One of the biggest markets for gold in the world is India, a country which accounted for a whopping 745.7 tons of gold consumption in 2010. India was always traditionally the world’s largest consumer of the yellow metal, with Indians buying approximately 25% of the world’s gold. A major chunk of purchases are in the form of jewellery, a buying pattern that becomes even more pronounced in the festive season during and after the second half of the year.
In 2012, however, China overtook India as the world’s single largest consumer of gold. That said, Indian consumers are still highly involved in planning their gold purchases. In fact, an estimated 75% of Indian women claim that they constantly look around for new gold jewellery designs. In a country with immense cultural and religious diversity and an adherence to certain traditions and customs, it is not surprising to see that over 50% of gold jewellery is bought during the wedding season. Anniversaries too witness their fair share of gold purchases due to their being viewed as ‘aspirational occasions’.
Hinduism is the dominant religion in India, and one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar is Dhanteras. Dhanteras, also known as Dhanatrayodashi, is celebrated just before the major Hindu festival of Diwali. On this day, the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, is worshipped mostly by the trading and business communities to bring about well-being and prosperity. Dhanteras is marked by the large scale purchases of gold.
Dhanteras is not the only auspicious day that calls for nationwide gold purchases in India. The occasion of Akshaya Tritiya in the summer month of May is another day on which Indians go out of their way to buy gold jewellery, coins, and bullion.
Indian gold jewellery is acclaimed the world over for its high caratage, intricate designs, and unparalleled craftsmanship.
China became a heavyweight in the global gold market when it overtook South Africa as the world’s largest producer of gold in 2007. This was a landmark, given that South Africa had consistently occupied the prime slot amongst the gold producing countries of the world since 1905.
China set another benchmark for itself in 2012, when it overtook India as the world’s largest consumer of gold. The country is now also the fastest growing gold jewellery market in the world, as much as it is home to some of the world’s most discerning gold buyers. Well over 80% of Chinese gold jewellery is comprised of 24 carat gold, which says a lot about the demand for pure gold in the country.
A majority of gold jewellery purchases in China are usually made for weddings. Brides are often given gold during their wedding ceremonies, and around 75% of women in urban China own at least one gold statement piece. Given the economic growth in rural China as well, the figures for national gold jewellery purchases are expected to rise in the coming years.
Two out of every three women in China consider gold jewellery to be more than a personal style statement. In fact, an overwhelming number of Chinese women believe gold jewellery is a reliable investment option as well and are acutely aware of the value of the pieces they own.
China’s boom in gold consumption means that retailers in the country are increasingly looking to smaller cities to foster an appetite for the precious metal. The increase in spending power and wealth in these areas may only reinforce China’s current position as the world’s largest consumer of gold despite the economic slowdown of late. The country’s gold jewellery market is now looking to penetrate third and fourth-tier cities in the country.
The United States of America is one of the world’s biggest gold markets. In fact, the U.S., along with India, recently overtook Italy as the world’s biggest exporter of gold jewellery. Italy, which was once the biggest producer and exporter of mass-produced gold jewellery worldwide owing to luxury brands like Damiani, Bulgari, and Roberto Coin, lost out mostly due to stiff competition from low cost producers and high tariff barriers.
The gold market in the USA is one where gifting is a dominant trend, with more than 50% of the value of retail gold jewellery being created by pieces that cost over $1,000. Like women in China and numerous other nations where gold jewellery is viewed as an investment rather than just a personal style statement, American women often hand down their pieces to the future generations.
The traditional holiday season in particular witnesses a spurt in gold gifting, although gifting gold jewellery for no occasion in particular is also a sustained trend in the USA. This is because spontaneous gifting, more so by men, is gaining popularity as a suitable way to express a tender message with a public statement.
Although the U.S. does not have a festive season or marriage season similar to the ones in India, gold jewellery features prominently in American weddings. Every three out of four brides in the USA have been proposed to with gold rings. However, the brides aren’t alone in this regard. Many bridegrooms also receive and wear gold wedding bands, a custom that originated in the country as far back as the early 20th century. Gold rings in the U.S. market are not just popular- they are a symbol of love and commitment.
Most of the gold jewellery in the USA is typically 18 carats. Gold of the purer variety is not as common since it is considered too ‘soft’ for use. Higher purity levels, however, are the norm in India, the Middle East, and China.