A&E Metals has launched Argentium, a new ‘higher quality’ silver alloy, in Australia.
Adam Wittig, co-director of the Sydney-based metal supplier, said Argentium had the potential to revolutionise the silver jewellery market as it virtually eliminates sterling silver’s two biggest drawbacks – firescale and tarnishing.
According tp UK-based creator, Argentium International Limited, Argentium is the most “tarnish-resistant silver” in the world.
“Argentium is required to pass critical laboratory tarnish tests to recreate the effects of pollution, perspiration and ultraviolet light − traditional sterling silver fails all of these tests while Argentium achieves 100 per cent success.”
Although still relatively unknown by consumers, the alloy has been available for many years in the UK and a number of jewellers are already retailing products bearing the Argentium ‘unicorn’ logo.
Wittig said the metal has been “undermarketed” but is now likely to become better known and understood as London jewellery manufacturer Allied Gold has recently purchased the majority shareholding in Argentium and is expected to promote it more.
Indeed A&E had resisted working with the metal for a number of years “as we didn’t think it would be as good as it actually was”.
However after testing the alloy, the company was impressed with “the way it actually did what it said it would”, and has now obtained the license to manufacture the alloy in Australia.
“Initially Argentium International Limited wanted us just to import the alloy but I wanted to produce and manufacture the product here in Australia,” said Wittig.
A&E is now in the process of establishing a preferred group of suppliers across Australia – “Palloys is already on board for casting” – and beginning to educate the local jewellery industry about the benefits of working with Argentium.
According to Wittig, many jewellers mistakenly believe that working with Argentium is more difficult than working with sterling silver but he stresses “it’s isn’t – it is just different”.
“Argentium’s superior properties can in fact reduce manufacturing time, labour and costs for jewellers,” he said.
“For instance the absence of firescale eliminates the tedious and time-consuming steps required when working with traditional sterling silver. It also eliminates the need for plating the final product.”
However Wittig believes that the metal’s tarnish resistance is its biggest attraction for jewellers, retailers and consumers.
“A lot of retailers avoid silver because they don’t want to spend hours polishing it.” he said.
“To avoid such problems jewellers have traditionally used silver or rhodium-plating but rhodium-plated jewellery looks like a shiny car part rather than a nice soft white metal and silver-plating wears off and tarnishes easily – neither is a suitable solution so a lot of silver jewellery buyers end up dissatisfied with their purchases and this in turn often reflects badly on the store they bought them from.
“One only has to look up ‘my silver turns black’ on Google to quickly realise how disenchanted many consumers are with their silver jewellery purchases.
Argentium, which costs “about five percent more than traditional sterling silver”, is “a suitable solution”.
“We want retailers to understand there is now an alternative so they don’t have to look bad to their customers.”
A&E Metals will be providing information on Argentium at the JAA International Jewellery Fair in Sydney from August 31 to September 2.
The company will also be working with various jewellery schools to conduct courses for jewellers.
For more information visit www.aemetal.com.au or www.argentiumsilver