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White Still Right

Although yellow and rose gold are making fashion inroads, white metal is still the overwhelming choice for bridal jewelry. Retailers report white is still quite strong in diamond fashion jewelry, too. But the menu of white metal options today has changed. More jewelers today report increased price resistance to platinum, the first choice in bridal for most stores.

As a result, many jewelers say the market for white gold and palladium bridal jewelry is growing. Palladium is particularly strong in the men’s band market. Titanium, steel, and tungsten are also popular for men’s bands.

And then there’s silver, particularly strong for some stores, especially branded silver from David Yurman, John Hardy, and Pandora. Although there are still upscale stores that don’t sell silver or sell only a must-have brand, in today’s economy, silver is becoming increasingly important, especially for the self-purchaser. High-turning silver collections are providing profits as well as traffic to keep stores busy year round.

necklaces in sterling silver

“Precious Beads” necklaces in sterling silver: “Popcorn” with black onyx, blue tiger iron, dumortierite, and labradorite, 34 inches, suggested retail $1,300; “Tweejoux” with black onyx, hyperstene, iolite, labradorite, and amethyst, 48 inches, $1,700; and “Graphic Ice” multi-row petite box chain necklace, $295, with chevron pavé black diamond enhancer, $2,600, all by David Yurman, (646) 264-7375.

Lapis enhancer in Argentium 970 silver with an 18k gold bezel from the Lorenzo brand by Simon Golub

“We’re doing extremely well with 14k and 18k white gold, especially since platinum went up so much. I talk up platinum quite a bit, but it’s about 4.25 times more expensive than white gold, so its price is daunting. Although we do all custom orders in-house and I do some spec manufacturing of one-of-a-kind pieces, we rely for our white gold on manufacturers such as Mark Silverstein Imagines, Beverly K., and Dora. Our silver niche is huge. We buy a lot of it and offer it as an entry level purchase. Silver can still be a spontaneous purchase item. Designers that we like include Simon Golub and his Lorenzo sterling line. Zina has a very tailored and geometric look.”
— George Fox, Fox Fine Jewelry, Ventura, California

Lapis enhancer in Argentium 970 silver with an 18k gold bezel from the Lorenzo brand by Simon Golub, suggested retail $550, (206) 762-4800. Marquise-shape engagement ring setting in 18k gold, 0.66 carats total weight, by Mark Silverstein Imagines, suggested retail $3,276, (800) 993-5900.

Men’s palladium bands

“For us, white gold, then sterling, then palladium are our top sellers. We put in a Scott Kay palladium line of men’s wedding bands that have been big sellers. The styling sells it, or at least attracts attention. People don’t know all that much about palladium, but it’s not hard to sell them on it. Our price point for men’s wedding bands runs from $500 to $800 for white gold and from $800 to $1,200 for palladium. In sterling, Scott Kay has a beautifully finished silver line, and Pandora has done a great job of catering to the collector market.”
— Richard Frank, Jr., Julius Goldstein & Son, Mobile, Alabama

Men’s palladium bands from the “Javlin Bolted” collection by Scott Kay, suggested retail starting at $1,650, (201) 287-0100.

Engagement ring in platinum by Tacori

“We’re doing well with tungsten men’s wedding bands. We sell Trent West tungsten rings at a price point of $500 to $1,500. Men like tungsten’s feel, nice weight, and durability. Titanium has its fans, too. Although it can have an almost plastic feel and is grayer, it’s lightweight and has a high-tech appeal. Platinum is still definitely in play for us. Thirty percent of our men’s bands and 50 percent of our engagement jewelry is platinum. We promote it as heirloom quality jewelry that they will be able to hand down over the generations. We love Tacori for platinum. They are among the top manufacturers in the country when it comes to quality, construction, and style.”
— Timothy Quigley, T.Q. Diamonds, Madison, Wisconsin

Engagement ring in platinum by Tacori, suggested retail $5,330, (800) 421-9844.

Sterling silver and 18k gold cuff with mother-of-pearl intaglio

“White gold is still more popular than yellow and the price increase in platinum is making more people opt for 14k and 18k white gold. Women who are getting ready to marry do a lot of research on the Internet and arrive here asking some pretty educated questions about palladium. More manufacturers are creating gold and palladium alloys that hold the white color better. Alloys like that are easier on our customers who don’t have to keep coming back with their white gold pieces to have them rhodium plated. Manufacturers who are doing this include Simon G., Precision Set, and Roberto Coin. We sell a lot of sterling silver from Steven Lagos, Konstantino, and Dian Malouf. As we see the price of other white metals increase, we’ll be seeing more sterling fashion jewelry.”
— Ronnie Cox, Cox Jewelers, Sweetwater, Texas

Sterling silver and 18k gold cuff with mother-of-pearl intaglio from the “Athena” collection by Konstantino, suggested retail $4,660, (414) 453-2857.

