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Consumers Taking a Shine to Jewelry as Economy Strengthens

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December 30, 2014
Consumers Taking a Shine to Jewelry as Economy Strengthens

Once again, we’re falling in love with shiny objects.

Thanks to a combination of an improving economy and tumbling gold prices, American consumers have stepped up jewelry purchases, industry observers say. Gold prices dropped nearly 30% over the past two years, based on futures markets. That’s finally filtered down to street level, and people seem to be taking advantage, snapping up necklaces, rings and other forms of bling for both themselves, and others.

U.S. gold-jewelry sales rose 12% over the past 12 months, to about $5.19 billion, according to the World Gold Council, a trade group.

Jewelry sales typically increase during the holidays, especially among higher-income consumers. The Gold Council, citing recent research from the Shullman Research Center, said around a third of high-earners intended to buy jewelry this season. Yes, we know Christmas and Hanukkah are over, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your eyes open for deals on popular items in the months ahead. After all, it’s only two months until Valentine’s Day (we’re talking to you, fellas). 

Amanda Gizzi, spokeswoman for Jewelers of America, said jewelry sales are expected to continue increasing next year.

“Luxury jewelry purchases are all about quality,” Gizzi said. “Yellow gold and platinum are two of the metals of choice. Gemstones have been especially hot with a particular focus on unique or rare gemstones.”

FIGURE 1: NOT SO GOLDEN.

In early November, gold futures, a reflection of wholesale markets, fell to about $1,130 an ounce (yellow arrow), the lowest price in over four years. Source: TD Ameritrade's Trade Architect®. For illustrative purposes only. 

There’s been a pickup in gold, non-wedding related items and sales of higher carat weight, the Gold Council said in its report. That means gold jewelry is showing up in some mass-market retailers, which may further boost demand.

Designers are also taking advantage of social media, Twitter and Pinterest in particular, to show off products. Lovegold.com  and a corresponding Twitter handle, @LoveGoldLive  run by the World Gold Council, have become popular by featuring many independent jewelry designers.

For women, recent trends include stacking several thinner bangles and bracelets, as well as stacking rings, Gizzi said. Larger cuffs and bracelets also appear to be increasingly popular, but the new designs have “more openwork that give a lighter feeling to them,” she said.

FIGURE 2: HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?

This 14-carat gold diamond ring hand chain, with two bezel-set, 2-millimeter, white princess cut diamonds, costs about $805 at retail. Source: Zoe Chico. For illustrative purposes only.

Among earrings, popular items include oversize studs, hoops and climbers (which feature designs that follow the shape of the ear), she said. 

“Necklaces with pendants are still the hottest style, but look for the ‘Y-shape’ necklace to make a triumphant return in 2015,” Gizzi said.

For the guys, shirt studs and tie bars “are becoming of interest with more men turning their focus to a more formal style of dressing,” she said, noting that masculine bracelets are very popular.

Interestingly, watches also continue to post respectable sales, even though everyone carries a cell phone these days.

“Nothing—not even a smart phone—can replace a high-quality wrist watch,” Gizzi said. “They are timeless, functional and fashionable. Imagine passing down your cell phone to your child. Now imagine passing down a timepiece… that is just one of the reasons watches continue to sell well.”

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