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Platinum Engagement Rings

CHINA IS OUT, NORTH AMERICA IS IN! IS SOUTH AFRICA IN TROUBLE?

Whilst North American appetite for platinum jewelry flourishes and China goes cold on platinum jewelry – is South Africa still in trouble?

According to Jan Harvey of Reuters, in an article regarding North America’s desire for platinum : “North American demand is a rare bright spot for the global platinum jewelry market after a sharp drop in prices boosted jewelers’ margins, driving up consumption of the white metal by more than a third over the last six years.  North American appetite has flourished despite lackluster global platinum jewelry sales, with world consumption down for a second year in 2015 as slowing growth and a shift in consumer tastes helped crimp buying in lead market China.”

Jan Harvey reported in a different article that “China’s penchant for luxury platinum jewelry is fading despite lower global prices, leaving world demand for the metal exposed to sharper decline.”  (Reporting by Jan Harvey, editing by Veronica Brown)

Back to North America: “Platinum’s appeal for North American jewelers has been boosted by a sharp drop in prices XPT, which hit seven-year lows just above $800 an ounce in January, down 65 percent from 2008’s all-time high.  That has driven up margins for the finished product.  “Margin is absolutely pivotal, and that has been exceptionally attractive,” Metals Focus analyst Philip Newman said.  “When you have better margins, it becomes a virtuous circle. When margins are better, jewelers are better disposed to take platinum, advertise it, and through advertising, boost sales.”  Platinum Guild International says that a piece made in platinum is more than twice as profitable for the jeweler as a similar piece made in white gold.  While the metal is now trading at a historically unusual discount to gold of more than $200 an ounce, the price of the final product still tends to be higher.  “If you take a piece in platinum and a piece in white gold, the platinum will still be more expensive. Platinum is heavier, it’s more dense and it’s more pure,” PGI USA‘s president Jenny Lukersaid.  Bridal remains by far the biggest sector for platinum jewelry demand, but its appeal is starting to spread.  “It has a lot of great attributes,” Luker said. “People are more comfortable setting stones in it because it’s going to hold them more securely. It’s hypoallergenic. Customers come to it sometimes because they’re looking for an heirloom piece.”  “It’s the quality,” she said.”  (Reporting by Jan Harvey, editing by David Evans)

Great news for platinum engagement ring jewellers!  But what about South Africa?

According to Lindsay Dodgson writing for http://www.mining-technology.com “The mining sector in South Africa is in trouble, with the combined worth of South Africa’s 35 top platinum mining companies having dropped 55% since June 2014. Thousands of jobs are being lost and there are concerns over safety. Mining company Anglo American is making an effort to get rid of underperforming parts of its platinum operations, to reduce risk and focus on more profitable areas.”

Lindsay concludes:

“Is there a future for platinum?

Job losses are a sensitive issue in South Africa, as the unemployment rate in the country is around 25%. With further redundancies certain in the platinum mining sector, companies need to do what is necessary to survive. With Anglo American, the company wants to focus on its profitable assets and lose the struggling ones.

Anglo American is looking to get $330m from the sale of the Rustenburg mines, but whether this will be enough to salvage the business is so far uncertain. If the demand for platinum continues to fall in the place of other metals, such as palladium, reshuffling the company focuses may just be delaying the inevitable.

“They need to do something a lot more drastic than what they’ve been doing over the last few years,” Metals Focus research analyst George Cole says. “It’s really not been enough for the industry.”

Anglo American CEO Chris Griffith said in a statement: “We remain committed to pursuing our strategy, continuing to reposition Anglo American Platinum as a high-quality, largely mechanised operator yielding high margins.” He said that Anglo is focusing on its “core assets” and Rustenburg will be “long-term and sustainable” under Sibanye’s control.

With the long-term effects of the VW scandal yet to be realised, and the potential for further strikes in the platinum industry in South Africa, companies like Anglo American will be watched closely to see whether their restructuring efforts are successful.”

So bearing in mind South African’s unemployment rate, let’s hope the platinum strikes can be resolved quickly as South Africa’s AMCU union sets their wage demands.