China’s Gold Economy: Consumer desire for gold increases, desire for diamonds decreases

In the first half of this year, China consumed nearly 555 tons of gold, up more than 16 percent year-on-year. The trend has been described as a domestic gold craze. But diamonds seem to have lost their attraction, as the market size in China declined to 11.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, 2.5 billion dollars less than in 2021. Xu Hua has more from the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, China’s biggest distribution center for wholesale jewelry.

XU HUA Shenzhen Shuibei Jewelry Market “We’re at Shenzhen’s Shuibei Jewelry Market, the biggest wholesale market of its kind in China. The market has been crowded with consumers from all over the country for months, as international gold prices continue to rise. Let’s go and see what the best seller is here.”

The hustle and bustle of the Shuibei Jewelry Market since the beginning of 2023 marked a strong comeback from last year. With attractive designs, diverse styles and low prices, dozens of deals can be reached in seconds.

YU WANLING Shenzhen Resident “Shuibei is well-known for its gold sales. The quality gold is more reassuring than other places.”

ZHENG CE Shenzhen Resident “We are about to get married. We prefer to buy some gold rather than diamonds for inheritance or for wearing.”

China’s domestic consumption of gold jewelry reached 555 tons in the first half of 2023. Among the gold consumption, the purchase of gold bars jumped 30 percent year-on-year to 146 tons, while that of gold jewelry reached 368 tons, up almost 15 percent from the same period last year.

HAO RUNSONG General Manager, Lidu Gold “In 2023, our gold sales increased by 20-30 percent compared with last year.”

By contrast, the doorways of neighboring diamond stores looked relatively lonely, as the precious gems lost some significant value over the last few months.

LIU JINGLI Manager, Yishidai Jewelry “The retail transaction volume of diamond inlays is relatively low, and the wholesale sales of our diamond inlays is also declining.”

ZHAO LI Director, The Gold Plaza Operation Center “The sales of diamond jewelry have declined slightly, partly due to falling prices, fewer marriages, the impact of cultivated diamonds, and changing buyer behaviour.”

For daily social needs, some consumers looked to art jewelry as an alternative to diamond jewelry.

HUANG WEIJUN Brand Director, Shenzhen REIEN Jewelry “Our sales of art jewelry in the first half of this year have increased by about 300 percent over the whole of last year.”

Some economists say the booming gold sales are a direct reflection of a gloomy economic outlook.

WU HAIFENG Executive Director, Shenzhen Institute of Data Economy “When people feel uncertainty about the future, especially on the economy, especially about the income growth, people will think to change their investments platform from a variety of the financial products to hard currencies such as gold, such as real estate.”

However, Wu says that the real estate market hasn’t looked good since the beginning of the last year, so Chinese consumers and investors have been looking at other products. Wu added proper stimulative policies are still needed to ensure a healthy market and economic rebound. Xu Hua, CGTN, Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.