Almost three quarters of U.S. jewelry retailers surveyed by the Silver Institute sold more silver jewelry in 2013 than 2012, according a Tuesday report from the industry lobby.
But sales volumes didn’t increase by much, with an average increase in sales of just 17 percent. About a third of the 2,700 shops represented also saw the same or lesser sales over the holiday season.
The sales statistics come after silver prices plunged in 2013. Silver was the second-worst-performing commodity in 2013, down 36 percent and faring worse than its more influential cousin gold, which fell 28 percent.
Gold consumers capitalized on gold’s price plunge in April 2013, stocking up on small gold items like jewelry. According to the survey, silver jewelry priced at less than $500 represented 92 percent of all sales in 2013, suggesting a similar trend.
Nevertheless, silver jewelry netted significantly better margins than gold or diamond jewelry. Silver inventory also showed the best turnover, more than doubling diamond jewelry's turnover rates in 2013.
Silver Promotion Service director Michael Barlerin added in a statement that silver jewelry sales in the last five years were “perhaps the most compelling I have ever seen.”
But as a slice of global silver demand, jewelry and silverware has fallen from 31 percent of demand in 2003 to a projected 23 percent in 2013, according to a December 2013 Silver Institute presentation. Emerging markets and the U.S. have posted stronger demand for jewelry, just as Europe has demanded less silver jewelry and silverware.
Silver touched highs of $48 per ounce in April 2011, before sinking to a recent low of $19 per ounce in late January 2014. Silver prices are often influenced by gold prices, and many investors view it as a more volatile and leveraged version of gold.
Silver prices could rise to $25 per ounce by 2014, Stern Agee forecast in a report Monday. Silver coin sales reached a record 42.6 million ounces in 2013, according to U.S. Mint data.
India, the world’s largest importer of silver, tripled imports in 2013 to 5,478 metric tons, according to a HSBC report on March 12. But more relaxed gold import rules and taxes are likely to slow India’s silver consumption this year, analysts say, since part of Indian demand in 2013 came as buyers switched from gold to silver.
The survey had a 6 percent margin of error, with average annual per store sales of $1.4 million. It largely surveyed independent retailers.