The Dominion Post - CLAIRE ROGERS

Photographer -  MAARTEN HOLL

With rocketing gold prices, it's silver's turn to shine this Christmas. Since November last year, the price of gold has increased from $1775 an ounce to $1863 – and by about 80 per cent since November 2007. As a result, says Village Goldsmith owner Ian Douglas, silver is a popular – and cheaper – alternative to gold this year.

 "[The cost of] a good piece of gold jewellery is starting to climb out of the reach of a lot of people and consequently silver jewellery has taken a big leap. You can still buy a nice piece for hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands."

Jewellery manufacturers had changed their styles and were using less gold to counteract rising prices and even though labour rates and manufacturing costs were the same, a gold wedding ring that had recently sold for $790 would cost $980 to replace.

Christmas sales were slightly ahead of last year's and this week would be big, Mr Douglas said.

"We custom-make a lot of our pieces for our clients and a lot of them collect them in those last few days before Christmas, so we have an enormous spike in turnover."

Wedding and engagement rings were especially popular leading into summer as couples tied the knot and men prepared to pop the question over Christmas and New Year, but customers were considering things carefully before shelling out on "bling".

"I think that's just a sign of the times. They're certainly not being frivolous."

Gemtime New Zealand chief executive Peter Alexander said silver jewellery and Pandora charm jewellery were especially popular, with silver making less of a dent in people's discretionary incomes.

Rising gold prices had prompted consumers to think more carefully about buying gold jewellery and rather than buying new items, people had been bringing in pieces to be revamped .

Jewellery was not being purchased "with the same vigour" as in previous Christmases, he said.

"Most of our stores are down on 2009."

If the traditional upswing in jewellery spending occurred this week, it was unlikely to be on a par with those in previous years, he said. He predicted consumers that would start spending a bit more in the second half of next year.

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