In Kurdistan: Gold Shoes, Gold Daggers and Gold Kalashnikovs

December 13, 2013 at 10:10


Goldsmiths in Erbil report growing demand from women for  jewelry that can be worn on the legs or feet, necklaces so large they have to be imported and even gold shoes. Not to be left out, male clients want their favorite dagger, pistol or Kalashnikov plated in gold.

The Kurdistan Region’s growing economic prosperity, the gnawing rich-poor gap and changing tastes in fashion are all on display at Kurdistan’s glittering gold markets.

Statistics show that over the past 10 months some 96 tons of gold were imported into Kurdistan, with more than 58 tons going to Sulaimani, nearly 39 tons ending up in Erbil and only some 1.7 tons going to markets in Duhok.

A portion of the imports also goes to Iraqi markets outside Kurdistan, jewelers say, placing the total value of imported gold for the 10-month period at a whopping $10 billion.

Meanwhile, economists warn that that gold is the main source of capital flight from Kurdistan.

A recent drop in gold prices has encouraged demand for more sophisticated jewelry among women in Kurdistan, jewelers say.

“Now we make valuable necklaces that weigh from 30 to 60 misqal (139 to 278 grams), said Erbil jeweler Bayar Akram. “We also make bracelets which cost $4,500.

”There is a lot of demand for very wide necklaces,” he said. “

We import them from India because they are too sophisticated to be made locally, and they cost around $10,000. There is also demand for a special necklace known locally as Gobarak, and gold belts for women that cost more than $10,000 each,” he added.

Akram reported “a huge demand for gold shoes by women recently,” saying a pair would set back buyers by around $18,500.

Islamic Shariah laws discourage men from wearing gold, but jewelers say that has not stopped male clients from starting their own glittering trend.

“Some of the gentlemen bring their pistol, dagger or Kalashnikov and ask for gold plating,” Akram said, placing the cost for such work from $1,000 to $40,000 dollars. “Most of the demand for such gold plating is for daggers,” the jeweler explained.

Jewelers claim that, instead of helping business, the drop in gold prices and the growing demand have not necessarily been good. They complain that there are now so many gold shops that businesses are often unable to compete, and some have gone bankrupt.

Bakir Aziz, Director of Jewelry Quality Control, told Rudaw that in the last 10 months 110 goldsmiths have received licenses, 60 in Erbil, 28 in Sulaimani, and 22 in Duhok.

Gold prices have dropped significantly this year, from 310,000 Iraqi dinars per misqal (4.6 grams) in the beginning of this year to 220,000 dinars later in the year.

Economist Wishiyar Marouf said that putting money into gold means that capital that could have been invested to generate income and jobs becomes frozen.

“This is freezing capital. Instead of putting this money into investment we are freezing it,” he told Rudaw.

He claimed that the trend toward gold indicates a lack of public trust in the local economy, and means that capital is flowing out of Kurdistan into markets where the gold is bought.

“If the price of gold drops we will lose a great deal,” Marouf warned.