A familiar but little-talked-about product in the jewelry manufacturing sector called bimetal—referring to two metals bonded together, primarily sterling silver fused to either 18k or 22k gold—is poised for greater popularity in fine jewelry stores. As a good alternative to solid 18k gold, bimetal helps keep down costs; it’s much more durable compared to gold vermeil or plate; it’s got more value than sterling alone; and it’s versatile to boot.
“Bimetal allows you to do bigger, showier pieces without the cost of all gold,” says Barbara Wasserstrom, co-owner of Stuart Benjamin & Co. in San Diego, who introduced the metal to clients at the beginning of the recession in 2008. “I had to make things more affordable.”
Wasserstrom carries the work of Christine Mackellar, who makes 80 percent of her C.H. Mackellar line in bimetal sterling and 18k gold. What surprises the Brooklyn, N.Y.–based Mackellar is that many jewelers just aren’t aware of the material. “Some think it’s plate or vermeil, which it’s not, or that it will rub off, which it doesn’t. It took a while for a few of my fine jewelry clients to wrap their heads around it,” she says.
One look, three prices: Foliage leaf earrings in 18k gold with 2 cts. t.w. quartz, $1,910, in 18k gold bimetal with 18k gold ear wires and stones, $720, in sterling silver with stones, $268; Jamie Cassavoy, Atlanta; 888-628-8399; cassavoyandco.com
Mackellar’s introduction to bimetal occurred during her university studies in England in the 1970s when she worked with a copper and silver version dubbed Sheffield plate. Other bimetal believers: Sydney Lynch of Lincoln, Neb.–based Sydney Lynch Jewelry; Hoover & Strong in Richmond, Va.; Reactive Metals Studio in Clarkdale, Ariz.; and Jamie Cassavoy of Cassavoy & Co. in Atlanta, who launched her largely bimetal line in 1998. “Bimetal offers an in-between price point with a two-tone look that people dig,” says Cassavoy.
Plus, over the long term, the items wear well. “Pieces will look the same 20 years down the road,” says Cassavoy.