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What's White Now
Retailers pick the best in white metal

From the diamond-encrusted platinum necklace purchased for a 50th anniversary to the fashionable sterling bracelet a woman buys for herself to the tungsten wedding bands favored by young men on a budget, white metals are the workhorse of the jewelry store, accounting for a majority of sales today.

For most retailers we talked to, platinum continues to be the ultimate bridal jewelry metal—although its premium price has made it difficult for some consumers in today’s market. White gold dominates in fashion jewelry, where jewelers see it as the perfect accompaniment to precious and semiprecious blue gemstones.

Sterling silver is on the rise for most stores. It’s an inexpensive way for customers to keep buying jewelry; its look can be very close to white gold; it’s a point of entry for young people beginning their jewelry buying; and designers are pouring on the textures and the gemstones, pushing sterling’s look to ever greater fashion heights.

necklace in sterling silver with 18k gold

BIXBY DESIGNS “Storyteller” collection necklace in sterling silver with 18k gold, suggested retail $575, with sterling silver, 18k gold, and gemstone charms, suggested retail $225 to $550 each, (212) 371-3915,

earrings and pendants

Atelier N., Durham, North Carolina

WHAT SELLS: “The white metal jewelry we sell depends on the price point: above $1,000 it’s almost always platinum; below $1,000 it’s usually white gold. Customers really like colored diamonds on white metal because they so easily mix. If a diamond costs $1,000 or more, there’s little hesitation to mount it in platinum. We like Catherine Iskiw, who offers clean lines and directional brushing on her earrings and necklaces. Britt Anderson’s earrings and pendants are fashion-forward and feature a high polish. Breuning
is a staple for us, very well made earrings at good price points.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “Selling is never a push-through thing. Our angle is to develop lasting relationships by listening closely to people and what they need. Then it’s a matter of them trusting us to suggest the right thing.”
BRITT ANDERSON anticlastic earrings handmade in 18k white gold, suggested retail $950,
(217) 347-3083,

Photo by Hap Sakwa.

scroll bracelet in oxidized sterling and 18k gold with ruby and white quartz doublet, sapphires, and diamonds

Cornell’s Jewelers, Rochester, New York

WHAT SELLS: “For bridal we’re doing a lot in 18k gold. Depending on buyers’ budgets, we try to persuade them to go into platinum because of its advantages. In sterling, John Hardy and Judith Ripka, whose looks are very distinct from each other, do very well. We also sell Slane & Slane and Armenta’s oxidized silver. The economy has had some effect on sterling sales, but a lot of it is also brand awareness. People like sterling’s price, and that it fits a casual lifestyle and is wearable day and night. In platinum, Ritani, Martin Flyer, and Jeff Cooper sell well, while Hearts On Fire, Tacori, and Christopher Design are strong in white gold.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “People want to wear jewelry that doesn’t have a cookie-cutter look. To create a unique look, we encourage customers to create ensembles of jewelry taken from several collections. By picking and choosing pieces from different designers that work well together, the customer can create unique combinations.”
ARMENTA large scroll bracelet in oxidized sterling and 18k gold with ruby and white quartz doublet, sapphires, and diamonds, suggested retail $9,990, (713) 523-0631,

engagement ring setting in 18k gold with a half-carat of ideal cut diamonds

Kimpel’s Jewelry, Columbiana, Ohio

WHAT SELLS: “White gold is our biggest seller. Even people looking at yellow gold are open to my suggestion that mixing colors is OK. It’s a way to bring them over to the idea of white gold. Some precious stones just look better in white. I’d say 90 percent of the women under age 35 want white, either by itself or to complement yellow. Gold colors are a cyclical thing. I thought we’d never see the use of good melee in some sterling. Some suppliers we especially like for both white gold and sterling are JMC, Apex, and Express. JMC gives customers a bigger look for less money.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “We never hard sell. We simply make suggestions to people about what combinations look best and what is available at certain price points. Be nice and be honest. If you don’t have an answer, admit you don’t and then go get it.”
JMC “PassionStone” engagement ring setting in 18k gold with a half-carat of ideal cut diamonds, suggested retail $3,575, and matching band with a quarter-carat in diamonds, suggested retail $1,625, (212) 398-6401,

sterling silver bee pendant and freshwater pearl necklace

Henry B. Ball Co., Canton, Ohio

WHAT SELLS: “We did a Mother’s Day promotion featuring items under $100 and sterling bracelets just walked out the door. Many of the purchases were kids buying jewelry for their moms. We carry two designer sterling lines that have done well: Barbara Bixby, who combines sterling with amethyst, blue topaz, and peridot. Slane & Slane produces a popular sterling bee pendant, and also a sterling necklace with freshwater pearls. We’re seeing interest in palladium, tungsten, and titanium rings.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “We try to offer appealing price points that will keep people coming in even though they are not making big purchases. We almost never used to sell .25 or .33 carat diamonds for bridal, but have noticed demand rising. So we purchased beautiful but inexpensive solitaire mountings that really complement a smaller diamond, and are able to give young buyers an engagement ring for $700 or $800 that’s much better looking than what they can get at a mall store.”
SLANE & SLANE sterling silver bee pendant and freshwater pearl necklace, suggested retail $370 and $290, (212) 691-5820,

