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Golden oldies: Patriotic Chinese millennials’ lust for traditional designs fuels gold surge

China’s gold sales reach new heights amid broader shift toward Han-centric styles

A women models a Hanfu outfit during a photo shoot. (Pexel photos)

A women models a Hanfu outfit during a photo shoot. (Pexel photos)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Patriotic sentiment, coupled with an e-commerce boom, is driving demand for what is known in China as “heritage gold jewelry," with sales of jewelry made from the precious metal doubling in the first half of this year.

Gold bracelets, pendants, earrings, and necklaces that depict dragons, phoenixes, and other traditional symbols are favorites among consumers, especially those in their 20s and 30s, and they can command premiums of 20% or more over conventional gold jewelry, according to a Reuters report.

The trend heralds a turnaround for the precious metal, which was earlier eschewed by younger consumers as an ostentatious sign of wealth and status symbol for older generations, according to industry watchers.

Chow Tai Fook, China's largest jeweler, said its heritage gold collection took up 40% of the total value of its retail sales for gold in its fiscal year that ended in March 2021 — up from 29% the previous year.

The trend reflects consumer desires to be patriotic and is seen as an extension of what some analysts term "cultural decoupling" — an ongoing backlash against Western apparel brands in China that ignited earlier this year after some labels expressed concern over human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province.

"The younger generation grew up when China's economy was stronger, they have more confidence in Chinese development and may have less admiration for Western culture," Roland Wang (王立新), managing director of World Gold Council China, told Reuters.

"They want to have more traditional Chinese culture in their daily life, which can be represented through what they wear or how they decorate their home... Heritage gold can deliver this," he said.

Some consumers link their heritage gold preferences to the Hanfu movement, a social movement that supports the wearing of ancient fashions from the Han Dynasty over other traditional styles of China, such as the qipao.

Gao, a 29-year-old sales executive from Jiangsu province, told Reuters she spent US$4,620 (NT$128,759) on such jewelry this year. She added that she bought heritage gold because it matches her Han-style clothing outfits.

"I really like Chinese culture and prefer products with Chinese history,” Gao said.

Updated : 2021-09-29 05:01 GMT+08:00