Whitney Court usually buys her mom flowers for Mother's Day, but
this year she's selected a gift that won't wilt: a silver necklace.
It cost $165, about double the price of a dozen roses delivered. But Court, a nanny who lives in Celebration, Fla., said she's working more hours and feeling more financially secure.
"I'd rather spend a little bit more money and get her something she can keep than something she's going to throw away in a week," Court said of her gift for mom's special day, which is May 12 this year.
More than a third of Americans plan to join Court in buying jewelry as a Mother's Day gift, according to a National Retail Federation survey _ the highest percentage in the survey's nine-year history. Spending on necklaces, bracelets, rings and charms is expected to total $4.2 billion, up from $3.7 billion last year.
In general, spending on jewelry in the U.S. has been on the rise after dipping during the worst of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009. Sales reached $71.5 billion in 2012, compared with $67.3 billion in 2011, according to the Jewelers of America trade association.
"It seems to be the storm has passed, and everyone's in better mood," said Elliott Leavitt, owner of Swalstead Jewelers in downtown Orlando.
His high-end store saw a 25 percent sales jump in Valentine's Day sales. Hoping for similar increases this Mother's Day, Swalstead will host a show Thursday where a designer will feature an expanded product line.
As sales have increased, new stores have moved into Metro Orlando. Pandora, a chain that specializes in charms, has opened shops in centers including Mall at Millenia and Altamonte Mall. On Park Avenue in Winter Park, Fla., new shops include Alex and Ani, which sells adjustable charm jewelry, and Filthy Rich Jewelry.
Filthy Rich is a Winter Park-based company that sells replicas of pieces that celebrities wear. It now has 13 stores.
"Sales started to increase around the middle of last year, and they've been getting better every single month," said its founder, President Mike Shurtleff.
Filthy Rich's average creation runs $60 to $80, Shurtleff said, although some cost as little as $10.
Mother's Day still pales in comparison to Christmas. Though December generates almost a quarter of the jewelry industry's sales, May accounts for only 8 percent.
Retailers are trying to squeeze a little more out of the holiday, though.
"We're definitely seeing an increase in jewelers putting money into marketing and advertising to get the word out," said Amanda Gizzi, Jewelers of America spokeswoman.
Helzberg Diamonds will give $100 spa gift cards to customers who spend at least $400. Shoppers who spend at least $100 on Charmed Memories products at Kay Jewelers today will get a bracelet worth $44.
Charms have become particularly popular, Gizzi said.
"They are very easy for people to give as a gift," she said. "They're a low-cost gift when you can just give one charm."
Cynthia Ramirez of Orlando sells jewelry through Silpada, a direct-sales company similar to Tupperware and Mary Kay. She has sold at least $1,500 worth for Mother's Day this year, compared with $500 last year.
One sales technique has become easier during the economic recovery. For a while, Ramirez said, salons were reluctant to hold lucrative sales parties because they feared competition for scarce dollars. Now, she said, they are willing to participate again.
One theme jewelers are pushing is that their gifts are investments. Leavitt of Swalstead said travel agents are his biggest competitors, but he urges potential customers to remember that jewelry lasts long after a vacation glow has faded.
At his shop, pieces cost anywhere from $300 to $8,000 _ a big investment.
But "I think the way the economy has been, people realize families are so important," he said. "And I think that mother thing is just super, super strong. You've only got one mother, and you'd better celebrate what you've got."
(c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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