So how is the industry holding up so far this year? A salient question, but a hard one to answer without some statistical context.
On the face of it, the trade is only just holding onto its hat, with a minuscule 0.8% increase in hallmarking volumes in February compared with last year. But wait… there’s more to this than meets the eye.
If you inspect the historical hallmarking figures, you’ll find that there is a significant upward trend in the volumes of gold pieces hallmarked during the month of February for each of the last four years.
We’ve moved from approximately 247,000 pieces marked in February 2013, to 403,000 marked in February 2016. That’s an increase of more than 60%. With silver remaining roughly steady overall, this means we have a major leap in the part of the hallmarking table that matters.
Given that every single one of these 156,000 additional pieces sold is matched by a customer getting their wallet out, the picture is a positive one. It may not be a return to the heady days of 20 million or more pieces hallmarked per year, but it is surely enough to shout about given how tough times have been.
It’s an important lesson both for those in business – and journalists writing magazines – to keep an eye on the big picture, and to be sure not to get bogged down in the minute-to-minute statistics. They very often make one feel down in the mouth, when actually, as in the case of these February figures, there is every reason to draw optimism from the market’s longer-term performance.