Feb 11 2002
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The international demand for platinum has increased in the last 20 years. Applications that use platinum have become prevalent in today’s modern, high-tech lives. Some of the examples are fuel-cell technology, automotive applications, electronic components, medical and dental applications, petroleum and chemical refining catalysts, etc.
Tangible assets like platinum can be extremely effective in the investor’s search for an expanded portfolio. This can be attributed to platinum’s hedge properties and its robust dynamic for growth.
An excellent demonstration of the increased demand for platinum can be found in the jewelry industry. In just one decade, platinum jewelry has enjoyed a growth in demand of 82% and is regarded as the “Metal of the Millennium.”
According to Johnson Matthey, the global demand for platinum jewelry has increased by 82% in the last decade. In fact, the demand for platinum jewelry increased from 1,300,000 oz. in 1989 to as high as 2,370,000 oz. in 1998. The jewelry sector is the only area that has experienced tremendous growth.
Investors tracking the platinum market usually pay utmost attention to what they comprehend—industrial and conventional applications of platinum. These include the production of steel, high-tech goods, fertilizers, and gasoline. However, jewelry is the fastest and most dynamic area of platinum consumption.
Platinum Jewelry Demand
Despite economic turmoil and periodic recessions, there has been an increasing demand for platinum jewelry across the world. In the United States alone, it has been estimated that the demand for platinum jewelry among consumers has increased by 600% since 1990. Platinum jewelry is currently sold in over 15,000 retail outlets in the United States, while it was difficult to find the jewelry just a decade ago, as reported by Platinum Guild International.
According to precious metals refiner Johnson Matthey, the demand for platinum jewelry increased by 210,000 oz. and reached 2.37 million oz. in 1998. In Asia and the United States, the yearly growth rates for platinum jewelry demand have been in the double digits.
Japan, which is traditionally the largest consumer of platinum jewelry in the world, is also showing signs of economic recovery that could drive the figures to new record levels. Platinum is the metal of the “New Millennium,” and demand for platinum jewelry is anticipated to continue to expand in major markets at double-digit rates. The strategic jewelry capitals include London, Tokyo, Milan, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, and Shanghai.
Why the White Wave?
Platinum is sleek, contemporary, and pure. Globally, new fans are constantly attracted to this metal. A new international jewelry catalog focusing completely on platinum sought follow-up inquiries from retailers based in 75 countries.
Platinum has evolved from “a metal used in the past” to “the metal of the new Millennium.” Fashion-conscious, young consumers are pushing the market to a whole new level. Thanks to the growing popularity of “white jewelry,” the international trade for platinum jewelry has witnessed excellent growth. This has benefited from increased exports from Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, India, Hong Kong, and China.
The United Kingdom is a smaller market that is witnessing increased demand with a focus on the Eastern markets on earrings, bracelets, pendants, rings, and necklaces, and the Western markets on wedding jewelry.
The extensive demand will help sustain the longevity of this growth trend. Every leading market discussed in this article has its own reasons and unique qualities for future growth expectations. Armed with a better knowledge of these markets, investors should only grow stronger when they figure out why the rudiments for the platinum jewelry sector as a whole are powerful.
The largest consumer market in the world has re-embraced the beauty and purity of platinum jewelry. The huge bridal market continues to flourish, with the United States showing a strong inclination toward the platinum coin jewelry.
The growing retail sales of platinum jewelry in North America resulted in increased domestic fabrication, with the demand growing by almost 40% in the previous year. Jewelry makers in the United States continue to focus primarily on the bridal sector. Platinum’s share of the local market for wedding bands and engagement rings ranges between 21% and 25%, which is up from virtually nothing in 1991.
Consumers’ demand for platinum accessories is growing, and this has been met by higher imports from countries like China, India, Germany, and Italy. Known for its quality as “upmarket,” platinum is meeting the widespread market.
Zales is the largest retail jewelry chain in the world, with more than 1100 outlets spread throughout North America. The company is currently carrying platinum, introducing millions of people to platinum for the first time.
Platinum is also witnessing increased exposure on cable TV, through paid advertisement venues and home shopping. Figures released by Jewelers of America demonstrated that sales of platinum jewelry had increased by almost five times as fast as gold jewelry, and almost twice as much as diamond jewelry sales in 1998. During the same year, total jewelry sales in the United States increased by as much as 9.3%. The penchant for white metal jewelry should trigger more growth in the fabrication of platinum jewelry in the United States.
Platinum continues to hold a growing share of the market for fashion accessories and bridal rings, that are more costly. Coin jewelry is a comparatively new, yet strong growth category. For years, coin jewelry has been popular in Japan and incorporates 0.9995 pure platinum legal-tender coins/ingots in a wide range of bezels and frames.
While this area is a comparatively small part of the overall demand for jewelry, the amount of platinum utilized per piece is important, usually a tenth to quarter ounce for the coin alone.
The recent phenomenal increase in consumer demand for this product category has aided manufacturers to place platinum coin jewelry in many retail stores and on cable television. This segment has witnessed significant activity with the introduction of the Platinum American Eagle coin in 1997. The coin was specifically created to attract consumers in this market. The U.S. Mint’s product catalog includes a wide range of platinum coin jewelry. The catalog is distributed to 1.4 million consumers on a regular basis.
