In March of 2003, the founder of AKM Jewelry photo engraved on a very shiny, high quality dog tag. At the time he did not know what the metal was made of, but it still looked brand new after months and months of wear.
After research and testing was conducted, AKM Jewelry made this high quality dog tag the standard for its silver coated metal, and introduced the photo engraving world to rhodium. This occurred in January 2004. Today the founder still has his original tag as proof of AKM Jewelry's product quality.
AKM Jewelry is now the leading distributor of rhodium plated metals in the United States. Why? Despite the many competing Metaza distributors around, AKM Jewelry has consciously decided to focus on selling only the highest quality pendants available. We understand that it costs more to do this, but at the end of the day, our customers thank us for the due diligence. Repeat business because of product performance is the key result.
Our competitors' responses have, to be honest, aided us in becoming number one. Most have decided to ignore the quality market altogether. Those competitors who do offer competing rhodium products have attempted to trick the market by making outlandish, unsubstantiated claims about product quality, while actually selling notably lower quality goods.
We have one competitor who claims that their pendants are better than AKM Jewelry. A second competitor claims they sell the same thing as AKM Jewelry. A third competitor has lifted the content, almost verbatim, from AKM Jewelry's website to sell their new cheaper rhodium product (which replaced their older, cheaper rhodium product).
What is the common denominator here? All of these Metaza distributors define themselves against AKM Jewelry. This is because they realize that in the quality market, AKM is the industry standard. What the competition does not understand is that the true way to compete with AKM Jewelry is to actually sell the same quality goods. Fortunately for us, they all willingly choose to continue to sell lower quality products.
There is no magic here - you really do get what you pay for. Please read below to see what started it all -- AKM's introduction of rhodium to the photo engraving world.
The pendant on the left is a 3 month old AKM pendant, normal wear. In the middle we have a 3 month old nickel pendant, normal wear. The poor owner of the 6 month old nickel pendant to the right made the mistake of clutching it in her hand too much. The picture has completely worn away.
The quality of the Metaza metals you purchase is critical to your long term customer satisfaction. A longer lasting pendant will command a higher asking price and will mean more repeat customers as time goes on.
There are two main types of silver colored Metaza metals on the market today -- nickel plated and rhodium coated. Nickel plated jewelry is commonly used in the more traditional engraving processes where the blade of the engraving machine cuts quite deep into the metal. Since it has been very popular in this usage, it was a natural choice as a metal for the Metaza equipment. Nickel Metaza pendants were originally targeted for sale to third world countries, where its low price made it very appealing.
However, nickel has its drawbacks. It tarnishes fairly easy and it is not a very hard metal, so it does not hold its shape very well. Tarnish can result from contact with body chemicals (such as sweat), water, and various other chemicals. The estimated life of a nickel plated Metaza pendant is three to six months, and in extreme cases the life can be as short as three weeks. Also, a significant number of people are allergic to nickel. These people develop rashes on any part of their skin that comes into contact with nickel. Nickel has been banned in certain parts of Europe due to this property.
Rhodium is a brighter and harder metal. It is part of a family of precious metals called the platinum group metals (PGM) which also includes ruthenium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum. The density of rhodium allows it to hold its shape over a much longer period of time. Rhodium will not hold up well against sea water, but is highly acid and chemical resistant, and will withstand contact from body chemicals and water.
Nearly every major Metaza distributor in the U.S. currently sells nickel plated pendants. AKM has set the quality standard, because it is our belief that U.S. consumers will pay more for a higher quality product. We are seeing this belief prove out more and more each day. Below is a summary of the benefits of Rhodium over Nickel:
Initial Brightness -- Rhodium is a naturally brighter metal which will result in a brighter engraved image. The benefit to you is higher quality right from the start. Time and time again retailers are telling us that consumers are coming to them rather than the competition because of the higher quality images.
Tarnish Resistant -- Sweat will kill nickel plated pendants, and nothing is more embarrassing than someone walking around with a tarnished dog tag and telling people they got it from you. This is another factor that warrants a higher selling price for Rhodium pendants and will build your reputation as a retailer of quality products.
Fewer Allergic Reactions -- You will have fewer issues with allergic reactions to rhodium. It is more rare for someone to be allergic to this metal.
Higher Density -- The Metaza is a very fine engraving instrument, and your image will fade on a nickel surface fairly quickly because the impression is not very deep and nickel is too soft to hold it. This is a very important issue to us, because often times a photo engraved pendant carries a high amount of sentimental value. Your customers deserve to have something that will hold up over time.
How can I tell the difference between nickel and rhodium?
