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Pearls and Fancy Diamonds Dominate at Hong Kong Jewellery Fairs

Mainland buyers led the charge when it came to buying premium pearls at this year's twin Hong Kong jewellery events, the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show and the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show.

Photo: Twin attractions: The HKTDC’s two jewellery events.
Twin attractions: The HKTDC's two jewellery events.
Photo: Twin attractions: The HKTDC’s two jewellery events.
Twin attractions: The HKTDC's two jewellery events.

A record number of exhibitors and a significant increase in visitor numbers marked a good year for two of Hong Kong's largest jewellery events. There was also a reassuringly upbeat sentiment among Chinese mainland buyers, with many of them showing a particular interest in high-quality pearls. Overall, this acted to allay fears that the continuing economic uncertainties in Europe and the US might act to weigh the sector down.

In all, the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show and its sister event, the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, welcomed a record 4,360 exhibitors from 52 countries and regions. The two also attracted more than 76,000 buyers from 140 countries and regions – up 2% on last year.

Commenting on the success of the event, Benjamin Chau, Deputy Executive Director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the organiser of the two shows, said: "Despite the global economic challenge, the two shows recorded a slight increase in buyer attendance – it is very encouraging. Attendance from some traditional markets even recorded double-digit percentage growth – notably the US, Italy, the UK and Japan. Attendance from certain emerging markets such as Thailand, Israel and South Africa also showed significant growth, reinforcing Hong Kong's position as a leading jewellery sourcing hub."

Among the new innovations this year, the Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show introduced a dedicated "Treasures of the Ocean" zone to showcase high quality pearls. According to Jose Casares, Director of Swiss pearl wholesaler Shanghai Gems S.A., mainland customers are particularly interested in natural, top-grade pearls, a development that has helped boost his company's growth in China.

Another beneficiary here was Japan's Shin Yu Co, which had on display a selection of Japanese Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls and Tahitian pearls. Yuya Takimura, one of the company's Managers, said: "We have special expertise in big, baroque and top-quality pearls. We sell to all, including end-users. Our showpiece stranded pearl necklace is made up of unusually large Japanese Akoya pearls. These are 11mm in diameter, as opposed to the regular smaller sizes."

Another dedicated pearl impresario was Alain Boite, President of France's Alain Boite S.A.S. Overall, he was optimistic with regard to Asia's emerging markets and was hopeful of reaching new international buyers through the shows.

He said: "We've achieved good business at the shows this year. Many customers approached us to buy all sorts of pearls in different sizes. We've met some new buyers from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Indonesia as well. The demand for gold pearls is especially strong."

Among diamond suppliers, it was fancy shaped stones that proved popular this year. Maya Alush, Marketing Manager of Israel's Y. Dvash, said: "We are able to supply square, round and fancy shaped stones worldwide, on time, and within budget. We also have an affinity with the Asian market, as the business culture here is precise and direct, aligning with just how we like to do things."

Photo: Alain Boite’s latest pearl range.
Alain Boite's latest pearl range.
Photo: Alain Boite’s latest pearl range.
Alain Boite's latest pearl range.
Photo: Jadeite from On Tung Co.
Jadeite from On Tung Co.
Photo: Jadeite from On Tung Co.
Jadeite from On Tung Co.

As well as a proliferation of fancy cut gems, this year's shows saw the notable inclusion of organic jewels. Italy's Di Donna Ciro supplies red/precious coral in different diameters, all said to be of fine quality and expertly manufactured. Another coral supplier is Taiwanese company Dartory Coral Inc, which claims to have the largest red and pink coral manufacturing site in the world, producing items ranging from Buddhist paraphernalia (such as prayer beads) to artistic works.

A variety of jadeite, long one of Asia's favourite precious stones, was on offer from On Tung Co, a Hong Kong-based company that has been specialising in the stone since 1973. The company currently offers fine jadeite (fei cui), an extremely rare natural stone found in northern Myanmar. Fine jadeite is said to give off a subtle glow that appears to radiate from within the gem, supposedly illuminating the unique inner beauty of the stone.

The Jewellery Show saw a predominance of finished pieces across a wide variety of other precious stones and metals, aside from jadite. Among the more notable exhibitors here was Athens-based Thyreos Vassiliki, with the company showcasing a range that fetchingly referenced Greek antiquity, including rings styled as hoplite helmets and a choker that resembled laurel leaves. Waskoll, a French high-end jewellery supplier, also had a notably wide range on offer, covering everything from wedding rings to necklaces.

Hong Kong's Hatta New World Co Ltd, meanwhile, was showing its range of the elegant blue-green gemstone, paraibas. According to some industry experts, these are among the most exciting stones on the market, largely thanks to their rarity and unique, saturated colours, which range from greenish-blue to violet.

From slightly further afield, I.B. Goodman, a US firm specialising in men's jewellery, was in town to showcase its patented Hollow Core technique. This is a system that enables rings to be crafted with the same look, quality and durability as traditional pieces, but with a reduced weight.

The show also played host to an array of jewellery box manufacturers and distributors. Hong Kong's Samding Craftwork Group (HK) Ltd, for instance, was promoting its wide range of elegant containers, all manufactured at its 12,000 square metre Dongguan facility.

Representing the mainland, Shenzhen's Polucy Clock & Watch Co Ltd had brought its range of middle- to high-level timepieces to Hong Kong. As well as producing its own-branded items, the company also accepts original equipment manufacture (OEM) orders from local and overseas customers.

A number of companies, such as American Gemological Laboratories (AGL), were promoting on-site testing. At present, AGL provides detailed identification and enhancement reports, country-of-origin reports, as well as complete coloured-stone analysis documents. The company's New York laboratory is said to be equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation and applies standard gemological, as well as advanced analytical, techniques to each testing request it undertakes.

Apart from a high-level of quality products, Sivana Diamonds CC of South Africa also aims to incorporate elements of social responsibility into its supply chain. Sivana employs individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, aiming to empower them by transferring skills and knowledge to ensure that they have a future in the industry, as well as providing sustainable development that benefits employees, employers and customers alike.

Photo: Thyreos Vassiliki: Greek antiquity reborn.
Thyreos Vassiliki: Greek antiquity reborn.
Photo: Thyreos Vassiliki: Greek antiquity reborn.
Thyreos Vassiliki: Greek antiquity reborn.
Photo: Hatta New World Co’s paraibas range.
Hatta New World Co's paraibas range.
Photo: Hatta New World Co’s paraibas range.
Hatta New World Co's paraibas range.

Many of Sivana's offerings are created in partnership with Keith White, a designer who has worked with both Cartier and Graaf. The company now has three polishing factories, each with 30 benches, with offices in several major cities, including Johannesburg and Miami.

Almost 30,000 buyers attended the HKTDC Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show, held at AsiaWorld-Expo from 2-6 March, while more than 46,000 visited the HKTDC Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 4-8 March.

Marvin Wallace, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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