Gold Jewelers of Santorini Suffer in the Sun
Source: Reuters, Jeremy Gaunt (7/6/11)
"It's hard to feel too sorry for anyone living on the beautiful Greek isle, but its gold jewelers are getting hammered from all sides."
It's hard to feel too sorry for the gold jewelers of Santorini. Times may be hard, but they do live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
The collapse of the Greek economy has done nothing to stop the sun glinting off the sparkling lagoon of this idyllic island in the Aegean Sea.
Nor has harsh austerity to avoid debt default obscured the famously romantic sunset viewed from a volcanic rim festooned with iconic white houses and tiny blue-domed churches.
The cruise ships are still here, and the other tourists are coming back after several years of poor attendance.
But along the ancient rim, or caldera, some of Santorini's best-known contemporary residents—the gold jewelers—are getting hammered from all sides.
Greek austerity means higher taxes for the sellers and greater scrutiny from the authorities. U.S. economic weakness means careful American tourists are using dollars that make euro prices look alarmingly high.
And seemingly insatiable world demand for gold means the prices of the jewellers' main stock is now in the stratosphere.
"People don't want to spend money," said Nikolaos Papadeas, owner of four shops on the island and a more than 40-year veteran of the Greek jewelry trade.
A competitor in an upmarket shop further down Ipapantis Street—commonly known as "Gold Street"—sat amongst his Baccarat and Lalique with barely a buyer in sight.
"If you were on this street five to 10 years ago you would have seen about 30% more jewelry shops," said owner Yiannis Mendrinos, who focused on selling upscale glassware and crystal to try and make ends meet.
He pointed across the road to a clothes shop that was once a bustling venue selling gold chains, rings and earrings.