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BBC: Gold rush in historic quarter
 
By Clare Babbidge
BBC News, Birmingham

Bullion dealers and traders in Birmingham's historic Jewellery Quarter are experiencing a gold rush as investors look for a safer alternative to stocks and shares - sending the metal's price soaring.

As world stock markets plunged on Monday and UK bank shares took a battering on Tuesday, the price of gold again shot up.
Although the value of gold has quadrupled in under 10 years and more people are buying bullion, sudden fluctuations have also seen gold jewellery sales drop, affecting retailers.
Karen Martin, of Birmingham bullion dealers Stephen Betts and Sons, who has been in the trade for 25 years said: "I've never known it like this - in terms of the high price of gold as well as its volatility."
She said as the stock markets took a battering on Monday, the price of fine gold rose from about 15.30 to 16.10 a gram in a matter of hours. On Tuesday it rose to 16.30.
The price of gold is fixed twice a day in London from 1030 GMT and 1500 GMT and this represented a sharp jump.
"Normally it's pretty steady between those times, changing by about one tenth of a penny, it's not much different," she said.
'A gamble'
Mrs Martin, group sales manager at the Hockley firm, said there had been a big demand from the public for gold bars or "ingots"" of various sizes.

She said there had also been demand for gold coins, both sovereign and South African Krugerrands.

Mrs Martin said the firm, which specialises in smelting and refining precious metals, had seen sales of gold bars and coins rise 20-30% in six months.
Some jewellers had also melted their gold stock to make bars, which were considered more valuable, she said.
She said a 1 oz gold bar had risen from 345 to more than 500 in a year, so for some it had already proved to be a good investment.
But she said: "It's very speculative and is always going to be a gamble - like the share market."
Charles Kernot, metal and marketing analyst at Evolution Securities, said the price of gold had "crept up steadily" from about $280 (approx 158) an ounce in 2001 to about $400 (226) in 2005 to its current levels of between $850 (480) to $900 (516).
Volatile market
He said the difficulties and expense of mining gold had helped pushed up its price.
"I don't think it's reached its peak yet," he said.
"There are a lot of financial circumstances and worries across the markets and from that perspective I still think gold will be regarded as a safe haven," he said.
Mike Knowles who owns A2Z Jewellery, a wholesale firm supplying retailers, said although the value of gold had risen "astronomically", short-term price fluctuations have hit gold jewellery sales.
"Over the last 12 to 18 months the volatility of gold prices has been very difficult," he said.
"Gold sales have dropped in excess of 80%."

The gold price in attracting people to sell jewellery
He said it made it difficult to buy stock because the gold price could suddenly change with "no logical explanation".
Mr Knowles said retailers had suffered, and while the number of his regular customers had fallen by about 15%, remaining customers were also spending less.
"For us jewellers the volatility is increasingly hard to deal with. It is difficult to predict," he said.
"I've never known trading conditions like this in the 25 years I've been here."
"People describe gold as a safe haven - but for who?"
'Electric bills'
Mr Knowles said to cope, his firm had been concentrating more on silver and gold-plated jewellery sales.
A few doors up at Hardrock Jewellers, Erica Broadhurst said the most noticeable effect was that more people were selling gold jewellery to get cash.
"We get a lot of elderly people who are selling jewellery that they wanted to pass on as inheritance - but they are giving the money to them (relatives) now instead, which is nice.
"In the current climate some people are also selling jewellery just to make their monthly payments, to pay for things like electric bills."
Mrs Broadhurst said she sold jewellery on to bullion dealers immediately because the price of gold "really varies".
Linda Paskin, of Solihull, was at nearby Samson Gold to sell some unwanted jewellery.
"I had some items in my jewellery box, including odd earrings and a broken chain.
"It's stuff I would I have thrown away otherwise.
"I got about 200, which I'm very pleased with."
Source