BY AZMAT HAROON and FAZEENA SALEEM
Doha: Low-income workers are the largest buyers of gold jewellery in Qatar, accounting for nearly three-fourth of the customers visiting jewellery shops in Doha.
An increasing number of single expatriate workers prefer buying gold jewellery here instead of their home countries because they trust the prices and quality of gold sold in Qatar.
Most of them buy necklaces and bangles costing anything from QR12,000 to QR30,000 for their family members or for investment.
“More than 75 percent of our customers are single workers,” said a salesman at Sky Jewelry in the gold market.
With prices of gold sliding last week, the number of customers has more than doubled at many shops. Salesmen at Sky Jewelry and Damas said they were making 100 to 130 bills a day now, without revealing the value of the purchases.
The price of 22-carat gold has come down to QR157 from QR174, with pure gold (24-carat) selling for QR170 yesterday.
Hundreds of people trooped to shops selling gold jewellery yesterday, and the majority of them were single workers. With multiple dependents back home, the men, some of them sole breadwinners of their family, buy jewellery for the weddings of their sisters and daughters.
“My sister is getting married in three months. When I heard that the prices have gone down, I came to check if it’s true,” said Mohamed Sudir, who had come to the gold market with his friends after hearing about the fall in gold prices on radio.
He said he wanted the prices to go down further before he bought anything as he had very little savings.
Owners of gold shops, meanwhile, said they had not been affected by the falling prices.
Mohammad Rafiq, who has been in the gold business for decades, said many shops in the gold market had been in the business for at least 30 years.
“You will not find new people joining the gold business anymore. It’s mostly people who have plenty of stock for many years now that are operating here,” Rafiq said.
Asked if the slide in prices had affected the dealers, he said: “Not at all. Many of these people had bought gold when it was dirt cheap many years ago. The ups and downs in the market don’t affect them.”
At best, some dealers were buying gold at reduced prices and then selling it, Rafiq explained.
Many people said that though gold prices had come down, the rates of gold jewellery had not been affected much.
“Prices have come down, but not as much as in the international market. If the total reduction amounts to some QR40 or QR50 per gram in the market, most retailers have reduced it by QR20 or QR30,” said Yaseer Yaseen, Operations Manager of Kingdom Gems and Jewelers in the old gold market.
He said gold jewellery was slightly expensive here compared to some other countries in the region because most traders imported it from Dubai or Saudi Arabia.
“Prices are also slightly high here because of the five percent tax,” Yaseen added.
A few customers said jewellers made up for any losses due to the low gold rates in the making charges. Additionally, jewellery with diamonds and other precious stones saw the least reduction in prices.
“Jewellery with valuable gems or diamonds is made of 18-carat gold or white gold, and its price depends on the value of the stones,” Yaseen explained.
“I came to look for something for my wife. It’s good to buy when the prices are low. Even if it is QR100 less it matters to us,” said a Filipino customer.
Families, especially women, also thronged gold shops this week. The custom of buying gold runs deep in Qatari society, where it is required for a woman to own a substantial amount of gold jewellery before she gets married.
Wadha Al Jabor, a young researcher at Qatar Statistics Authority, said Qatari women always kept an eye on the market.
“They know when it’s a good opportunity to buy gold, and many of them are buying it right now,” Al Jabor said.
Designs from India, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are popular among Qatari women, who Al Jabor says tend to prefer traditional designs.
“The Bahraini designs are very popular these days because they always come up with new yet traditional designs,” she said.
Young girls prefer white gold and platinum jewellery as opposed to gold, while the older women value ornaments based on how many carats of gold they contain.
“It just has to be yellow,” said a young Qatari girl, describing what she felt was an obsession with the precious metal.
A Qatari girl is likely to spend anywhere from QR40,000 QR60,000 on average on a jewellery item, in addition to some QR15,000 on watches, in a single shopping trip.