In a journey spanning over 19 and a half years, the jewellery industry braces itself for Starium, a revolutionary precious metal alloy. Crafted through the collaborative vision of master jeweller Hugh Gillbanks and geologist Kotin Ma, Starium blends pure white precious metals with the extraordinary element of meteorite, setting a new standard for innovative jewellery materials. In an exclusive interview with Mark Symes, international director of operations at Starium, Mark unravels the alloy’s rise from its inception to market readiness.
Genesis and Inspiration
Over 19 years ago, Gillbanks and Ma envisioned a metal surpassing industry standards. Inspired by the audacious idea of crafting metallic beads from a meteorite, the duo set to create a high-performance alloy that seamlessly melded spirituality with unparalleled workability. Symes says, “The addition of meteorite gives the alloy additional benefits to jewellery manufacture as it behaves differently to pure palladium.” The result was a celestial alloy with properties that set it apart from conventional metals in the jewellery market.
“In the current market where the cost of goods can be prohibitive, it was also important for us to create something that not only was unique and sentimental for the wearer but would be a more cost-effective option for the industry and consumer. For the consumer, the demand for white metals is still as strong as ever. However, the cost implications of re-rhodium plate, white gold, or [purchasing] pure platinum could be a barrier. Starium comes in under the price of gold per gram ($98 per gram) and never requires rhodium plating for its white lustre, so it’s a brilliant alternative metal,” he adds.
Challenges and Resilience
The journey from conceptualisation to market readiness was not without challenges. Starium stepped into the limelight in 2021, with an editorial in the Australian New Zealand Jewellers Magazine providing a tantalising glimpse of its potential. However, challenges persisted, including COVID-19, prompting the team to further refine the entire process before a full-scale industry launch.
Symes says, “In the production process over many versions, there were some challenges—of course, these pushed us in the direction to better provide a metal that measured up to what we were trying to deliver to the world.”
“We see the years of challenges as a positive because not only has it allowed us to really perfect the alloy and its recipe and workability, it’s also allowed us to enter the market at a time when we believe the industry is ready, and so is the wearer,” he adds.
The challenges faced during development, ranging from workability to market reception, have been viewed optimistically. The years spent ironing out these challenges shaped Starium into a metal ready for full-scale production.
Ensuring Long-Term Success
The patented nature of Starium adds an air of exclusivity to its innovative composition. While specific details remain guarded, Symes says, “Starium is patented, we [can’t] share specifics, suffice to say our long-term success is guaranteed.”
The alloy’s unique properties speak for itself. “We are very confident in the product and believe in its applications, longevity and workability, so we are sure it will have mass appeal. However, at this stage, [we really want] to work with local Australian and New Zealand jewellers first so that, as a country, we can be first to work with and design in Starium.”
One of Starium’s most significant contributions to the jewellery industry lies in its sustainability. In an era where ethical consumer choices are paramount, Starium presents an incredible solution. The dominant metal in the alloy is meteorite, which is found, not mined, making it an incredibly environmentally conscious choice for the ethically-minded consumer.
The alloy’s use of meteorite aligns with the growing demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products. Starium creates a path for consumers who seek elegance and durability in their jewellery but also a metal choice that reflects their commitment to environmental responsibility.
Global Vision and Humanitarian Initiatives
Beyond its unique composition, Starium aspires to make a positive impact globally. Humanitarian initiatives include building cancer centres worldwide, building housing for Australia’s homeless, and donating $1 million a year to Destiny Rescue, an organisation that helps fight the sex trafficking of children, all are initiatives that Starium will aid in. This commitment to social responsibility positions Starium as more than just a jewellery material—it is a catalyst for positive change.
Local Jeweller Collaborations
Recognising the pivotal role of local partnerships, Starium gears up for its Gold Coast launch on November 14, 2023. This strategic move will introduce Starium to local jewellers, nurturing collaborations critical to the alloy’s success. Symes emphasises, “Our business partners and collaborators will be coming along on this journey with us, and we will be promoting all of them as a result of our processes.”
The collaboration with local jewellers goes beyond just market reception—it is about involving the community in the journey of Starium. “We have master craftsmen Gold Coast Jewellers queuing up to order the metal. But the benefits and applications for our metal don’t stop there. Starium has a wide range of applications, not just jewellery. [Starium] has application use in electric vehicle batteries, military applications, medical applications both for prosthesis and hardware, aerospace, and hydrology,” he adds.
Educational Evolution and Consumer Engagement Strategies
Starium’s consumer engagement strategy has evolved since 2019, placing a strong emphasis on social media and close collaboration with jewellers. Symes says, “Whether people agree or not, [social media] runs the word and heavily influences people’s decision-making.”
“The engagement process for Starium will start with our jewellers. Because of our background, in particular, Hugh, who is a master jeweller with 46 years of experience, we really want to have all jewellers working with Starium be completely comfortable and in love with the product. We will then work with them to communicate and educate the market, which, like with any new product, will take some time, but the beauty of Starium will certainly shine through and be an instant hit,” he adds.
Starium’s Unveiling Beckons a New Era
With challenges addressed and innovations perfected, Starium is on the brink of redefining the precious metal landscape, offering a sustainable, cost-effective, and significant alternative. The eagerly awaited Gold Coast launch and collaborations with local jewellers mark the dawn of a new era of innovation. Starium is proving to be more than just an alloy—it is a symbol of evolution, a catalyst for positive change, and a beacon of possibility in the ever-evolving world of jewellery materials.
Join the Starium launch virtually at 7am AEST on 14th November by using the Google Meet link.
Vist Starium’s website here.