The number of articles hallmarked by the four UK Assay Offices in 2006 was 24.9 million, 13% less than the 2005 total of 28.8 million and nearly 28% lower than 2004 when 34 million articles were marked.
The gold market in particular is suffering badly. The total number of gold articles hallmarked in the UK has dropped from 27 million in 2001, to only 16 million in 2006.
The decline is due to a number of factors. The minimal look persists and fashion has moved towards larger single pieces, more appropriate to Costume than Fine Jewellery.
Consumer spend is being targeted by an increasing number of hi-tech, status symbol type products such as flat screen plasma TV’s. The volatile Gold price which has seesawed from £298.9/oz to £383.54/oz in 2006 has delayed buying decisions and brought pressure onto stock levels. Overall stock levels in the market have also been reduced by the growth of internet sellers and TV shopping channels where stock turnover is rapid and high stock holding is unnecessary.
It is difficult to predict 2007; while it is hoped that the rate of decline might slow there do not appear to be any grounds to predict a significant upturn in the near future.