ISTANBUL (Reuters) – High and volatile world gold prices curbed Turkey’s gold jewelry exports in 2006, but sector officials think the worst is over and are optimistic for this year. Gold jewelry exports from Turkey, the world’s second-largest exporter after Italy, fell to 85.8 tons, down 22.4 percent from the previous year’s 110.6 tons, data showed on Tuesday. In financial terms, exports edged down 1.9 percent to $980.8 million, compared with $1.0 billion in 2005. «In 2006, the drastic rise in gold’s value led customers and producers to postpone their demand,» Mutlu Oktem, secretary-general of the Istanbul Precious Metals Exporters’ Association, told Reuters. He sees prices remaining high in 2007 but still expected a better year than 2006. «We will speed up on fairs, promotion and marketing activities… Our export target in total jewelry in 2007 is $1.5 billion and is $1.2 billion for gold jewelry alone,» he added. Turkey’s total jewelry exports reached $1.17 billion in 2006, up 8.67 percent from 1.08 billion in 2005, exporters’ data showed.