Japan is the leading platinum jewelry market in the world and has remained strong even under the most difficult economic conditions. From girls’ dream wedding set to high-end Tiffany pieces, platinum dominates Japan’s jewelry market.
The demand for platinum in Japan has been compromised by more consolidation of the jewelry sector. As the economic recession continues, an increasing credit crunch has forced a number of distributors and manufacturers to cut down inventories and has also pushed others into bankruptcy.
Some of the excess stocks have been auctioned at reduced prices. In addition, there has been increased recycling, specifically when prices of yen-denominated precious metal are high.
However, the picture in Japan has some bright spots. Despite the fact that consumer demand for rings decreased in 1998, retail sales of platinum accessories like bracelets, earrings, and necklaces increased by 15%. Platinum jewelry is gaining more market share in terms of unit sales, according to figures provided by PGI’s office in Japan.
As the overall popularity of platinum increases, jewelry pieces that constitute fashion accessories have now become extremely popular among the consumers. Several top manufacturers have reacted to this development by extending their portfolio of platinum fashion jewelry.
Platinum coin jewelry is always favored in Japan because of the popularity of the Australian, Canadian, Chinese, and Isle of Man platinum coins. This jewelry has also witnessed a growing interest with the introduction of the Platinum American Eagle.
There has been an extraordinary growth in demand for platinum in China, with the rising middle class. Low-cost and lightweight pieces make the unique metal affordable for young, sophisticated Chinese women with growing incomes. After Japan, China is currently the second-largest market for platinum jewelry, with 21% of global consumption. According to Johnson Matthey estimates, the quantity of platinum jewelry in 1998 was about 620,000 ounces—which has increased over 70% from 1997.
Most of this growth is due to promotional and advertising campaigns that have boosted the popularity of platinum among young consumers. Retail sales mainly include simple and lightweight neck chains and rings. The sophisticated and more diverse styles have started to expand platinum’s appeal to include women in their 30s and 40s.
In China, white-collar, working women aged 20 to 40 years with a college education are the target for marketing platinum jewelry. The prices of the platinum jewelry range from $75 and above. Most of that comes in metal-only pieces, which make the jewelry affordable for this growing market.
Due to sudden growth in Chinese consumer demand, existing retailers are able to hold larger stocks of platinum items. For the first time, jewelry stores in key cities across central and northeast China are starting to sell platinum. In order to fulfill this demand, existing producers have considerably increased the output.
Another significant factor in relation to the demand for platinum jewelry in China is that it is a rather smaller market when compared to the gold jewelry sector. China’s platinum market is less subject to controls, unlike gold. In spite of the economic sluggishness in China, PGI Shanghai predicted the market growth for platinum jewelry in 1999 to be approximately 30%.
Italian platinum jewelry, regarded as the most beautiful jewelry in the world, is exported worldwide. Italian design concepts, help put the “dolce in platinum’s vita”—from basic chains and bracelets to stylish designs, serving wider markets. Japan and the United States are major destinations for jewelry created in Italy.
The platinum jewelry market in Italy has been largely supported by international market developments. Two-thirds of the jewelry production in Italy is meant for export, with 50% shipped to the United States alone.
The U.S. markets and developing markets, specifically China, have encouraged a number of producers to venture into the platinum market. In Italy, “white” jewelry has started to replace gold jewelry, specifically among young consumers. A majority of young consumers will only wear “white” and view platinum as “the metal of the new Millennium,” as stated by PGI-Italy.
Several new products are available on the market. While rings are the most commonly purchased platinum jewelry, pendants constitute the latest type that has become instantly popular. These are now second in sales.
From classical to “avant-garde,” German platinum jewelry is valued worldwide for its smart style and design. Germany is a competitor to Italy in setting innovation and trends for the rest of the world. The economic recession in Germany has impacted the domestic sales of precious metal jewelry. But the market share of platinum continued to increase with a few major retailers introducing and promoting the latest ranges of accessories.
Frankfurt-based PGI’s office confirmed that trends also show that the popularity of platinum has been the hottest development in the past several years—that is, only pieces that do not contain any gold. This again shows that the demand for platinum is growing.
Moreover, the German platinum jewelry market is focused on exports. In the previous year, platinum consumption in the German consumer market was more than 1.7 tons, whereas fabrication was at 3.28 tons. Growth in the Chinese and U.S. markets supported Europe’s demand for platinum jewelry, with German (and Italian) manufacturers expanding exports to those countries. The average cost for each piece of platinum jewelry is DM 1800 (roughly $1000), that is, approximately three times higher than the average cost for gold jewelry.
The future is indeed clear—the increased demand for platinum jewelry should continue, both in Western markets and in emerging markets, which is even more crucial. The market for platinum jewelry has grown from regional manufacturing centers catering to local tastes, to a truly global marketplace of jewelry consumers.
According to National Jeweler magazine, the growth of platinum as a category has tremendously exceeded all other jewelry categories in the recent past. This, along with the evolving market growth, implies that demand for platinum will increase and that the popularity of jewelry will continue throughout the Millennium. Investors can gain from this growth by gathering positions in this commodity with bullion coins, for example, Platinum Eagle.
The ongoing expansion of platinum demand from international industry and jewelry has improved the investment potential for platinum bullion coins. The extraordinary resilience of European and U.S. economic health, combined with the latest recovery of Asia, should benefit platinum investors for the next several years.