pendant with white topaz on chain necklace

Hyde Park Jewelers, Denver, Colorado

WHAT SELLS: “Platinum and white gold both sell well. Most of our eternity bands are in white gold, while bridal goes well with either metal. We’re doing very well with sterling, it’s almost like low-hanging fruit. We’re even starting to see rhodium plating in sterling to combat tarnishing or discoloration. With platinum and white gold we see white diamonds and cool colored gemstones, such as sapphires or pink tourmalines. In sterling, because of the price point, we see peridot, birthstones, and citrine. John Hardy uses melee in his sterling pieces, which was a breakthrough. He really increased sterling’s range and possibilities.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “We make every effort to show as well as tell. If we tell somebody that white diamonds look better in white metal, but they have their heart set on yellow gold, we’ll put a white diamond up against a yellow gold setting to show how the metal affects the stone’s color.”
JOHN HARDY “Batu Klasik” pendant with white topaz on chain necklace, suggested retail $895, blue topaz, aquamarine, and iolite shrimp earrings, suggested retail $795, (212) 219-4288,

women’s bracelet in sterling silver with diamond cut black sapphires

Samuel Gordon Jewelers, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

WHAT SELLS: “In fashion jewelry we do well with sterling silver and with white gold that’s been alloyed with palladium to prevent discoloration. Blue is still the favorite color in combination with white metals. One of our favorite white gold designers is Gadi, who uses garnet, topaz, citrine, aqua, and amethyst to create unique color combinations. In sterling, we carry seven lines including Scott Kay, Leslie Green, Arista, and Liz Donahue.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “We offer many different choices. We’re straightforward with our information, but we always tell a story. We’ll say, yes, platinum may develop a patina over the years, but that patina gives the metal character. It’s like that leather chair you’ve owned for ages. The leather may be faded, but it’s the most comfortable chair in the world and it has so many good memories associated with it.”
SCOTT KAY women’s bracelet from the new “Faith” collection in sterling silver with diamond cut black sapphires, suggested retail $1,485, (201) 287-0100,

platinum and diamond engagement ring

Bigham Jewelers, Naples, Florida

WHAT SELLS: “Customers here never took a strong turn to white gold. I think the sunlight here affects the look of gold—yellow gold looks good in it. We do sell a significant amount of white metal, with platinum the top performer. Diamond colors are pinks and whites, pinks and yellows, and whites and blacks. People are starting to get into black diamonds, black is a wardrobe basic. We like Michael Bondanza, who creates very clean lines and whose mountings always show off the main stone.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “People come to us for good advice. One example is when we sell an ‘I’ve Made It’ ring where customers show that they’ve come far in the world by purchasing a flawless white diamond. We always advise them to set the stone in white metal because it defeats the purpose if you mount it in yellow gold. The setting will simply turn it yellow. That argument works with 99 percent of the people who want a yellow gold setting. They trust our judgment.”
MICHAEL BONDANZA sculptural “Madison” collection platinum and diamond engagement ring, suggested retail for setting for a 3 carat center $5,250, and matching double-row platinum wedding band, suggested retail $3,450, (212) 869-0043,

earrings and pendant in 14k gold with diamonds

Goldworks, Durham, North Carolina

WHAT SELLS: “White metal jewelry sales break down into platinum in bridal and white gold in fashion. Platinum makes the best sense with engagement rings. White gold is an everyday metal that’s good for everyday jewelry. As designers, there are three of us in-house, we use white gold that has a palladium alloy. Sterling generates a substantial volume of unit sales but its overall value is miniscule. It’s not as important as our other metals, but it lets us sell nice things to people who can’t afford a lot. In white gold, we like Galatea, a small but quickly growing designer that does unique, arty, out-of-the-mainstream designs.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “Because we promote ourselves as artists, we can appeal to most clients who are looking for something unique. Once they’re here and take a look at our own design work or fashion-forward designers like Galatea, we’re confident about making a sale.”
GALATEA earrings and pendant in 14k gold with diamonds feature Chi Galatea Huynh’s signature
“DaVinchi” cut in blue topaz, suggested retail $1,237 and $1,437, (800) 609-6888,

engagement ring with matching band

Family Jewelers, Marlton, New Jersey

WHAT SELLS: “For bridal, we’re still selling plenty of platinum. In gold, we’re selling at least 75 percent white versus 25 percent yellow in all categories. In the bridal and timepiece categories it’s closer to 90 percent white metal. Sterling sales aren’t really up that much. We are selling designer sterling silver and Bixby Designs does well. Platinum is the most popular at the high end and tungsten carbide is popular in the lower price points. Verragio is by far the best bridal designer—every ring is made to order in our choice of platinum, palladium, or 18k gold. We also like Triton, their work in the alternative metals is very broad.”
HOW WE SELL IT: “Our most effective sales approach comes down to education. From the sales staff to the consumer, it’s important to know what is available and the different characteristics of the various metals. It’s all about educating the customer. Given the chance, most people will purchase the best product they can.”
VERRAGIO engagement ring with matching band, (800) 837-7244,