Beads, silver and brands growth areas in 2010

Birmingham Assay Office identifies profitable trends

Beads, silver and branded jewellery will remain growth opportunities this year, according to Birmingham Assay Office CEO and assay master, Michael Alchin, but jewellers need to move further up the value chain to prosper.

In a broad reaching presentation at Spring Fair’s Jewellery Show, Alchin put figures to the sales slump faced by jewellers in 2008 and 2009, but pointed to a strong pre-Christmas period and optimism for 2010.

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“Brands are in,” he said, listing Links of London, Swarovski and Pandora as companies that have invested heavily in raising their brand image in the jewellery channel, and even opening their own boutiques.

The power of brands applies particularly to watches, he added.

Silver is everywhere, he continued, a trend that was reflected on the stands of several exhibitors at The Jewellery Show, although some were heard to grumble that jewellers cannot survive on silver, alone.

Alchin suggested that the combination of affordable silver as a metal, and creative artistry of emerging brands, was a trend that could deliver profit opportunities for jewellers this year.

Beads, Alchin said, have done jewellers “a big favour” over the past year. They replaced the charm bracelet as a fashion item, and delivered sustainable sales thanks to their collectability, he added.

Platinum sales have also held up during the recession, with global sales (including industrial and jewellery usage) increasing from 42.4 tonnes in 2008 to 76.2 tonnes in 2009.

Gold sales increased by 2 percent in 2008 from 2,401 tonnes to 2,459, although this marginal growth was achieved only because China’s consumption soared by 8 percent from 302 to 327 tonnes. Consumption in the UK and Ireland over the same period slumped by 27 percent, the second worst performance among the world’s top 20 nations.

Total gold sales for 2009 were not disclosed, but the Birmingham Assay Office did reveal figures that showed a steep decline in hallmarked gold articles. Worst affected was 9ct, which almost halved in volume from 8.5 million items hallmarked in 2008 to 5.3 million items hallmarked in 2009.

18ct gold hallmarking declined only slightly from 1.4 million items in 2008 to 1.2 million in 2009. 22ct gold hallmarking was almost unchanged at 390,000 items in 2009, but increased market share against less expensive golds from 3.7 percent to 5.5 percent.

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