Gold prices hit another record high yesterday and the U.S. dollar continued to reach new lows against the currencies of Japan and Switzerland.
But a survey of American gold users and buyers showed that while retail prices of gold also are rising , the rate of increase has not been so dramatic as that of gold bullion traded in London. Thus, the recent sharp increase in gold trading prices has not yet affected consumers significantly.
In London yesterday, gold reached a record high of $207.50 an ounce in the morning before profit taking reduced the metal's price to $205.20 at the afternoon "fixing" - still a jump of 21 percent in three months.
Late gold trading in New York yesterday showed little buying interest as prices declined in heavy trading. The $201.20-$202 last night and some dealers said there was nervousness ahead of today's auction by the International Monetary Fund of 470,000 ounces of gold.
The dollar hit a new low of 187.95 yen in Tokyo, down from the Monday closing of 190.80. The U.S. currency was quoted at a record low of 1,7275 Swiss francs in New York but showed strength in late trading in Europe and against other curriencies.
Most dealers interviewed by news services around the world yesterday said they expected the dollar's decline to continue against the yen. But how high the price of gold will soar before leveling off or declining is a matter of wide dispute.
Of all the gold bought and sold in this country during 1977, approximately a third was used for commercial and artistic rather than investment purposes. According to the Bureau of Mines, the total gold supply in the U.S. last was 17.3 million Troy ounces while demand was 14.6 million. The difference is believed to have been absorbed by investors seeking the security that physical possession of ingots and coins can bring.
Demand for jewelry, electronics, dentistry and trinkets totaled 4.9 million ounces of gold in 1977. By far the largest amount (56 percent) went into bodily and household adornments. Electronic circuitry took up another 28 percent, while 15 percent, went to replace or support teeth. Gold medallions of the type produced by the Franklin Mint and other commercial mints accounted for only one percent.
The retail prices of items containing gold have been affected by its rise in price but the increases have not been commensurate. Thus is because many other factors besides the price of the raw material affect a finished product's price and because many artists and industrialists now are working with gold bought some time ago at lower prices.
For example, Tiffany's most popular item, a simple yellow gold wedding band that sold for $29 a year ago, now costs $34, an increase of 17 percent. In that year the spot price of gold increased 42 percent.
Henry B. Platt, Tiffany's president, said yesterim day the store has not increased its jewelry prices since January. An increase last fall was triggered by inflation, he said. Diamonds and other precious stones acutally have increased more than gold. But the higher prices have not deterred customers. Tiffany's sales are up 20 percent this year, and as usual, nearly three quarters of the volume is in jewelry.
At the other end of the sale is Ann Taussig, who recently set up business in Charlotte, N.C., as a goldsmith. Yet her conclusions are similar to Platt's. "The client is not concerned about gold prices; he or she wants the jewelry as an investment. If you're to buy a gold band just because it costs a few dollars more, she said yesterday.
Taussig did note that more people are buying 18 karat gold, which has more of the precious metal than the 14 karat usually sold in this country.
Gold is valued in circuitry for its ability to conduct electricity. According to Electronics News, a trade publication, manufacturers of semiconductors and hybrid circuits began selling their products a few years ago with escalator clauses instead of fixed less gold and to substitute paladium, gold prices has had relatively little effect. The gold content of a $500 television set costs perpahs $2 or $3.
Gold price increases have been less of a pain for the dental profession as a result of new technology. New materials, including alloys with lower gold ginning to replace traditional gold for crowns, said Peter Jenkins of J.M. Ney, a dental supplier in Bloomfield, Conn.