Pure Gold and Platinum
Appeal to consumers' desires for purity and status
If you've ever seen, held or worn pure gold, you know why it's been treasured
and coveted throughout history. Pure gold is a regal yellow with a richness
that almost glows, says Tom Weishaar, a Jewelers of America master bench
jeweler and head goldsmith at Underwood Jewelers, Fayetteville, AR. But
he's quick to add it's not necessarily the best metal for jewelry.
With the exception of some heavy wedding bands, Weishaar uses pure gold
and platinum only for accents because these metals are not as durable by
themselves as they are when alloyed with another metal.
Pure metals do, however, have two strong selling points:
- The ethereal notion of purity. There's something deeply alluring about
purity: pure love and pure metals go together naturally.
- The more earthbound desire for status. Your customers won't likely
see many other people wearing pure gold or platinum.
To accommodate these consumer desires, however, the age-old problem of
pure metal softness must be overcome. Almost two years ago, Mitsubishi Materials
Corp., a Japanese company with sales offices in the U.S., patented a specially
hardened pure gold for sale to manufacturing jewelers. Made by adding minuscule
amounts of chemical elements to pure gold, the product is 99.9% pure metal
(which can be called pure or 24k gold under the National Gold and Silver
Stamping Act). It can be welded by laser and other torches and machined
without losing its hardness. It can be cast, but only with argon gas so
it maintains its strength.
The Mitsubishi compound was sold primarily in Japan and Europe at first
but now is marketed here also, says Darnall Burks, an engineering consultant
to Mitsubishi Materials Corp. Bench jewelers, designers and manufacturers
can buy the gold in ingot, wire and chain from MMC Electronics America Inc.
in Rolling Meadows, IL, (708) 577-0200 or in Sunnyvale, CA, (408) 522-2600.
For jewelers or metalsmiths looking for a source of finished rings, the
German company Christian Bauer has introduced a line of pure gold and platinum
wedding rings. The metals from which the rings are made is hardened by a
heating and pressure process rather than by alloying with other metals.
The pure gold is three times stronger than unprocessed 24k gold but not
quite as strong as 18k gold, says Tom Loback, general manager at Christian
Bauer. The line was introduced in the U.S. in January.
Loback says demand is higher for the gold rings than the platinum ones
for several reasons. Platinum 950 is closer to pure platinum than 18k gold
is to pure gold, so the difference is greater in gold. And the gold rings
are offered in three finishes, each of which accentuate the metal's color,
richness and depth.
Christian Bauer doesn't recommend bench jewelers repair or alter the
rings themselves, but it does stand behind them by offering repair and alteration.
The rings can be sized through stretching or compression, but they should
not be cut. If a substantial resizing is needed, Christian Bauer will exchange
the ring. The rings are sized before purchase using the German sizing system,
which the company says is very precise.
Jewelers may view the prospect of having to return the rings to Christian
Bauer for sizing as a problem. It's probably a good idea to let customers
know the company's turnaround time is three to four weeks, says Bob Umbel,
Christian Bauer's repair and sizing expert.
The company also provides jewelers who carry this line with a sales kit
that includes displays and brochures. It also promotes the rings in a national
advertising campaign. Christian Bauer's U.S. office is in Melbourne, FL,
Among other companies that produced pure metal jewelry are Kazto Corp.,
New York City, (212) 308-5081, and Herbstrith, Pforzheim, Germany, which
is distributed in the U.S. by Simon Sobie & Co., New York City, (800) 647-6243
or (212) 832-3246.
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.