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Gold jewellery no more Indian bride's best friend

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - When textile designer Anshu Murarka married earlier this month, her wedding trousseau had a laptop, a plasma television and mutual fund units besides seven gold coins, dainty gold chains, pendants and bracelets.

File photo of a salesman arranging gold jewellery at a shop in Hyderabad, January 10, 2008. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder/Files

Twenty seven years ago, says Anshu’s mother Ramila, she had five hundred grams of gold in the form of necklaces, ear rings, bangles and hair braids in her wedding dowry.

The unchallenged place of gold jewellery in Hindu weddings made India the world’s largest consumer of the metal.

But soaring prices resulted in upstart gadgets replacing gold jewellery in the wedding dowry.

“If my daughter had to wear all gold (jewellery) at her wedding, I would have had to spend an additional 200,000 rupees which was out of the question for now,” Ramila Murarka said.

“About 20-30 years ago, a middle-class wedding trousseau had an average of 100 grams of gold. Now it has fallen to 70-80 grams,” said Ajay Mitra, managing director-India of the industry-funded World Gold Council (WGC).

“Televisions, cars and cell phones have crept into a woman’s marriage.”

Gold prices have risen by 25 percent on year curbing demand at a time when weddings are scheduled, and traditionally a boomtime for the trade.

On Monday, a bank quoted prices at 12,421 rupees per 10 grams, up from 12,377 rupees on Friday. The April gold contract on the Multi Commodity Exchange of India touched its highest level on Monday at 12,186 rupees.

In January, when the season started, imports of gold totaled just 24 tonnes, down 72 percent on the year, according to the figures of the WGC.


While jewellery is losing appeal, it is not as if gold itself has lost any shine.

Rising incomes have ensured that the base of gold buyers is getting bigger, an analyst said. WGC figures show India’s gold imports rose 7 percent in 2007 to 773.6 tonnes.

Nineteen-year old bride, Vindhya Tiwari, also in Ahmedabad, said she did not want her parents to feel the financial burden of buying gold for her.

“So it is simple for me -- mix gold jewellery with fake (gold) jewellery,” Tiwari said referring to her attire on her wedding day last week when she wore her mother’s gold jewellery with newly acquired non-gold ones.

It’s just that patterns of spending and new priorities have to be made room for.

Ritu Datta, an air-hostess also based in Ahmedabad, said she chose to buy a car with the money meant for her trousseau.

“I find it senseless to buy expensive gold ornaments and keep it in safe vaults when I can buy a car and use it everyday,” Datta said.

These signs of more purchasing power help to sell more gold.

“With the reach of television increasing and the heavy promotions, gold has created a position in the minds of people,” said Nayan Pansare, a gold market expert working for jewellery exporting companies.

“Many luxuries have become a necessity so brides may be buying less gold, but overall gold consumption may continue to increase due to Indians’ fascination for the metal and more people being able to afford it now.”