Jewelry Fashion Reports
Platinum remains the higher-end choice to gold
By Michelle Graff
New York--While per-ounce prices of platinum and gold have been running neck and neck through the year's first quarter, factors that keep platinum pieces more expensive than gold--such as the white metal's generally higher fineness and manufacturing costs as well as overall greater weight when used in similar styles--continue to focus platinum's appeal on shoppers with higher budgets.
As the price differential has narrowed, however, selling platinum to higher-end customers has become somewhat easier, retailers report.
Recently in his New York City store, Jim DeNatale was able to sell two young couples on platinum bands over white gold given the more narrow difference in price between the two metals. The retailer, who owns DeNatale Jewelers in lower Manhattan with his two brothers, said this might not have happened a year ago when the difference in cost between platinum and gold was more marked.
“Both of them (the couples) agreed it didn’t make sense to buy the gold,” he said, adding, however, “Our customers typically prefer the platinum. It’s a better clientele and they appreciate the whiteness and the durability.
“Our customers, 90 percent of them prefer the platinum, in any economy.”
Los Angeles retailer Gail Friedman, owner of Sarah Leonard Fine Jewelers, also has a largely platinum-preferring clientele but said the sales have become easier given the current metal prices.
“We’re a big platinum store. We always push platinum anyway. But it’s easier when the price gets closer,” she says.
The same does not ring true for couples who are on tighter budgets.
“It’s the smaller sales that will stick with the 18-karat (gold),” Friedman said.
Eileen Alexanian, owner of Diamonds ‘n Dunes in Kitty Hawk, N.C., agrees. She said that, while the difference in price between gold and platinum bridal jewelry has narrowed on the retail level--more so than she even expected--it’s not enough to sway consumers with smaller budgets.
It’s also not enough to convince shoppers in more laid-back, less-urban areas, such as Kitty Hawk, that they need to spend more to obtain a platinum ring.
Alexanian describes her area as an “extremely casual” beach community where people are more concerned with “this is what I have to spend, and what can I get for that” than having a platinum ring. She acknowledges that this may be a different attitude than that shared by young people in fast-paced urban centers such as New York and Los Angeles.
Both Alexanian and Steven Goldfarb, of Alvin Goldfarb Jewelers in Bellevue, Wash., also note that consumers don’t seem as educated about current metal prices.
“They’re not asking me for platinum instead of white gold maybe because they’re not aware of the fact that platinum may be similar in price,” Alexanian said, noting that platinum is not “on their radar” and may be considered unattainable by many.
“People are definitely not requesting it in my area,” she said.
As owner of a jewelry store in a rural community, Bill Longnecker, owner of Longnecker Jewelry in McCook, Neb., said he never sells much platinum.
“They just don’t get into platinum around here,” he said, noting that he only has one platinum ring in stock. “Most people can’t justify the price of it.”
He said his area is very conservative--the average amount his customer spends on a woman’s engagement ring and band is $3,000. There’s less of a desire to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to jewelry ownership.
“In [this] small town, jewelry is not a push ... around here it’s more important that (people be able to say), ‘my husband’s buying me a boat this summer.’ Their needs and wants and wishes aren’t the same as in the city.”
Longnecker adds, though, that he has considered stocking more platinum as gold has gone up but notes, “I’m not seeing anybody asking for it. I’ve certainly thought about carrying it more.”