Who would have thought back in 1992 that our gold-dominated, traditional U.S. jewelry industry would take a new direction and fall in love again with platinum—the most rare and precious white jewelry metal on earth? No one really expected this to happen so quickly, but a few ambitious and hopeful people were betting their budgets and careers on it.
In 1992, when the South African platinum mining producers asked me to create and lead the U.S. marketing efforts to promote platinum jewelry, I knew it would be possible to create a market for platinum, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take to change the mindset of an entire industry. I had the feeling that it might be easier to convert a few million consumers into platinum lovers, but I realized that the trade had to be fully committed to our platinum marketing effort or it would never work.
PGI’s first plan to promote platinum began solidly in the bridal area and involved a few key platinum bridal manufacturers and a handful of forward-thinking retailers. Full-page, four-color ads ran in the leading bridal magazines. Before long, consumers throughout the country were asking their local retailers for platinum.
In a few years, the number of retailers stocking platinum grew from about 100 to more than 20,000. The number of U.S. designers and manufacturers producing platinum jewelry grew from around 10 to more than 400, and another 100 suppliers from overseas began exporting their products here. Since 1992, platinum jewelry consumption has grown 1,000%!
Holiday 1999 sales of platinum jewelry were the highest ever, with 94% of all jewelers surveyed reporting increases in their sales. Today, 10% of all women over the age of 18 (numbering 10.5 million) own a piece of platinum jewelry or a piece of jewelry that’s partially platinum. Some 12 million U.S. women plan to purchase platinum jewelry this year, and one out of every four weddings (there are 2.4 million U.S. marriages a year) includes platinum rings for the bride and/or groom.
This is evidence indeed that platinum isn’t a fad. Neither are gold, diamonds, pearls, or precious gemstones, which platinum now joins as a jewelry fundamental.
Platinum’s increasing popularity has given birth to a new market for white gold that has positioned itself as the less expensive platinum lookalike. And yet platinum sales continue to soar because discriminating consumers always want the best. They expect to pay more for platinum, and they do not desire a platinum substitute—they want the real thing.
Looking back on the last few years, I begin to see a similarity between platinum and our unbelievably successful economy. Those jewelers who wanted to wait out the so-called platinum fad are probably some of the same people who kept waiting for the stock market to crash. They waited and waited; meanwhile, friends and colleagues were making wise investments—all the while, becoming more successful. However, as we’ve learned with our long economic expansion, it’s never too late to get involved and create your own success.
Today, despite our growing and robust economy, we’re faced with countless challenges. Will the Internet and e-commerce change or harm traditional jewelry retailing? Will the “white wave” in precious jewelry sales continue? Will an escalating platinum price affect consumer sales? Will our robust economy keep going?
We don’t know the answers to these questions, but we do know that retailing in general shows no immediate signs of a slowdown. The white trend in the jewelry industry may eventually lose steam, but we’re confident that platinum sales will continue to grow and will stand the test of time and fashion. Platinum is the most precious of all metals, its white color merely incidental to its inherent beauty and value. If and when the “white wave” recedes, consumers who desire the ultimate still will seek platinum, and its higher price point is part of its cachet. Savvy jewelers will understand that and sell it without apology.
As we begin the new millennium, Platinum Guild International is committed to further developing the platinum jewelry market in America. This spring, PGI will launch a new branding campaign intended to solidify and expand your platinum jewelry business. Platinum is part of our past and future. It is firmly embedded in our culture, and it is here to stay. PGI will continue to be your resource for now and the years to come.
On the cover: The model is wearing a dress created from pure platinum, each thread handwoven by the designer, Lydia Heller of Munich, Germany. Platinum film isn’t strong enough for weaving, so it’s first applied to special paper by hand. There it is cut into fine threads and then woven like a fabric. Only about 50 square centimeters can be woven per day. The dress, priced at 150,000 deutsche marks, or about $75,000, uses almost 10 meters of platinum material. Photo courtesy of Platin Gilde International, Germany. Fashion studio: P. Keppler.