Recessions have always been hard on the jewelry industry. But somehow it has always survived periods of belt-tightening by offering lighter weights, lower karatages—whatever it takes. So no matter how hard the times, the jewelry retailer’s fundamental allegiance to gold has never softened.
This recession is different. It has not only brought economic slowdown. It comes accompanied by scorching oil costs, soaring precious metals prices, and an extreme scarcity of credit—three terrible toxins to jewelry store spending.
Who can blame consumers for jewelry price tag sticker shock? Basic diamond and gold jewelry that could be purchased for $199 to $499 eighteen months ago when gold was around $300 per ounce is now three times more expensive—thanks to galloping gold prices near $1,000 per carat.
To get out of the price point squeeze, some manufacturers have turned to “alternative metals” such as tungsten, steel, and titanium. Others wishing to stay wedded to precious metals are advocating silver—sometimes laced with tarnish-fighting platinum or palladium—as the predominant precious metal in staple jewelry under $500. But now there’s a third option—branded proprietary metals that include precious metals in the mix.
“Middle market price points for gold jewelry have evaporated,” says Victor Weinman of Taché Diamonds in New York. “Jewelers need contemporary alloys composed of precious metals that let them offer the look of yellow and white gold to which the public is accustomed at affordable price levels.”
The “contemporary alloys” that Weinman sees as the solution are secret-recipe precious and base metal blends consisting of gold, platinum, palladium—but predominantly sterling silver. We have named these alloys “private label metals” because each is patented and trademarked by its developer.
In the case of “Platina 4,” ABI Precious Metals, the refiner who developed and patented the formula, sold exclusive rights to its use to a major jewelry manufacturer, Star Ring, Chatsworth, California. This company, in turn, created jewelry lines using the blends. In the case of “Precious 3,” the owner of the formula, Taché Diamonds, is making and distributing the jewelry using it.
“Alluragold” bracelet, one-third the cost of 14k gold, from ABI Precious Metals, (888) 870-2242.
* Daisy pendant made with 3.50 grams of Precious 3 set with 0.10 carats t.w. of I-J, I2-I3 diamonds.
Suggested retail: $179.
* Daisy pendant made with 4.86 grams of 14k gold set with 0.10 carats t.w. of I-J, I2-I3 diamonds.
Suggested retail: $499.
* Diamond earrings made with 5 grams of Precious 3 set with 0.20 carats t.w. of I-J, I2-I3 diamonds.
Suggested retail: $199.
* Diamond earrings made with 6.95 grams of 14k gold set with 0.20 carats t.w. of I-J, I2-I3 diamonds.
Suggested retail: $599.
* Diamond bangle made with 74.42 grams of Precious 3 set with 4 carats t.w. of I-J, I2-I3 diamonds.
Suggested retail: $2,999.
* Diamond bangle made with 103.44 grams of 14k gold set with 4 carats t.w. of I-J, I2-I3 diamonds.
Suggested retail: $9,999.