Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Gold still glitters for public amid unstable prices

By Stevie Emilia

JAKARTA (JP): Dinda Arifin can now breathe easily. Her wedding day went as planned and she got everything that she wanted, including a flashy ring that now proudly decorates her finger.

She confessed that before the wedding, held early August, she and her husband had given up hope for getting rings for both of them due to the expensive gold prices.

"We even thought that if we could not afford it, we would only buy one ring, for me," the 28-year-old junior accountant working for a private auditing company told The Jakarta Post.

She said that in February, when they started to plan the wedding, they learned that it would cost them over Rp 3 million for a pair of simple 24-carat wedding rings. Those made to order with an exclusive design would cost almost Rp 5 million.

The price was unaffordable as they should also spend money to pay the monthly installment for their newly bought house in the city's outskirt.

"But a wedding without rings would be different, so we watched the gold prices, waiting for it to get lower," Dinda said.

It was not until two weeks before the wedding that they ordered the rings. They paid around Rp 1.5 million for two 24- carat, nine-gram gold rings, which was then sold at Rp 52,000 per gram.

Gold jewelry stores usually set prices, not only based on its weight, but also its design and details.

"I know my wedding rings are not too fashionable... but for us, they really mean something," Dinda said.

With the strengthening of the rupiah against the U.S. dollar, the gold business is now getting back on its feet again, although still slowly. Along with the decrease in gold prices, people are starting to buy gold jewelry again.

Gold, which was sold between Rp 23,000 and Rp 25,000 per gram before the crisis, cost almost Rp 100,000 per gram last year.

The high prices and sluggish market also forced many gold jewelry stores in Jakarta to temporarily close their businesses or to lay off their goldsmiths to save operational costs.

But these days, stores selling gold jewelry, like in Melawai area in Blok M, South Jakarta, and Senen market and Paseban market in Central Jakarta, are packed with customers again.

Some serious people buy the items while others simply browse the new jewelry collections.

A housewife, Sri Sulastri, said that last year she sold some of her jewelry, including her necklaces and bracelets, to pay for her son's entrance fees at a private university and to cover her family's daily needs.

"Now, after saving some money, I want to buy them again," said Sri, who was spotted selecting necklaces in a gold store in Melawai last Friday.

Another woman, Indah, not her real name, said that she bought gold jewelry as an investment.

"I make it a habit of mine to buy jewelry anytime I have extra money. I can sell it anytime I want to. And unlike a saving account, I can wear them too, isn't it fun?" she said.

But the price of gold keeps changing everyday, making those with tight budgets have to think hard before buying.

Two weeks ago, the prices were hovering at around Rp 40,000 to Rp 50,000 per gram. But this past week, 24-carat gold is being offered as high as Rp 60,000 per gram.

Nadya Chaniago of Jenewa gold jewelry store in Melawai said that gold prices were far from stable as they were highly dependent on the value of the rupiah against the U.S. dollar.

On Wednesday, the gold price at her store was Rp 60,000 for 24-carat gold, Rp 55,000 for 23-carat and Rp 52,000 for 22-carat.

"It's today's price. I can't say if it's still the same tomorrow," she said.

In the last few months, she said, as the price of gold has started to get better, more people have come to her store to simply look at the collections or to buy.

"It's okay (to browse), it's better than nothing. Besides, it means that people have started to look at gold again," she told the Post while serving her store's customers.

Owner of Singgalang Indah gold jewelry store in Aldiron Plaza, Blok M, Azwar Wahid, agreed that the price changed day by day.

"But even the prices are different, it's only between Rp 200 to Rp 300 per gram, it won't be too much," he assured the Post.

His store sets the 24-carat gold price at Rp 62,000 per gram, 23-carat at Rp 55,000 per gram and 22-carat at Rp 47,500 per gram on Wednesday.

He noticed that although the prices of gold were not stable, many people have started buying during the past three months.

"People just can't wait anymore... Besides, if they buy now and then the prices increase, if they sell it, they will make a profit..," said Wahid, who owns two other gold jewelry stores.

These days, he sells between 50 to 60 grams of gold in each of his stores every day.

"The sales are not too bad," he said.

Before the crisis he could sell more. But, he added, the present gold trade is much better compared to last year.

"Last year was really bad. We almost didn't sell anything... no one was buying gold. It was really a bad time."