Buoyant North American demand is a rare bright spot for the global platinum jewelry market after a sharp drop in prices boosted jewelers’ margins, driving up consumption of the white metal by more than a third over the last six years.
North American appetite has flourished despite lackluster global platinum jewelry sales, with world consumption down for a second year in 2015 as slowing growth and a shift in consumer tastes helped crimp buying in lead market China.
Platinum’s appeal for North American jewelers has been boosted by a sharp drop in prices XPT, which hit seven-year lows just above $800 an ounce in January, down 65 percent from 2008’s all-time high.
That has driven up margins for the finished product.
“Margin is absolutely pivotal, and that has been exceptionally attractive,” Metals Focus analyst Philip Newman said.
“When you have better margins, it becomes a virtuous circle. When margins are better, jewelers are better disposed to take platinum, advertise it, and through advertising, boost sales.”
Platinum Guild International says that a piece made in platinum is more than twice as profitable for the jeweler as a similar piece made in white gold.
While the metal is now trading at a historically unusual discount to gold of more than $200 an ounce, the price of the final product still tends to be higher.
“If you take a piece in platinum and a piece in white gold, the platinum will still be more expensive. Platinum is heavier, it’s more dense and it’s more pure,” PGI USA’s president Jenny Luker said.
Bridal remains by far the biggest sector for platinum jewelry demand, but its appeal is starting to spread.
“It has a lot of great attributes,” Luker said. “People are more comfortable setting stones in it because it’s going to hold them more securely. It’s hypoallergenic. Customers come to it sometimes because they’re looking for an heirloom piece.”
“It’s the quality,” she said.