By Biman Mukherji,
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Fashion-conscious women in the big cities of India, the world's top gold consumer, are starting to fall for platinum.
"What heartens us is that platinum jewellery is getting more and more acceptable to Indian consumers," Vaishali Banerjee, India manager of industry body Platinum Guild International, told Reuters.
"They are willing to try out newer looks and experiment with designs."
A jump in the number of platinum jewellery retailers to 350 from just a dozen six years ago showed consumers were appreciating the value of platinum, she said.
The reach of platinum had grown to 60 cities from two, but no official demand figures were available.
Global platinum demand rose to 6.7 million ounces in 2005, up 2.5 percent from the previous year.
"Women are even buying bridal rings," Banerjee said.
Wedding rings other than gold are rare in India, a country of more than a billion people who traditionally give gold jewellery as wedding presents, a large portion of which is often handed down through the generations.
Gold has been a form of saving for centuries. Indians consume about 800 tonnes of gold each year, of which more than two-thirds are in the form of jewellery.
Banerjee said people were now asking for a greater variety of platinum products, not just jewellery.
"We are as yet a nascent market for platinum. But if present trends are anything to go by, then the future is promising."
During the recent Hindu festival of Akshaya Trithiya, when consumers buy precious products, jewellers stocked deity-inscribed platinum coins, medallions and pendants with prices as low as 2,500 rupees.
"The response was overwhelming and retailers are bound to pursue this business opportunity next year too," Banerjee said.
"This is an indication that people are accepting the naturally white precious metal as a good store of value."
Those customers who had bought platinum jewellery a couple of years ago had probably seen their investment grow, she said.
Spot platinum surged to an all-time high of ,336 an ounce on Wednesday, liftd by strong fundamentals and a general bullish trend in commodities. The metal has gained nearly 40 percent this year.
Platinum jewellery is also being exported to the United States, Japan and Europe. Indian manufacturers source platinum from miners in South Africa and Russia.
Mobile phones studded with platinum and jewels and watches made out of the metal were also likely to catch
on in India, she said.
Though no figures were available for either the quantity of platinum consumed in India, Banerjee said a greater proportion was probably being used for industrial purposes.