WHITE METAL SALES STILL GROWING; SILVER AND PLATINUM SCORING BIG

NEW YORK — The glow of white metals continues to shine. Sales of both sterling silver and platinum rose again this year according to the marketing and promotional arms for the respective metals, both of whom have just completed studies of their performance in the last year.
Sterling silver jewelry sales gained once again, according to Silver Trust International, the marketing arm of the silver industry.
Using data compiled from such sources as the 1996 World Silver Survey, trade resources and an independent study by NPD Research, STI figures that U.S. retail sales of silver jewelry reached $2.1 billion, a 14 percent gain over 1995. Unit sales rose 7 percent compared with 1995, reaching 52.5 million pieces.
With 90 percent of the purchases at below $70, it’s indicated sterling silver appeals to a wide variety of consumers and age groups from teenagers through seniors, STI said.
The STI studies showed that earrings are still the most popular product category, accounting for 29 percent of all purchases, followed by necklaces at 25 percent, rings at 20 percent and bracelets at 18 percent, with miscellaneous items accounting for the balance.
Platinum, meanwhile, is enjoying a renaissance not seen since before World War II, according to Platinum Guild International, USA.
The Guild, quoting John Cullen, sales and marketing manager of H. Johnson Matthey, a leading supplier of semifabricated platinum alloys to the U.S. jewelry industry, put platinum sales in North America in 1996 at 90,000 ounces. If demand continues at the current pace, he said sales this year could exceed 140,000 ounces, a 50 percent increase over 1996 and more than a 400 percent increase compared with 1990.
According to the Guild’s ongoing research, which surveys consumers as well as fine jewelry retailers and manufacturers, the demand for platinum jewelry is no longer just a bicoastal phenomenon, but is now beginning to be felt nationwide.
In 1996, consumer awareness of platinum jewelry advertising rose 53 percent. Consumers also said they saw 28 percent more platinum jewelry in stores, reflecting the trend by more retailers to stock platinum jewelry rather than just offering it to their customers on a special order basis.
While nine out of 10 stores surveyed said they had increased their overall jewelry inventories in 1996, the Guild said, 94 percent of respondents increased their platinum jewelry inventory by 44 percent, indicating that retailers expect platinum to outpace overall jewelry sales.
Bridal rings of all types, for both men and women, continue to be the driving force behind increased platinum sales. After the bridal category, jewelry in combinations of platinum and gold were the most popular pieces.

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