5% Increase in Q3 Gold Jewelry Demand

Gold jewelry demand for the third quarter of 2013 increased 5 percent year-over-year to 486.7 tons, the World Gold Council said Thursday, marking the best third quarter performance for the precious metal since 2010. 

In terms of value, gold being used for jewelry for the period fell by 15 percent year-over-year, due to a drop in the trading price of the precious metal, according to the WGC’s Gold Demand Trends report for the third quarter of 2013. Demand for the period was worth $20.8 billion, the lowest quarterly value since the third quarter of 2010.

Global growth for the period was led by high-karat gold jewelry purchases in Asia, the Middle East and the US, 

“An almost universal phenomenon in the third quarter was the increasing popularity of higher carat jewelry,” the WGC said in its report. “Across Asia, the Middle East and in the US, higher carat jewelry was noted as an area of particular growth as the increased investment properties associated with gold of higher purity came to the fore. The fact that jewelry retailers in a number of markets were increasingly stocking investment products (small bars and coins) provided further evidence of the greater blurring of the jewelry/investment distinction.”

Consumers in China generated 163.7 tons of jewelry demand in the third quarter, making it by far the largest single jewelry market. The country’s year-to-date, demand of 518 tons already equals the same amount for the full-year 2012.

“To some extent, exhaustion set in towards the end of Q3 after such a frenetic second quarter, but continued expansion of the retail network confirms that the trade sees prospects for growth,” the WGC said.

Increases were reported in 24k jewelry (known as “chuk kam”), which has a purity rating of 95.95 percent and in “four nines” gold (gold jewelry of 99.99% purity, compared with the typical 24-carat purity of 99.95%). The WGC explained that the former is unique to China and is most popular with consumers in lower tier markets and rural areas as an investment hedge.

Mainland Chinese consumers also attributed to a 28 percent increase in gold jewelry consumption in Hong Kong to 7.5 tons.

In the US, the WGC noted that “demand was a key development.” Gold jewelry demand for the third quarter rose 14 percent year-over-year to 43.4 million tons.

With the exception of fourth quarter demand (driven by holiday sales), the third quarter was the first quarter in four years in which gross jewelry demand exceeded recycling—creating net positive jewelry demand,” the WGC said. “Since Q3 2009, gross new quarterly jewelry demand had been exceeded by the recycling of old gold jewelry as distress selling took off during the economic downturn,” WGC said. “Increasingly positive sentiment among US consumers during the third quarter reversed this trend.”

The report also notes a shift towards 18k jewelry from 14k.

“Given recent developments in the US, consumer sentiment has taken a hit early in the fourth quarter, but the seasonal impact, together with prices holding below US$1,400/oz, suggests a certain amount of resilience,” the WGC said.

India, one of the world’s largest markets for gold jewelry, saw demand drop by 23 percent year-over-year to 104.7 tons due to import restrictions imposed by the government. “Demand for gold jewelry among Indian consumers remains strong, but reduced supply has prevented this demand from being fully realized,” the WGC said.

"The smaller Asian markets had robust growth for the period, with the exception of South Korea where weak consumer sentiment and a sluggish domestic economy dampened demand," the WGC said. "Across the rest of the region, there was a trend for higher karat jewelry pieces of relatively simple design as consumers across the region took advantage of gold’s increased affordability."

Gold jewelry demand in the Middle East increased 9 percent to 51.2 million tons, due to lower prices across the region, the WGC said. The “unsurprising” exception was Egypt.

“The emphasis on 22-karat gold at the expense of 21- and 18-carat diamond-set jewelry suggests demand was stronger among domestic consumers relative to western tourists.”

The third quarter in Turkey, which is traditionally strong, saw year-over-year demand increase 14 percent. In value terms, demand was virtually flat, due to a 12 percent decline in the local currency price of the precious metal.

Russia’s growing middle class, armed with greater disposable income, helped generate a 7 percent year-over-year growth in jewelry demand.

“European markets were again the exceptions to the more positive global picture, with both UK (-14%) and Italy (-7%) posting year-over-year declines due to “economic concerns,” WGC said.

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