Jewelry designers say they aren't
compromising their work as a result of higher precious metal
Rolex Watch USA Inc., New York, sells a large
number of all-gold, all-stainless and gold-stainless
combination watches. Despite the high cost of raw materials, a
Rolex spokeswoman said the company's designers are maintaining
what they've always done. "I don't think we'll see any change
in the line," she said. "We don't compromise on the quality of
the product. Customers know they'll have a high-quality piece
that they can trust."
Chris Ploof, a jewelry designer that runs
Chris Ploof Studio in Rutland, Mass., and serves as a technical
consultant for the Palladium Alliance International, said the
potential for substitute materials in the jewelry business
exists now that gold and platinum are so expensive.
"I think for sure that there may be some
people who are getting more into it," Ploof said. "But
stainless steel and titanium jewelry always seems to me like a
race to the bottom-how cheaply can we make the exact same
band." He won't be one of those entering that race. "I like
high-karat gold," Ploof said.
While acknowledging that he already uses a
variety of stainless products-Types 304, 316, 410, 718 and
Monel-to make his pieces, he doesn't intend to use more
stainless just because gold is more expensive.
The higher cost of precious metals is forcing
designers to be good at design and customer service, Ploof
said. "You just have to deal with it. You have to combat
against rising costs of material with excellence in design,
which we hope we're doing. You have to re-examine what you're
making and try to change designs and incorporate non-precious
with precious metals. You have to offer a complete package for
the customer rather than just cookie-cutter designs."
Even with prices going up, he said his
company is still selling precious metals-based products-and
growing at a tremendous rate. "If somebody shies away from
working in precious metals, I think it's more related to bad
design or bad sales practices," Ploof said.
Likewise, RGM Watch Co., Mount Joy, Pa.,
makes its timepieces out of stainless, gold and occasionally
platinum, according to founder Roland G. Murphy. "It hasn't
affected us so much," he said. "In our market, the higher end,
people who want gold want gold."
The small specialty watchmaker creates custom
designs and one-off watches. "Because of the mechanisms we make
and the mechanics we use, they are quite expensive," Murphy
said. "People are not shying away because of the price."
However, he said that stainless has increased
as a style trend, not as a price development. "People
appreciate our mechanics and mechanisms and complexity and
they've also appreciated in the last 10 years having that
quality in a steel case so it's something they can wear every
day that resists scratching and denting compared to gold,"