery retail stores several years ago.

Twin Plaza Metals
Twin Plaza Metals

Like sterling silver, Roberts believes that confusion exists regarding the properties of stainless steel.

What are the major misconceptions surrounding the metal?

“That stainless steel is more of an industrial metal for construction rather than jewellery,” Roberts responds.

He adds that 316L is the only grade that should be used for jewellery, explaining that 304 is a thinner grade that is cheaper and inferior in quality compared to 316L.

Platinumsmith
Platinumsmith

Tilia, who also distributes Dyrberg/Kern jewellery, says stainless steel has many selling points that retailers should be promoting during sales conversations.

“Stainless steel is a very hard, strong and durable metal alloy with a content of iron and chrome,” she states, adding, “Stainless steel undergoes a number of processes, which make it practically scratch free and resistible to corrosion and oxidation.”

Part of this process is a ‘top coat’, or ion plating, that prevents oxidation.

“Ion plating is one of the most advanced surface finishing processes on the market – it is carried out in a vacuum environment and makes the top plating more durable and resistant,” she says.

“The greatest advantage of the ion plating process is that the surface created is both harder and chemically more stable than that produced through traditional wet plating methods.”

Indiri
Indiri

While such factors are arguably selling points for stainless steel, Ken Abbott, managing director of Qudo local distributor Timesupply, believes its properties aren’t the only reasons consumers are drawn to the metal.

“Stainless steel is a widely accepted metal for fashion jewellery but it is of course the strength of the design element that will make it a desirable purchase,” Abbott explains, adding, “The way the design looks and appeals is more important to the consumer than the fact it is made from stainless steel.”

Indeed, selecting a white metal is not a question of determining which one is better than the other but rather which one suits a consumer’s individual needs.

Each metal in this family brings different attributes and benefits and it will be one white-hot summer once retailers master this.

Fervor Montreal
Fervor Montreal

White metals

 

Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck

White Gold is an alloy of yellow gold and at least one other white metal, such as palladium or silver. The colour of white gold can vary, depending on the alloy formula used, and pieces are normally plated with rhodium to enhance the white colour. Rhodium does wear, meaning white gold should be re-plated about every 12-18 months, depending on the frequency of wear. It is available in a variety of carats.

Platinum is used in jewellery in an almost pure form, about 95 per cent. This rich purity makes the metal hypoallergenic, and its natural white colour will not tarnish or lose its lustre. Platinum is long-wearing and one of the strongest metals to manufacture.

Palladium is part of the platinum group of metals but has a slightly different shade of white than platinum and is less dense. It is resistant to corrosion, won’t tarnish and doesn’t require rhodium plating.

Sterling Silver is a highly malleable metal, which lends itself to a wide range of design options. It is also less expensive than other white metals such as gold, platinum and palladium. It is, however, inclined to tarnish and is much softer than other metals, meaning it is not ideal for everyday use.

Stainless Steel is resistant to corrosion and offers affordability and low maintenance. The metal is quite rigid and inflexible and has long been popular in the men’s market; however, a host of technological advancements that allow for the incorporation of feminine elements like gemstones and intricate designs has meant that the demand for the metal among women is definitely increasing.

 

WHITE METAL GALLERY

Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck
Dyrberg/Kern
Dyrberg/Kern

Indiri
Indiri
Cudworth Enterprises
Cudworth Enterprises

Pallion
Pallion
Twin Plaza Metals
Twin Plaza Metals

Platinumsmith
Platinumsmith
Indiri
Indiri

Fervor Montreal
Fervor Montreal
Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck



















Friday, 19 April, 2019 08:17am
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