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In good times or in bad, there always seems to be demand for collectible jewellery and watches. These items are valued for their beauty, history and rarity. They also serve as investments, particularly as hedges against adverse price movements.


This last point seems to be particularly important as turbulence in the Chinese stock markets this summer presented uncertainty to the world’s fastest growing economy and fastest growing jewellery and watch market.


The Antique & Vintage Jewellery Hall in September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair
The Antique & Vintage Jewellery Hall in September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair


“Many collectors that we work with in the mainland are still buying. If anything the pressure on the financial markets pushes collectors to invest more of their wealth into a hobby that they love and enjoy,” said Sam Hines, Phillips International Head of Watches, who is based in Hong Kong. “They also feel more comfortable having something with intrinsic value rather than a piece of paper that can suddenly be worth much less. Many collectors also say to us that they prefer having something to wear and enjoy which is hopefully increasing in value. The current market conditions I believe effect the buyer whom would only purchase one watch they see while browsing for other luxury goods. I think the current markets make those collecting a lot more focused and spend a little more wisely.”


Graeme Thompson, Bonhams Asia director of Jewellery, added, “Coloured stones are doing incredibly well. Vintage (pieces over 100 years old) and period jewellery (representing a specific time frame and style) markets are up. There are opportunities to be had.” He also notes that wealth is being created in China “unlike anywhere else in the world. That’s going to have a clear impact on collectible market in the next five to 10 years.”


The “Antique & Vintage Jewellery” section of the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair is perhaps the least talked about area of the show. This year, from my perspective it was among the busiest, if not the busiest, section of the show.


The Antique & Vintage Jewellery Hall in September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair


Prior to fair there was a sense that sales would be down based on recent headlines, but the exhibitors seemed to do quite well.


“The world press exaggerated the negative business in Asia,” Edward Faber, co-owner of Aaron Faber Gallery, said at his very active booth. The retailer specializes in vintage and period jewellery and timepieces and in contemporary studio jewellery.


Mr Faber said for both jewellery and watches, buyers are looking for unique, unusual pieces at a good price.


“Value is winning out in watches and motivating buyers,” he said.


Patricia Kiley Faber, the other half of the husband and wife team, said buyers are looking for jewellery they can “easily resell”. Also, one-of-a-kind pieces that are a bit different.


So when times are uncertain, collectors look to quality and uniqueness at a good price.

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In 2014, the raw materials section of the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair experienced large numbers of visitors. Final figures for the show haven’t been released yet but it appears that visitor numbers will be flat or slightly down for this section.

Held at the Asia World-Expo, this part of the show hosts the largest diamond pavilion in the world, the largest gemstone marketplace in Asia, a pavilion representing all of the major pearl regions. It also includes jewellery-making equipment and displays and boxes for jewels.


Opening day at the raw materials section of the show in the Asia World-Expo.
Opening day at the raw materials section of the show in the Asia World-Expo.


The diamond industry has this past year with a number of issues, including the difficulty of receiving credit, lower prices for diamonds and most importantly the slowdown in jewellery consumption in China. Going into the fair there were low expectations.


“The diamond industry in general, like a lot of other commodities, was geared toward rapid Chinese growth. Now things have slowed which created a lot of inventory,” Russell Shor, senior industry analyst with the Gemological Institute of America, said prior to the fair. “What you’re going to see is cautious buying and hard bargaining on prices. They have an idea of what they can sell for the year and they are not going to take a chance on buying anything extra…. It’s a buyer’s market.”


However, during the fair, he said most dealers “did better than expected.”


Ernie Blom, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, said in a statement the fair turned out to be good sign for dealers.


“The Hong Kong show, due to the global nature of its exhibitors, buyers and visitors, serves as a useful barometer of industry sentiment, so it is very promising that demand at the fair was stable.”


The most buzz among was around any exhibitor selling synthetic melee detectors.


In the coloured gem area, one observer said there appeared to more buyers from the US and Europe and fewer buyers from China.


Gary Roskin, executive director of the International Colored Gemstone Association, said about 100 members exhibiting in a pavilion managed by the organization, another 100 vendors in the 22 country pavilions and about 200 members attending as buyers.


“With the Chinese economy slowing down, our ICA members came in with modest expectations. However, like any trade show, some of our ICA exhibitors had very good shows despite the economic news. There were also a number of our members who were happy to see established clients return to place good orders, while a few ICA members mentioned actually meeting new clients who saved the show.”


He adds, “There were exhibitors who left without doing much business – but they expected that coming in. As an exhibitor, you have to be at the shows consistently, in good times and bad, so that you establish yourself as a reliable company.”


