I am very sorry to hear about your expensive non-repair. That just sucks, doesn't it? Did the repair facility recommend the strut to cure the noise? I doubt that your '97 had enough miles to warrant new struts. If they "steered" you in that direction, what is there excuse for not fixing the problem? I would be back in their faces in a heartbeat for a false diagnosis. What did they tell you, specifically?
The noise you described did sound like struts though. Wheel bearings usually make an irritating whirring noise or rumbling noise when running. If the bearings were really shot I'm certain you would hear noise on smooth roads as well. You said you had the tie rods greased, but how did you test them?
This "loose metal part" noise. Heavy metal or tinny sounding? Can you duplicate the noise with the tires off the ground? Can you hear any diff when turning right or left. Have you checked the rack end play? What do your motor mounts look like?
2001 SSEi- black; stock 92K
1995 Vette; Competition Yellow; stock; 38K