“Not all what glitters is gold!” This saying completely applies to the Chinese gold-plated ornaments, known among Egyptians as
“Chinese gold,” currently becoming more popular in Egypt amid price hikes of real gold.
Many Egyptians, particularly women, make their way to the well-known Haret al-Yahud (the Jewish Alley) of Old Cairo’s Al-Gamaliya district to find Chinese gold-plated ornaments sometimes as alternative to the far-fetched real gold ones.
“I have been visiting this store for about three years. Chinese gold-plated ornaments grew more popular over the past few years due to their high quality and creative designs,” said Heba, a housewife in her late 20s.
She added that she visits the store mainly because of the attractive and classy designs of the ornaments.
“They are just like real gold accessories.”
The price hike and instability in the gold market due to relevant US dollar rate hikes in Egypt have led to more popularity of the comparably cheaper Chinese gold-plated ornaments.
“Some women also sell their real gold ornaments due to financial distress and they buy cheap Chinese gold-plated replacements, which have become popular with growing stores, online shopping ads, social media groups, etc,” the lady told Xinhua.
The two-storey SSMAGR store in the heart of the alley displayed a variety of Chinese gold-plated ornaments including earrings, necklaces, bracelets, collets and many others, with a dozen of customers shopping around.
Girgis Shenouda Antonius, manager of SSMAGR, said that Egypt used to produce gold-plated ornaments, but it stopped to develop the industry.
“China created a machine called vacuum plating, which makes the plate layer durable. So, we make very attractive designs here in Egypt and go to China to get their gold-plated copies,” the manager told Xinhua.
He added that they pay much attention to the design, which leads to a final product with a very attractive design and very low price that looks like real gold.
“Women love ornaments. As long as there are women, our accessories have good sales,” Antonius told Xinhua with a confident smile.
George Sabry, 25, a salesman at the Chinese gold-plated accessories store, said that their store receives customers from all social classes, including the upper class, due to the various collections of their ornaments.
“The dollar hike raised the ‘Chinese gold’ prices by at least 30 percent, causing a little decline of sales, whereas some real gold stores either completely shut down or changed their business to Chinese gold-plated accessories,” he added.
Due to economic recession and declining foreign currency reserves, Egypt has recently devaluated its local currency to maintain a stable dollar price, which has risen from 8.85 pounds to 15 or 16 pounds in the official market.
In ever-crowded 20 Street in Giza’s Faisal district, Mahmoud Heeba Jewelry store was among the real gold stores that managed to survive the instability of gold prices despite the decline of sales.
“A lot of gold stores were unable to endure these large drops. One kg of gold now costs over half a million pounds, which can start a good business in any other field, but not the gold one,” said Ibrahim Heeba, a manager at the store.
Heeba explained that those who buy gold get worried when gold prices are unstable, adding that the amount of traded gold also gets lower due to the price hikes.
Rana Ahmed, a housewife in her early 30s, took a look at the displayed ornaments in the store but decided to buy later until she had enough money.
“I am very disturbed by the price hikes. In the past, if I had 2,000 pounds, I can buy some nice pieces of gold, but now 2,000 get nothing satisfactory. A nice ring now exceeds 6,000 pounds,” she lamented.
As for salesman Amr Abdel-Rahman, he said that the instability of gold price makes customers think twice before they buy,
“fearing they may buy something today and its price gets lower tomorrow.”
“We hope things will get better soon and we are looking forward to the refreshment of our industry,” the salesman told Xinhua.