The most crowded part of the show was the equipment area, where throngs of people were viewing everything from 3D printers to finishing and polishing equipment.

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With 13 themed halls scattered on 5 floors and over 2000 vendors…The show at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) is indeed the largest gathering of jewellery vendors and buyers in the world. The only event that is larger is Tucson, but that is over 40 separate shows spread around an entire city focusing more on rocks and beads with very little of it dealing in high-end fine jewellery. The Hong Kong is all in one building and features the best of the best.




This venue can be difficult to navigate at first and is crowded but after a while I got the hang of it.  Even so, I still did not get to see all of it.  It may be possible to do a fast scan of everything but serious buyers will want to formulate a plan of attack to be sure you get your needs covered before you take the time to browse and explore.



The highlight of the show is the Hong Kong Premier Pavilion. This is where Hong Kong’s finest suppliers show their goods. The dazzling array of fine jewellery is a feast for the eyes and an essential shopping venue for any fine jewellery retailer. The one thing that impressed me the most about this hall was that at almost every booth people were busy writing orders. That is the most important hallmark of success for any show: doing a brisk business!


With the Asian and International Jewellery pavilions, virtually every country in the world was represented making this a truly global event.  It is a good reminder that our industry can set an example to rest of the world on how so many people of diverse cultures can get along and prosper through commerce and shared passions. It makes me proud to be in this business.


The Designers Gallery offers a chance for up and coming jewellery artists to show off their talents and make a name for themselves. Some of the work was absolutely stunning with innovative use of materials and unusual gemstones. Even though it is one of the smaller halls, it was certainly one of the most enjoyable.



I was pleased to see and entire section devoted to Antique and Vintage Jewellery. Most shows have a few booths scattered around dealing in Vintage goods but to find a show that dedicates space to celebrate the history of jewellery is special. This was one of the largest showings of the masterworks of our industry with jewellery by some of the finest and most recognized designers from days gone by.


By far, the most exciting section of the show for me is the Jadeite Gallery. Fine Jadeite is well known and popular in Asia, but scarce in the US. While there is some awareness of Jadeite carvings in fine antique stores, we rarely get a chance to experience the rich vibrancy of top quality Imperial Jadeite Jewellery or see the intense colours of fine Lavender Jadeite. I have always loved jadeite but seeing the magnificent stones at this show gave me an even deeper appreciation of this material.




Overall my impression of my first visit to the Hong Kong shows is mixed. I am not fond of long queues, huge crowds and confusion. This show has all three. Of course at an event this large, it is to be expected. I feel that the organizers worked very hard to make it as pleasant and efficient as possible.  Signage is good and information booths are everywhere. The staff was always eager to help and many of them are multi-lingual…a major asset in a global market. But what makes it all worthwhile to the ability to find virtually everything our industry has to offer in one place. Everyone in the jewellery business needs to visit this show at least once in their career and more than likely; they will want to attend again. I know I will.


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I took the free shuttle from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhiibtion Centre to the Asia World Expo. The location features loose coloured gemstones, loose diamonds, pearls, tools and equipment and packaging supplies. It also houses the Asia's Fashion Jewellery & Accessories Fair.

This venue is easy to navigate, consisting of two long side by side exhibition halls and two other halls in a different part of the building.  All of the exhibition spaces are on the lower level of the building and the upper level held support services such as food, information and security. 

As a total gem nerd, the Gemstone Pavilion is my favourite.  Over 700 vendors from every corner of the world showing everything from rough stones to finished gemstones.  I was especially thrilled to see several dealers from Brazil offering Paraiba Tourmalines from Mina da Batalha in the Federal Brazilian State of Paraiba.  There is a big difference in appearance and price between the Mozambique Cuprian Tourmaline (which I refuse to call Paraiba) and the real stuff.   True Paraiba Tourmaline is rare and spectacular.

I was happy to see a large selection of beads, one of the most profitable items a retail store can offer.    To keep things interesting there are plenty of carvings, sculptures and other decorative items as well.



September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair

September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair

With 455 dealers, the Diamond Pavilion is indeed the largest showing of diamonds on the planet.  If there is a particular diamond that you need…it can be found at this show.  There seemed to be quite a bit of interest at the vendors specializing in lab grown diamonds.  I think more people are catching on to this product line.


