By Brecken Branstrator
U.S. demand for gold jewelry was up last year, albeit slightly—it grew 2 percent to 131.1 tons. Pictured here is Pamela Zamore’s 18-karat gold and diamond bracelet ($4,000).
London—Gold jewelry demand may have had a good year in the U.S. last year, but it was a different story when looking at its performance globally in 2019.

In the United States, demand was up for the third consecutive year in 2019, rising 2 percent to reach a 10-year high of 131.1 tons, according to the World Gold Council’s most recent Gold Demand Trends report.

The WGC attributed this performance to improved consumer confidence amid a “relatively robust” economic environment.

Demand increased in the fourth quarter as well, up 2 percent to 49.2 tons, marking the twelfth consecutive quarter to see year-over-year growth.

But these positive results weren’t the case for global gold jewelry demand.

According to the WGC, demand in 2019 fell 6 percent overall to 2,107 tons.

The second half was largely affected by the jump in the gold price in the third quarter (prices reached $1,546/ounce in September, according to Kitco), impacting affordability.

Fourth quarter jewelry demand sank to its lowest level since 2011, plummeting 10 percent to 584.5 tons.

The WGC also noted the drop in global volumes last year had much to do with weakness in India and China.

In India, a 17 percent drop in the fourth quarter led to a 24 percent decline for the second half of the year.

Key factors influencing the second-half performance were the higher gold prices, a domestic economic slowdown and “muted” rural demand.

In China, meanwhile, fourth quarter demand sank 10 percent to 159.7 tons.

This also represented the fifth consecutive quarter of decline for the market, causing full-year 2019 demand to slide 7 percent to 637.3 tons.

Subdued demand in both the quarter and the year were attributed to China’s slowing economy, rising inflation, global trade disputes, and higher gold prices.

Another factor was the younger generation’s shifting tastes toward lighter jewelry pieces with fashionable designs; traditional “mass-appeal” 24-karat gold jewelry continued to lose market share to innovative products.

Meanwhile, 2019 gold jewelry demand was down 2 percent in both the Middle East and Europe, and in other Asian markets, excluding China, higher gold prices dented demand across the region to lead to full-year losses.

However, while global demand by volume was down for the full year, demand by value was up.

Consumers spent even more on gold in 2019, with gold jewelry demand increasing 3 percent to a five-year high of $94.3 billion.

Much of this came from a 9 percent year-over-year increase in demand during Q4, which reached a seven-year high of $27.8 billion.

Other Gold Trends
Overall gold demand across all categories—jewelry, ETFs, technology, bar and coin demand, and more—was down 1 percent in 2019.

According to the WGC, it was “broadly a year of two distinct halves:” resilience and growth across most sectors in the first half of the year, while the second half was marked by widespread year-over-year declines.

It said global demand in H2 was down 10 percent compared with the same period in 2018 as year-over-year losses in the fourth quarter compounded those in Q3.

Meanwhile, the total gold supply was up slightly in 2019, rising 2 percent year-over-year to 4,776.1 tons.

Mine production in Q4 fell 2 percent to 889.5 tons, the lowest fourth-quarter mine output since 2016 and closing out a year of declines in all quarters.

In full-year 2019, gold mine production totaled 3,463.7 tons, representing a 1 percent decrease, the first annual decline in production since 2008.

The recycled gold supply, meanwhile, was up 16 percent year-over-year in Q4, totaling 335 tons and bringing the annual supply to 1,304.1 tons in 2019—the highest since 2012, when the gold price was much higher.

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