Palladium wedding band for men from the Diana brand by Frederick Goldman

“Ninety-five percent of what sells is white metal. Most of our engagement rings are platinum and other popular platinum pieces include pendants and colored stone rings. We do half of our platinum jewelry in-house, but also sell brand names like J.B. Star and Diana. The hottest metal for men’s wedding bands is palladium. It has most of platinum’s best features and has good cachet because it’s a member of the platinum family. It’s lighter and less dense than platinum, which makes it attractive to people who don’t want to wear a heavy piece of jewelry. It’s comparable to gold in price and can take on more design and filigree than gold.”
— Elizabeth Parker, Curt Parker Jewelers, St. Louis, Missouri

Palladium wedding band for men from the Diana brand by Frederick Goldman, suggested retail $945, (800) 223-4262.

Sterling silver men’s bracelet

“We’re a bridal store with 60 to 70 percent of our purchases in that category. We sell mostly palladium, followed by 18k white gold and platinum. Now palladium has some issues, but it’s a beautiful metal for young people and is a nice alternative. It doesn’t turn yellow, it’s easy to wear, and men like its cool color. It’s white, but not that intense white you see in rhodium-finished white gold. Our primary supplier for palladium jewelry is Scott Kay. He does it better than anybody. We find that most of our customers are already familiar with the metal and know to ask about it. We also sell a lot of sterling. We like Bentelli, they’re ideal for a younger set. Scott Kay just introduced a sterling men’s line in Vegas that I think will be amazing.”
— Ronda Daily, Bremer Jewelry, Peoria, Illinois

Sterling silver men’s bracelet from the “Guardian” collection by Scott Kay, suggested retail starts at $955, (201) 287-0100.

Cushion and round diamond

“One year ago, our top white metal sellers were platinum and white gold. They are still our two largest sellers, but these days the order has been reversed. Platinum is becoming less of a presence because of its price, and even designers who have specialized in it are branching out. For platinum bridal, we like Michael B., Scott Kay, and Verragio. For white gold, we like fashion jewelry from Penny Preville and a handful of Italian companies. One hundred percent of our sales with palladium are in wedding bands, so it has a very narrow scope. Customers appreciate that it’s a platinum group precious metal. We don’t sell much sterling, and what we do is from David Yurman and John Hardy. We find that it’s mostly an asked-for product by collectors.”
— Harvey Rovinsky, Bernie Robbins Fine Jewelry, Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Cushion and round diamond “Trois” flatbands, both custom made for your center diamond by Michael B., suggested retail $18,150 and $14,575, (800) 969-9949.

Silver and blue topaz earrings and necklace

“We always try to shoot for platinum but are getting some resistance now. Palladium is really taking on market share. It’s a ‘forever white’ metal, durable and strong, doesn’t scratch easily, and comes from the same family. When we meet resistance on a platinum sale we’re able to convert nine out of 10 customers to palladium. When couples come in for a ring mounting, they want something left over for the diamonds. So being able to offer a $600 palladium mounting is an advantage. For palladium, we like Scott Kay, who really steps up with high-quality and attractive styles. Sterling is a great performer. Hardy, Yurman, and Honora freshwater pearls with sterling continue to sell. We just picked up Wendy Culpepper, whose sweet spot is in the $150 to $250 range. You need to have price points like that, where people can pick up some very nice jewelry without having to pay a huge price for it.”
— Valerie Bleser, Northeastern Fine Jewelry, Albany, New York

Silver and blue topaz “Fire Drop” earrings and necklace and “Surge” ring by Wendy Culpepper, with retails ranging from $47 to $65, with 15% of the retail price donated to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, ASPCA, or Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, (212) 629-8161.

Platinum engagement ring

“In terms of value, platinum is still number one for us, while white gold is definitely number one in sales across all sectors, not just bridal. In terms of volume, silver is number one. We sell David Yurman and John Hardy, who give silver great appeal. In wedding bands, we have Diana. Our overall bridal is Ritani or our own in-house designs. Palladium is coming on. We bring it up to customers as a durable, less expensive alternative. We’re selling a lot of it in men’s wedding rings and solitaires. The white metal trend has been going on for five years and we don’t see it fading. People now wear anything in combination, white metal mixed with yellow and colored diamond or gemstone accents. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing, so you’re going to see white metals remain popular for a long time.”
— Phillip Bosen, Fink’s Jewelers, Forest, Virginia

Platinum engagement ring with a 0.75 carat center from the “Bella Vita” collection by Ritani, suggested retail $7,160, (212) 997-7742.