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Master jeweller Hugh Gillbanks has spent more than 10 years developing Starium, a high-performance alloy, for the jewellery industry. Pictured: Jewellery crafted from Starium; Hugh Gillbanks at the bench
Master jeweller Hugh Gillbanks has spent more than 10 years developing Starium, a high-performance alloy, for the jewellery industry. Pictured: Jewellery crafted from Starium; Hugh Gillbanks at the bench

New Zealand jeweller launches new precious metal alloy

Following more than 10 years of development, a new metal alloy created by master jeweller Hugh Gillbanks is now available to the jewellery industry.

The alloy, named Starium for its celestial lustre, polishes up to the same colour as rhodium but does not require rhodium plating, and has proven resistant to tarnish and corrosion as well as displaying superior workability, according to its inventor.

Hugh Gillbanks, jeweller and inventor of Starium
Hugh Gillbanks, jeweller and inventor of Starium
"Jewellers will be blown away by what it does, what it's like to use, and what they can make with it"
Hugh Gillbanks, jeweller and Starium inventor

Gillbanks told Jeweller, “You can roll it, fabricate it, it can be cast; it works exactly the same as any other metal you'd use.

“The benefits are that it's a high-temperature metal, so it's very easy to solder and keep clean. When you're soldering it and you put it back into the acid, it takes away all the fireburn.

“If you polish it first, it comes out exactly how you'd polish it after you'd worked with it,” he explained, adding, “Jewellers will be blown away by what it does, what it's like to use, and what they can make with it. It files, bends, and sets beautifully. It seems too soft to set with at first, but it's harder than other metals."

With a 45-year career in the jewellery industry – both hand-making and doing master works for casting houses – Gillbanks began developing the alloy more than 10 years ago and spent years bringing it up to industry standards.

“It's taken six years to get the metal to the stage where it's viable and it can do anything that every other metal on the market can do,” he told Jeweller, adding, “Friends and family have worn jewellery made from Starium for years and it's fantastic – other metals often wear down over a 10-year period, but Starium doesn't wear down at all.”

The Starium story

The journey to create a new high-performance alloy had an unusual start.

More than a decade ago, Gillbanks was approached by friend and customer Kotin Ma – now his business partner – to create metallic beads from a meteorite.

An engagement ring crafted in Starium.
An engagement ring crafted in Starium.

“He is a very spiritual person and I had made a lot of jewellery for him and his customers overseas, using a variety of different gemstones. He asked me if I could make beads from a meteorite, and I said no, nobody could!

"Instead, I suggested we create a new precious metal that could be used for anything,” Gillbanks recalled.

In 2010, the pair had their prototype metal assessed by Professor Milo Kral from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, while the metal was patented in both New Zealand and Australia, progress was halted by the devastating 2011 Christchurch Earthquake when samples were lost before they could be tested. 

Following a protracted rebuilding phase, Starium is "finally ready to go out to the market and everything is in place", with Gillbanks – now based in Queensland – partnering with an Australian factory to manufacture Starium at scale for the jewellery industry.

 

More reading:
A closer look at the world of white metals
Gleaming white metals forge full steam ahead











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