Unlike the Europeans, Britons are quite happy to buy nine carat gold which does not look much different from 18 or 22 carat but a great deal cheaper.
Up till about 30 years ago, jewellery shops in Britain were rather intimidating places for the average wage-earner to enter.
Gerald Ratner, who runs a chain of Ratners throughout the country realised the market potential of people who like gold but could not afford to pay the full whack like for Italian jewellery. He revolutionised not only the type of gold jewellery but also his shop fronts, making them very approachable. Rather like a gold supermarkets where hundreds of chains, rings and other baubles are displayed unpretentiously in glass windows and with prices in full view. He struck the mother lode. Today, casual shoppers wandering into Ratner are likely to emerge with purchases that would not set them back a fortune.
Other bespoke goldsmiths use 18 carat and apply the repousse technique used by the Europeans where gold is beaten and formed by hand. There is a market for this range albeit a small one, but the prices make up the difference. A simple bangle can cost upwards of $10,000.
Old Bond Street where the swank jewellers are is a far cry from Oxford Street where Ratner is as upfront as Marks & Spencer, price and facade-wise. Someone buying a $100 necklace gets as much aesthetic pleasure as another who forks out 10 times this amount.