NEW YORK — Sales of gold jewelry in the U.S. rose 4.4 percent in 2005 — a six-year high — reaching $17.7 billion, according to figures compiled by GfK Audits & Surveys and released by the World Gold Council on Thursday. It is the 15th consecutive year of gold jewelry sales increases.

John Calnon, the World Gold Council’s managing director in the U.S., attributed the increase to the trend in fashion for yellow gold, as well as the introduction of a broader range of jewelry design in the U.S.

“It has rekindled the consumer’s love affair with the yellow metal,” said Calnon in a statement.

He also cited rising gold prices. The metal has increased in price 30 percent this year, reaching a 26-year high of $732 an ounce on May 12.

Out of all gold jewelry items, necklaces remain the most important classification, accounting for $6.74 billion in sales, a 4.1 percent gain from last year. Earrings were next in line, with $3.39 billion in sales, a 5.5 percent rise. Bracelets saw the biggest percentage hike, 6.5 percent, for a total of $2.6 billion in sales. Other classifications include fashion rings, which gained 5 percent, for a total of $1.74 billion in sales; wedding rings, which accounted for $1.31 billion in sales last year, and charms, which posted $1.17 billion in sales.

While traditional jewelry stores reported sales gains of 3.9 percent, to $8.63 billion, nonstore retail led the way in gold jewelry sales growth. Stronger consumer confidence in purchasing on TV or via the Internet led to gains of 7.1 percent in that segment, to $1.67 billion. Mass merchants raised their gold jewelry sales by 5.1 percent, for a total of $4.07 billion, while department stores showed the least growth, with a 3.7 percent gain to sales of $3.36 billion.

This story first appeared in the May 26, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.