As recession fears cast a cloud over consumer spending, Capital Region jewelers say this Valentine’s Day will have a silver lining — literally.
With the price of gold climbing to record highs, area jewelry retailers are increasingly pitching silver as the perfect gift for the holiday Thursday.
“Up until a year ago, we were just strictly gold. Now we sell both,” J.M. Jewelers owner Sheryll Graubart-Hoffman said of silver and gold jewelry.
Graubart-Hoffman in November acquired J.M. in Rotterdam from owner Kevin Mercoglan. But even before the ownership change, J.M. started selling silver, adjusting to gold’s march back up to prices not seen since the precious metal peaked in the early 1980s.
“It has slowed a little, but not that much. People are still buying it up,” Graubart-Hoffman said of gold jewelry sales.
With investors scrambling to find a safe place for their money amid the stock market’s gyrations and gold demand from the Middle East and China surging, the precious metal has regained its allure. Its price on the New York Mercantile Exchange has tripled over the past decade, climbing most rapidly in 2007.
Gold crossed the $900-per-ounce mark for the first time Jan. 11. By the close of trading Friday, its price was $924.80 per ounce, up 2.5 percent. The precious metal is expected to pass the $1,000-per-ounce threshold this year, according to GFMS Limited, a London precious metals consulting and research firm.
“Business has been very good, so that has been somewhat of a reflection of the price point of gold,” said Robyn Olivares, the owner of Silverado in Saratoga Springs.
Silverado primary sells silver jewelry, though it does offer items made of both silver and gold. Olivares said she has been encountering a growing number of customers who are buying Silverado items after selling their gold jewelry at a premium price.
At his Latham investment counseling office, Joseph Ventura said he has been hearing more from clients interested in investing in gold. But the owner of William Tell Financial Services said the window of opportunity for gold investments has passed. People might find a better alternative commodity investment in timber.
“The road to El Dorado is now closed. What I’m saying is it’s too late,” said Ventura.
Jon Sosnowski said sales for silver and designer silver have picked up greatly in recent months at his Mayfair Jewelers & Silversmiths stores in Scotia and Latham. With silver selling at around $17 per troy ounce, Sosnowski said consumers can get “a lot more impact for your money.”
But for this Valentine’s Day, U.S. consumers are expected to spend less on the traditional candy, flowers and jewelry and more on dining out or gift cards. Nationwide, the average consumer is expected to spend $123 on the holiday, compared with $120 a year earlier, according to a recent report by the National Retail Federation, a Washington trade organization.
The NRF report said that 16.6 percent of consumers will buy jewelry for Valentine’s Day, down from 17.9 percent a year earlier.
Recognizing pricier gold’s potential impact on sales, Frank Adams Jewelers last autumn began focusing more on selling jewelry without the precious metal or with only traces of it. The jeweler with shops in Guilderland and Saratoga Springs is now pushing pearl and colored bead jewelry sales.
“Valentine’s Day is more about feeling good and being happy than a huge ticket item,” said Frank Adams owner Kimberly Adams. But she noted, “We’re still selling a lot of gold.”
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