The Chinese are buying less gold this year and demand during the Golden Week holidays that began on 1 May dropped some 30% from a year ago, according to a leading bullion exchange.

After an extraordinary year for gold sales in 2013, the situation is back to something like 2012, according to Haywood Cheung, president of the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society.

While China beat India as the biggest bullion consumer last year, the buying craze triggered by a price slump last April has not been repeated, according to Heraeus Metals Hong Kong.

"Before, when they walk into a jewellery shop, they spend about HK$10,000 ($1,290), and now it's about HK$5,000 to HK$6,000," Cheung told Bloomberg, quoting estimates by the society's 171 members including HSBC Holdings and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, the largest listed jewelry chain.

"Last year was something special. We're back to something like 2012. Wait till next year, we'll start to pick up gradually and come back to 2013 levels," Cheung added.

Beijing's anti-corruption drive, which has targeted luxury spending and gift-giving, has dented gold demand this year, Dick Poon, general manager at Heraeus, told Bloomberg last week.

Chinese gold and silver jewellery sales dropped 30% to 20.8bn yuan ($3.3bn, €2.4bn, £1.9bn) in April from a year ago, according to government data.

Net gold imports into mainland China from Hong Kong hovered at 275.6 tonnes in the first three months of 2014 as against 210.5 tonnes in the corresponding period a year ago.

Swiss Exports

More than 80% of Switzerland's gold and silver bullion and coin exports found their way into Asia in January, the Swiss Federal Customs Administration said on 20 February, the first breakdown of gold-trade data since 1980.

China imported nearly 1,160 tonnes of gold from Hong Kong in 2013 in the wake of the price slump. Gold consumption in China hovered at a record 1,176.4 tonnes last year.

Gold prices crashed 28% in 2013 to end a 12-year rally as the US Federal Reserve prepared to pare its monthly bond buying stimulus.

The flow of bullion from the west to the east was emphasised by the World Gold Council in November 2013, citing higher activity at refiners in Switzerland that were recasting bullion into the higher-purity, smaller-sized bars preferred by Asian buyers.