* Jan-May exports rise 6 pct in value, 2.6 pct in volume
* Domestic market remains under pressure
VICENZA, Italy, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Italy’s jewellery exports rose in the first five months of this year both in value and quantity, an industry report showed on Saturday, signalling signs of a recovery in the sector.
Exports from Italy, Europe’s top jewellery manufacturer and exporter, rose 6 percent in value terms during the period to 2.34 billion euros ($3.1 billion) compared with a year ago, the report released at the VicenzaORO trade fair showed. In terms of quantity, exports rose 2.6 percent to 1,951 tonnes.
“The falling gold price definitely boosted volumes, but Italy has also done well in some of its key markets,” Andrea Beretta Zanoni, a professor at the University of Verona who helped to compile the report, told Reuters.
“We have seen some signs of a recovery before, but in this period they seem to be more sustainable, not a once-off.”
The value of Italian jewellery exports into the U.S. market rose 12 percent during the period. The value of products destined for the United Arab Emirates jumped 32 percent, while a 6 percent fall in the average gold price over the period supported volumes.
With the bullion price likely to remain under pressure and markets globally showing signs of a recovery, the positive export trend should continue into 2014, Beretta Zanoni said.
The UAE and Switzerland took more than 40 percent of Italy’s jewellery exports in value terms during the five months. France was the top importer in terms of quantity, taking nearly a quarter of all Italian export volumes.
A flat value of exports into China was partially compensated by a 20 percent jump in the value of shipments to Hong Kong, which also serves as a bridge into the Chinese market.
“Our exporters are present in China, but they don’t yet have strong commercial roots there. So we may have one quarter that goes well and then another that doesn’t,” he said.
The export figures, based on data from Italian statistics agency ISTAT, refer to all jewellery, including products based on gold, precious stone and other metals as well as bijouterie.
With about 70 percent of Italian jewellery sold abroad and the European country holding the third gold exporter spot in the world, export volumes are also an indication of precious metals consumption by the jewellery industry.
Italian jewellery used to dominate globally, but its share of export markets has shrunk over the past decade as rivals from China, India and Turkey have advanced. The global economic crisis also dealt a heavy blow.
Demand in the domestic market remains under pressure, producers at the fair said, as a prolonged recession and political uncertainty keep hurting consumers’ spending power.
The fair in Vicenza, a major jewellery manufacturing centre, will run until Sept. 11. ($1 = 0.7600 euros) (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)