September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair

One of the busiest pavilions was Packaging, Tools & Equipment.  Most of the jewellery display materials, jewellery boxes and packaging in the industry come from China so this section was well represented with an amazing variety of unique items.  I was surprised to see more action in hand tools and gemmological equipment rather than a focus on Cad/Cam as seen in other shows.  This tells me that the art of hand crafting jewellery is alive and well.  I hope we never lose these traditional skills.


September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair

September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair

The molluscs of the world have been extremely busy.  The Pearl Pavilion contained a staggering amount of pearls in every size, shape and colour.  You could find inexpensive, yet very attractive and sellable freshwater pearls all the way to the extreme high end of well matched strands with prices well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.


September Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair

I will admit that I did not fully explore the Asia's Fashion Jewellery & Accessories Fair. By the time I got to it, I was exhausted. It features several very important product lines that are essential in today’s tight economy.  Most high-end customers still enjoy fashion jewellery.

Non-precious jewellery is tremendously popular, hitting price-points that virtually all consumers can handle.  I did notice a good selection of piercing and body jewellery.  This is a product category that is growing by leaps and bounds as Millennials, who are into piercing all parts of their bodys, is looking for unique was to express their individuality.  There are also many good side-line products such as purses, belts and other fashionable non-jewellery items that can add variety and profits to a retail jeweller.

My only regret is that I didn’t have time to spend a few days exploring this venue.  There is so much to see and it is well worth the time and effort to fully experience this part of the show.


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India’s Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi during his recent visit to the US said, “We have moved on from scriptures to satellites. The world has now started to believe that the 21st century belongs to India. We offer 3Ds to the world i.e. Demographic dividend, Democracy and Demand. I would like to add one more D and i.e. De-regulation. My policy is that the government has no business to be in business.”

Surely then the global industrial leaders must be aspiring to take the advantage of India’s huge market size and its cheap, educated and young workforce as well as purchasing power of economically swelling middle class. The global diamond industry which has been passing through a bad phase these days is also hopeful for its recovery through Indian markets.
The mining giant De beers has set its eyes on India’s huge and growing young consumers. In its recently published ‘Insight Report’ the company has made a special mention of India upon which the global diamond industry is depending to regain its lost shine.

India!On the other hand, now coloured gemstone miners and traders are also keen to explore Indian markets where consumers’ preferences are changing. New trends and preferences are emerging among jewellery consumers of India. Coloured gemstones are back in fashion, with more jewellery pieces studded by rubies, sapphires and emeralds are seen replacing plain and natural diamond studded jewellery.

Earlier in July 2015, Gemfields had unveiled its plans to aggressively explore Indian markets of coloured gemstones. Mr. Dev Shetty, COO of Gemfields says, “India has remained a key market place for Gemfields and will continue to be one of our main focus regions in future. We enjoy 20% of the Indian market share of coloured gemstones at present and now we are looking at increasing it to 30% in 3 to 5 years."

But use of coloured gemstones in Indian jewellery is only 1% in the country’s USD 40 billion domestic jewellery industry. Mr. Shetty says, "In order to increase this market share in India, we are planning to build a brand to sell the gemstones. We also want to make the consumers aware about the benefits of certification and establish transparency that will lead to consumer confidence. Gemfields spends 15-20% on its marketing in India.”

Even Thailand is keen to resume the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India under which the country used to export its gemstone studded jewellery @ 1% duty only. But now India has banned jewellery imports from Thailand for so called ‘misuse’ of the incentive by some Indian traders under FTA till retroactive check is conducted by the Thai side. Indian authorities also argued that the ban was necessitated as it was ‘harming’ the domestic jewellery industry.

Vice President of the Thai Gem & Jewellery Traders’ Association (TGJTA) and Indian-Thai Diamond & Colorstone Association Mr. Atul Jogani says, “I do not understand how the jewellery imports from Thailand under FTA can harm India’s domestic jewellery industry which has a size of almost USD 25 billion. Thailand’s jewellery export to India is worth USD 174 million only. I don’t know why Indian businessmen are so afraid of this. If you have strength, should this small amount of imports from Thailand affect your business? I don’t think so, because it is just like a small drop of water in the ocean!”

‘We are here to compete and not to harm anyone’s interest. So we are keen to resume bi-lateral ties between the two countries under FTA. India is a huge market place for jewellery and has great potentials for coloured gemstones also. When Indian culture, food, costumes and festivals are varied in colours, why is India’s jewellery white? Thailand’s precious gemstone and jewellery industry has matured up in recent years. Besides, the coloured gemstones provide a cheaper option in comparison with natural diamonds.”

So, it is rightly said by Mr. Modi that India used to be placed under margin earlier, now every foreign country puts India in central place for its developmental plans.



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