The European jewellery industry is facing increasing competition from non-EU countries coupled with a dramatic change in customer behaviour causing significant decrease in global market share. New and innovative jewellery design utilising new gold alloy colours will be an unquestionable method of securing significant claw back of market share and success. The strategic project objectives are the enhancement of the industry's strengths and an improvement in competitiveness for this predominantly traditional and low-tech industry by developing innovative potential for new coloured gold designs utilising the latest manufacturing technology. Currently jewellery products are restricted to normal yellow and white gold alloys or slight variations of these. Working with strong blue or purple gold alloys is extremely problematical and restricted due to their inherent brittleness. Currently research into new colours is non-existent and thin non- precious coloured coatings are unacceptable to consumers as they wear off easily.
The main technological aim of this project is to overcome these obstacles by:
1) Developing specific surface engineering processes and materials through two main approaches: surface alloying by laser surface treatment and diffusion annealing treatment resulting in strong colours like purple and blue in a thick surface layer;
2) Metallurgical research into completely new colours i.e. strong red and green as well as specific property improvements i.e. corrosion and wear resistance;
3) Research all necessary application equipment, material and development needs of the industry from concept and design to finished product in order to enable speedy introduction to the market of new coloured golds and surface treated golds.
It is anticipated that the experienced RTD partners lead the project to viable processes which are shared by existing dissemination and training activities ensuring a highly practical outcome for the sector.
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