Jewellery alloys in the 21st century
There is a strong perception in our traditionally conservative industry that nothing much has changed over the years in terms of precious metal alloy compositions for jewellery application. A little reflection suggests that is not true. There has been change – significant change – and change continues to happen.
In this presentation, the changes in precious metal jewellery alloys that have occurred in recent times will be examined, notably in meeting the needs of the manufacturing processes in current use and improving the service performance of jewellery. It will highlight the advances that have been made and some deficiencies that still need to be addressed. It will be noted that some alloy technology developments, interesting as they are technically, have not led to commercial success and possible reasons for this are discussed.
Those of you familiar with my work in the jewellery technology sector will know that gold tends to be a dominant interest among all the precious metals, but all the important jewellery precious metal alloys – silver, gold and platinum – will be addressed in a balanced way. In talking about such alloys, they must be placed into context regarding changes in manufacturing processes and innovative jewellery design, as well as legislative constraints. The former includes the growing interest in powder- based technologies and use of CAD/CAM whilst the latter includes precious metal content and alloying limitations due to factors such as health and safety, of which nickel and cadmium are examples that impact alloy design.
To conclude the presentation, this overview will lead on to a look into the future! What further alloy developments can be anticipated against the background of changing regulations, social climate and the introduction of new manufacturing processes as well as improved properties? Will a new class of alloys – bulk metallic glasses or shape memory alloys, for example – find commercial interest?