STAFF REPORTER AROUND 12 jewellers and 7 watchmakers and jewellery craft workshops have closed in Palma since the beginning of the year, Jewellers' Association President Francesc Clapes said yesterday, attributing the loss of trade directly to the result of the economic crisis.

Clapes said that he had never known such a downturn in income as that which had been suffered during this most recent crisis. “Not as much as a single gramme of gold has been sold; in fact many companies are starting to fashion pieces in silver now in order to start the market going again,” he claimed.

Clapes was quick to add that despite the plummeting sales which had forced the closures, the majority of the jewellery companies themselves continued to operate. “The Guild of Jewellers has existed here since the 19th century and our members have been well established over many years,” assured Clapes. “Although their own work is much sought after, what has happened during the crisis is that retails outlets which might have been franchises, and some particular brands of jewellery haven't been able to survive the loss of cash flow.” The Jewellers' Associaiton President said that the value of gold has multiplied by five times over the last year-and-a-half. He explained that the rise had been due to it being a “safe” investment, and also because - in Capes' judgement - it had been undervalued in recent years.

Now gold is trading at 36 euros for the gramme, he confirmed. The same situation apparently holds true for the value of silver. Clapes said that only 8 years ago, silver was valued at 190 euros a kilo; now it is worth an astonishing 1'200 euros a kilo.

He said it was “a shame” that some gold and silver jewellery ended up being melted down for want of buyers.