Features: Retailing

Nov
2003

Make it a Lite...A Titanium Lite

COACH Julianne from Marchon Eyewear
All photos by NEDJELJKO MATURA

Titanium can move mountains… of eyewear… at retail. This magic metal has truly established its stature in this fresh millennium where qualities of lightness, endurance and purity outweigh heft and bulk.

But optical retailers once again must face the reality of a well-informed and feature-focused consumer. Don’t just go sprinkling a sales pitch with the word titanium. Do your homework. Understand the history of this metal. Put yourself in its constantly growing stream of popular consciousness.

Acknowledge its optical history and be fully aware of its most recent potential to combine with other materials, attain new color palates and penetrate a variety of eyewear market segments from upper value through to luxury. The demographic appeal is also broad from kids to seniors and everyone in between.


Titanium can be a blessing but don’t disguise it with the fluff of superficial knowledge easily eroded by patients well-aware and willing to go elsewhere if you can’t deliver the retail message behind “The Lite Stuff.”  

Titanium’s Tale
The world is full of titanium. It’s the fourth most abundant material in the earth’s crust. First discovered in 1791 by William Gregor of England, titanium was re-discovered and named in 1795 by M.H. Klaproth. The name is derived from the Greek word “titan” used to describe a family of giants. Titanium’s atomic symbol is Ti. Its atomic number is 22; its atomic weight, 47.90lbs. It has a melting point of 1,660 degrees centigrade and a boiling point of 3,287, both contributing to its strength and durability. It is the only element that burns in nitrogen. In its most organic form the metallic element of titanium looks silvery gray. Titanium’s most striking properties are its resistance to corrosion and erosion, light weight, strength, durability and hypoallergenic nature.

Defining Titanium
Pure Titanium: Frames composed of 90-to-100 percent titanium make-up by weight.

Titanium-100: Optical industry association VCA’s certification mark that a frame is 90-to-100 percent titanium by weight, excluding hinge screws, nosepads, temple tips and washers, and is nickel free.

Beta Titanium: An alloy, beta titanium is usually composed of 75 percent titanium combined with 22 percent vanadium (for hardness) and 3 percent aluminum (for lightness). Those percentages and secondary metals can vary—other alternatives being nickel, copper and beryllium. Beta titanium itself is nickel free. As a hybrid, it allows for thinner construction, more flexibility, less initial cost and more ease in manufacturing than pure titanium.

Nickel Titanium or Shape Memory Alloy (SMA): Frames made of a combination of 50 percent titanium and 40 to 50 percent nickel, have an elasticity or shape memory quality.

Metallic Matters
•Titanium’s main competitor in the optical market is stainless steel. Titanium is more costly than stainless steel, but with a specific gravity of 4.5 compared to 7.9 for stainless steel, titanium is as strong as steel, but almost half as light.

•Although 60 percent heavier than aluminum, titanium is twice as strong, less brittle and extremely non-corrosive compared with aluminum (and most other metallic elements).

•Because of its unique molecular structure, titanium is the leader in metallics that are hypoallergenic.

• Titanium is now a top contender in the well-stocked metal eyewear arena. Other players include aluminum, monel, nickel silver, cobalt, phosphor bronze, stainless steel and trilam.

• One of titanium’s best competitors in eyewear is also its main competitor in the auto and aircraft industry—carbon fiber. By adding carbon to nylon this modern material delivers a light-weight that rivals the endurance of any metal. It also has terrific shape retention and is virtually unaffected by heat. Its color variations are limited and its appearance makes it more appropriate for sports than fashion. 

Titanium Citings
Titanium materials are used extensively in a wide variety of products and industries, including the following:

•Areospace: Spacecraft, guided missiles, light-weight armor plating.

•Medical: Surgical equipment and body replacement parts such as titanium knees.

•Jewelry: Watches and, increasingly, fine jewelry especially for men.

•Sports: Titanium golf clubs.

•Architecture: The Guggenheim Museum in Spain is wrapped in titanium. It has become the standard of momentous buildings in the Most-Modern school of design.

•Titanium: The name (although not the material) is now a top level used as a pinnacle for premium credit cards.

—Noel Hohnstine, Gloria Nicola and James J. Spina

 

 

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