“YOU START CRYING”
Gold has immense financial and cultural significance in India — it is considered essential at weddings, birthdays and religious ceremonies, and also seen as a safe asset that can be transferred from one generation to the next.
Indians bought 315.9 tonnes of gold-use jewellery in 2020, almost as much as the Americas, Europe and the Middle East combined, according to the World Gold Council. Only China bought more.
Indian households are estimated to be sitting on 24,000 tonnes – worth US$1.5 trillion – in coins, bars and jewellery.
“It is the only social security for the woman or any household because there is no such social security programme from the government,” said Dinesh Jain, director at the All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council.
“Gold is like liquid cash,” he told AFP. “You encash it in at any time of the day and night.”
Kumar Jain, 63, whose family has run a shop in Mumbai’s historic Zaveri Bazaar for 106 years, says he has never seen so many people coming to sell.
“It wasn’t like this before the pandemic,” he told AFP.
Jain says his customers – predominantly women – have sold a vast array of personal jewellery in recent months including gold bangles, rings, necklaces and earrings.
“The worst part is when they sell their ‘mangalsutra’,” he said.
That necklace “is a sign of a married woman. You start crying when she takes off the ‘mangalsutra’ from her neck and says, ‘Give me money for this’. That’s the worst scenario.”
Jogani, the garment business owner in Mumbai, was able to find some breathing space by selling some of her jewellery.
In exchange for her eight bangles, a small necklace and a few rings, she got 200,000 rupees (US$2,695) in cash.
“Earlier, I would neglect these things when my mother used to tell me that ‘you have to save in gold’,” Jogani said.
“But now I … know. Everyone should save in gold.”