Gift giving is going to look a little different this year than previous years. According to Nielsen, a long-time trusted source for consumer intelligence, the global health crisis has presented new circumstances to consumers this year — and buying habits will change.
Gifts this year could include fresh foods and premium coffees because many consumers either can’t find them in their local grocery stores or cannot afford them because of lost jobs. Home cooking and homemade gifts will be common and companies that produce do-it-yourself hobby kits or supplies may see a bump in sales.
CNBC reports that shoppers are seeking out personalized, thoughtful holiday gifts to feel connected during the pandemic. Online shops offering handmade goods, crafts and other unique items are being browsed in record numbers.
What does this mean for the precious metals jewelry and gold markets? One Nielsen report notes that those not financially impacted by the pandemic — and who have been outlaying less money during the year due to less entertainment spending — may find themselves splurging to reward themselves and others with more indulgent gifts.
Jewelry and other precious metal items can certainly be characterized as indulgent by some, so vendors are going to have to be clever in how they sell their products. The CNBC article notes that they are seeing a change in how retail jewelers are selling necklaces and other jewelry items; they include stories that are intended to resonate during the pandemic. One jewelry company boasts a collection with a design of two entwined ovals that can signify how the challenging time has brought a couple closer. Others are seeing that many want to customize and personalize their jewelry in some way, too — including getting a ring or another piece of jeweler engraved with a message that refers to the pandemic.
Those who may have been impacted financially during the crisis may be visiting their local pawnshops or cash-for-gold operations to sell their gold, or to purchase precious metal jewelry at a reduced price. That means it is increasingly important that consumers know what they are buying – whether they are splurging on a new piece or cashing in old jewelry – and the retailers know that what they are selling is truly valuable and not counterfeit or under-karated.
Determining what precious metals are present in a piece of jewelry or in decorative gold items can be a challenge. It may also be difficult to determine the right karats or to detect gold plating. An important issue is the difficulty of keeping the sample intact when doing a test to determine the true precious metal content of a sample. Another challenge is the market competition. Pawn shops and cash for gold businesses have to offer very high prices to close a deal, and at the same time, make sure that the transaction is profitable. Margins are very tight, and the price of gold fluctuates every day. But one of the biggest risks is people trying to commit fraud.
The Commodities Futures Trading Commission gives advice on how to spot offers about precious metals that could be scams. The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information page warns that when considering a major purchase like a piece of jewelry, it’s best to make a few inquiries before you begin shopping – whether it’s online or at a store.
Verification tests that businesses use to combat these risks include the scratch and acid test, which is widely used but not very accurate and potentially dangerous. The most precise method is fire assay, but this method destroys the sample – something you do not want to do with a piece of jewelry. Laboratory methods with expensive machines require extensive sample preparation. Finally, there is portable X-ray florescence (XRF), a non-destructive method that measures up to 22 elements in one reading. For businesses that need an accurate, fast, easy, non-destructive method for a reasonable price, portable XRF analyzers are the best possible solution among all the techniques.
Jewelry stores and pawn shops can use this XRF technology to help ensure the pieces they are buying from their customers in a cash-for-gold trade are actual precious metals through-and-through so they don’t lose money. These same retailers can protect their brand by knowing what they are telling the customer about the precious metal content is true. And that will help make Santa confident in the presents he delivers this year.