Fortunately, it is fairly easy to see the difference between the two with the naked eye. Rhodium is a naturally brighter metal than nickel. We suggest that you engrave an AKM Jewelry pendant and our competitor's pendant with a sample picture. Then compare the two under a well lit area (broad daylight works well). The silver tone of the metals should match. If the pendant in question is not as bright as the AKM Jewelry pendant, you probably have a nickel plated pendant, or a low grade rhodium pendant.
Of course, you cannot fake the quality of rhodium over time. Nickel pendants, under normal wear and tear, will tarnish and fade over a relatively short period of time. Rhodium will last a lot longer.
Come on, isn't there any time when photo engraving can be done on nickel?
Yes. Photo engraving with your Metaza engraver is quite appropriate on items that are not going to be handled often. Some items that are displayed on a desk or mantle are OK for nickel applications. This is why a store display of nickel pendants can be used for a very long time and show no ill effects. However, if the item is going to be handled extensively, nickel is not an appropriate metal. Even mild sweat from a person's fingertips is enough to tarnish the metal.
I don't care about quality, I'm just gonna do these things and get paid.
A lot of photo engravers take this approach. That is why all the other distributors sell nickel pendants. We insist on selling only higher quality because we believe that your overall profitability will be higher if you sell higher quality products. This will happen through more repeat customers and higher retail prices.
My customers want the cheapest products, so I have to sell them the cheapest products.
There are many retailers who feel this way, but in actuality this is not true with this product, no matter what the financial background of the consumer. What people really want is the best VALUE. They want to pay the lowest price for the best quality they can afford. AKM's customers educate their consumers on jewelry quality, and soon enough, the nearby competitors are forced to either offer the same quality or suffer the consequences. This is why other Metaza distributors, who have always been content to sell you low grade nickel, now have to offer a rhodium response to our high quality products. Once people are educated, they demand better!
I still can't believe there is any difference in your products from anyone else. I think you're just trying to get more money out of me.
Well now, there is a simple way to find out, isn't there? We dare you to compare our products to any others on the market and see for yourself. We have had a lot of experience with nickel pendants in the past, and after seeing first hand the poor long term quality, we made the switch. At every turn we have worked to improve our products to live up to our mantra: The best in photo engraving.
Your competitor is now offering rhodium, and it is cheaper than yours. Why should I buy my rhodium pendants from you?
We first would like to point out that the rapid development of rhodium pendants by our competition is, obviously, an affirmation that there is a problem with the nickel plated pendants on the market. There can be no doubt of this, and those who choose to continue to sell nickel are wise to warn their customers that their pendants will likely not last very long.
To understand the difference between our products and our competitor's, we must remind you of a couple of market realities. First, rhodium is FAR more expensive than nickel. The metal is more scarce and commands a higher market price. Second, the typical U.S. Metaza distributor competes solely on price, meaning they are counting on their customers to look for the lowest price regardless of quality. Proof in point, the amazing success of low quality nickel pendants in this country. Keep these dynamics in mind as you read forward.
The AKM rhodium pendant has a thick layer of rhodium which is plated on top of palladium. This thick layer of rhodium is important in providing maximum tarnish resistance and is critical in holding the shape of the engraved piece for a long time. However, it is composed of a lot of rhodium, and it is expensive. The palladium layer underneath reinforces the rhodium plate, which works to extend the life. Beneath the palladium layer is a nickel layer and then the brass core.
After we educated the photo engraving industry of the ramifications of using nickel and gave photo engravers a high quality alternative, our competitor had no choice but to respond, because industry users began asking for rhodium. But remember the market dynamics: rhodium is expensive, and Metaza distributors compete on price. There was no way to compete with our products on quality without their price being higher (because we actually set our rhodium prices very low to compete in the first place), so the competitor responded by cutting down the amount of rhodium used in their pendants to reduce the manufacturing cost. The result: a pendant with a thin layer rhodium plated on top of nickel, with no palladium reinforcement. Brass, of course, is at the core.
This would have been ingenious, but there is one issue: the rhodium layer is so thin that it can wear away. Once this happens the nickel is exposed, and the pendant can then tarnish and fade just as any other nickel pendant. If you choose to use a low cost rhodium pendant, you are paying more money for your product while still exposing yourself to the same problem that you were trying to avoid by switching to rhodium in the first place!! Talk about being penny-wise and dollar-foolish.
This merely touches on the difference in rhodium quality. AKM Jewelry's rhodium pendants also have a far flatter finish than the lower cost rhodium. So all around, our product is superior.
In conclusion, there is no substitute for quality, and sometimes you get what you pay for. If you truly are serious about selling quality photo engraving, choose the best in photo engraving, AKM Jewelry.