"October and November import figures were much higher than usual and the December figures reflect a reversion to the mean," Holmes. "On the year, gold imports from Hong Kong were up over 250 percent from 2010, that doesn't sound like a slowdown in demand."

According to HSBC, dealers in China said that jewelry demand grew 10%-20% during the lunar New Year, steeply down from the 30% growth rate in 2010. "The weak consumer demand is seen as a byproduct of uncertainty over global growth," wrote James Steel, analyst at HSBC, in a recent note.

Holmes, on the flip side, said figures were stronger than that "the Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce reported last week that sales of precious metals jumped nearly 50% from the same time last year during China's week-long New Year's holiday in January."

With the International Monetary Fund warning of slower Chinese growth this year, Chinese gold demand remains a dicey support for higher gold prices. If China's trade surplus narrows, the government could possible crack down on gold imports as a way to curb the inequity. "Barring any changes to China's monetary policy, renewed eurozone weakness may impact China's growth, which may curb demand for gold jewelry," says Steel. 'Barring any changes' is the key part of that statement, however, as any signs of significant growth slowing could trigger monetary easing, which is good for gold as people look for a safe place to store wealth.

Gold mining stocks were struggling Tuesday. Kinross Gold ( KGC) was down slightly at $11.11 while Randold Resources ( GOLD) was 2.66% lower at $114.87.

Other gold stocks, Agnico-Eagle ( AEM) and Eldorado Gold ( EGO) were trading lower at $36.41 and $14.58, respectively.

-- Written by Alix Steel in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Alix Steel.

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