Mon, 08 Nov 1999

Gold rush windfall over for city jewelry buyers

JAKARTA (JP): While most of the country is pleased with the nascent economic recovery, many jewelry buyers who offer their services on the streets of the city view the burgeoning economy as the end to their businesses.

Several such businessmen around Senen Market in Central Jakarta and Jatinegara Market in East Jakarta said on Friday trade was slowing because people sold their belongings, including jewelry, only when the economy was at its lowest, as was the case last year.

"I got nearly no money in the past few days," Krisman Sitorus, a jewelry buyer at Senen Market, told The Jakarta Post.

"If this persists for much longer, I will probably return to my hometown in Balige, North Sumatra.

"What can I do in such a big city with, say, a daily income of Rp 3,000," Sitorus, a former security guard at a car dealership, said.

He said on Thursday he only had one customer, who sold him a pair of three-gram gold earrings.

"I only make a profit of Rp 1,000 per gram. I resell the goods to an agent who melts the gold to make new jewelry," he said.

The father of two, who entered the business last year after he was fired from his previous job due to the economic crisis, said the situation had reached the point where some weeks he only had one or two customers.

Another purchaser, Ramli, said the golden age for his profession was when the value of gold peaked following the plunge of the rupiah against the U.S. dollar. At one point, the rupiah fell to 17,000 to the greenback.

"At that time, we could sometimes earn between Rp 200,000 and Rp 300,000 a day," he said.

Ramli said he was able to save Rp 4 million during those heady times. "But the money was used to support my family and pay the rent on my house."

Jewelry buyers can be found across the city, particularly in areas near jewelry stores, including Senen, Pasar Baru, Cikini and Sawah Besar in Central Jakarta, and Pasarminggu in South Jakarta.

These businesspeople purchase jewelry which has been rejected by jewelry stores for various reasons. They also reportedly are willing to buy goods from thieves.

However, Sitorus denied this allegation, saying dealing with criminals was too risky.

"The police will come and interrogate us if they arrest the thieves, while the goods have already been sold to an agent," he said.

Sitorus said he helped those who found themselves in financial difficulties. "Sometimes there are students who desperately need money and sell their jewelry because they haven't received money from their parents."

A purchaser near Jatinegara, R. Sitompul, was optimistic business would remain brisk even if the economy continued to improve.

"I will still do the job. When the economy was normal in the past, people continuously changed their jewelry. This means we still have hope," he said. (ind)