Israel's jewelry industry has sparkled over the past two decades, with sales more than doubling as exports rose and more local households made purchases. The country's jewelry industry generated some $517 million in sales in 2005, representing a rise of approximately $300m. from sales levels in 1985, the diamond, precious stone and jewelry division of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry said on Wednesday, ahead of next week's Jovella 2007 Jewelry Exhibition. In 2005, the report noted, some 300,000 Israeli households, equalling 16 percent of the country's total number of households, purchased jewelry items for a total of NIS 950m., or an average purchase of NIS 254, while the country exported approximately $500m. worth of jewelry products. The report also pointed out that over the first half of 2007, 49 percent of Israeli women made purchases of jewelry products, of which 60% were for less than NIS 200, while only 5% were above NIS 2,000. "The success of the country's jewelry sector stems from a number of sources," an official at the Israel Export Institute told The Jerusalem Post. "Jewelry from Israel is duty-free to North America, Europe and other areas; it is affordable; it is artistically diverse as Israel boasts immigrants from over 70 countries, each of whom bring unique ideas, styles and techniques; Israel is one of the world's leading sources of polished diamonds - which helps to keep prices low and jewelry produced in Israel is of high quality." Despite the success of 2005's jewelry exports, however, the sector experienced a sharp drop-off in 2006, only exporting $390m. worth of jewelry. Officials in the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry could not explain the reasons for the downturn, even noting that following the Second Lebanon War, local jewelry manufacturers were able to retain most of their customers. The Jovella Exhibition, one of the world's largest jewelry trade shows, will display products from 120 Israeli jewelry manufacturers, and is expected to attract some of the most well-known names in the international jewelry scene, including Marciano Castro, the director of the Vicenzaoro Exhibition, Europe's largest jewelry trade show. According to the Industry, Trade and Labor report, Israel employed 3,745 workers at 218 jewelry factories across the country in 2005, with the average factory employing 10 workers. Separately, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry reported this week that Israel's exports of polished diamonds rose 8.6% in June to $342m. on a year-on-year comparison, while polished diamond imports rose 8.9%% to $351m. during the same period. Rough diamond exports were up 74.5% compared with last year, totaling $341m., while imports of rough stones increased of 23.9% in June to $488m. From the beginning of the year, polished diamond exports rose 6.1% compared with the same period in 2006, totaling $3.6 billion, while polished imports increased 5.4%.