The Alternative Side to Precious Metals
Alternative metals or contemporary stylings? Since the price of gold and platinum have been journeying onwards and upwards, the jewelry industry has been pushed to find options that offer the luxury look and feel of gold and platinum, at price points that are affordably attractive. In this week’s article, we take a look at the metals and marketing methods that are persuading consumers that all that glitters doesn’t have to be gold.
Probably the most well-known ‘alternative’ metal on the market is palladium. At the time of writing palladium was standing at around $683/oz, less than half of platinum’s $1626/oz. But, is this price break enough to convince consumers that palladium is a viable alternative to the more expensive platinum? It can be difficult to tell platinum and palladium apart visually. Palladium is also less dense than platinum – making it in many respects more akin to white gold (though still significantly less expensive). So, lighter on the finger, lighter on the wallet – surely then consumers would prefer to go palladium? Not yet…..Mainstream America is traditional and even though it seems as though Palladium is a win-win, the mass market has yet to be convinced that Palladium is a serious contender when saying their ‘I dos’. For non-bridal product, the metal’s comparative lightness, color and price have made it many a designer’s go-to option. It is after all an ‘official’ precious metal (along with gold, silver and platinum).
Other ‘contemporary’ metals include titanium, tungsten and steel. Unsurprisingly these are most en vogue when it comes to male-focused lines. For years the industry would comment that it was the ‘younger’, ‘hipper’ crowd that would view these metals as an out of the box, individualized style option– but even jewelry consumers grow older and this young-set has become a not-so-young set. Today, titanium, tungsten and steel are playing more and more on an equal footing with the 20- 40somethings.
Marketing wise these metals are playing through a weighted game. Gold has the World Gold Council backing international marketing campaigns of gold jewelry, and platinum is supported by Platinum Guild International. Coming in from the dugout, The Palladium Alliance has gone a long way in promoting awareness of palladium. All of these are invaluable sources of information, marketing tools, promotional material and more – but until a similar body can be established and funded for the other metals, it’s up to grass-roots campaigning and on-the-floor advocacy.
What many consumers don’t realize, and many stores fail to mention, is that these alternative metals don’t just come at lower price points, they also have benefits their more traditional metal brethren don’t have:
- Titanium is hypo-allergenic.
- Almost all steel jewelry is made from 316L Stainless Steel, a hypoallergenic form of steel.
- If the wearer works a lot with his hands and doesn’t want to be constantly removing his ring, tungsten and titanium provide added advantages. Titanium weighs around 1/3 of platinum making it an extremely light and comfortable ring. A great option for those men who are generally ‘jewelry adverse’.
- Tungsten is dent/scratch resistant. The George Hamilton of metals if you will. You can run it over, break down a wall with it, scrape it along the ground and it just refuses to age.
When it comes to watches though, it’s a totally different story regarding market acceptance. Very few consumers would balk at buying a palladium/tungsten/titanium watch. In fact, a significant percentage of consumers actively seek out these metals for their timepieces. So why, when it comes to wearing them on their finger, are consumers still shying away from the alternatives? Until a cross-industry group, like those mentioned earlier, can help fund significant marketing campaigns, they’ll remain in the shadows.
Next week: Summing it all up. From talking the talk to closing the sale, a comprehensive overview of the dos, donts and ‘did you ever think of this’ tips in selling to the fashionably focused market of the Gen Yers.