26 June 2008
Clear Winners(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 03,2008)
Crystal Figures & Crafts
Whether chosen for practical purposes, as a celebratory trophy or gift, crystal figures and crafts offer an enduring beauty
The age-old art form established in England more than 400 years ago is still going strong today, with numerous glass houses around the world offering an exhaustive selection of attractive items.
As one of the world's leading gifts and premiums manufacturing centres, Hong Kong is deservedly at the forefront of the current explosion of interest in crystal figures and crafts.
Established in Hong Kong in 1987, CW Crystal Ltd produces a plethora of crystal products that includes key rings, clocks and lamps, as well as uniquely crafted items that serve as celebratory gifts on important occasions.
The company's wholly-owned 5,000-square-metre factory in Hejian, Shenzhen, on the Chinese mainland, houses more than 100 craftsmen and numerous 3D laser machines that produce many items made from world-class lead crystal.
However, many of the company's clients in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan prefer crystal products crafted from optical glass, explains Account Manager Daniel Zhou. "Optical glass is brighter and more transparent than full-lead crystal, which tends to be more yellow in colour," he explains.
Popular items such as the 108x100x123mm crystal piano (model 1155) and the 120x40x93mm ship (model 1290) are both crafted from optical glass for maximum transparency and utmost appeal on desktops or sideboards.
"Our clients include Fortune 500 companies, governments and leading international banks and financial institutes, as well as different products and services companies," Mr Zhou adds.
A similarly impressive clientele patronises Green Field Arts Ltd, which specialises in a variety of materials including crystal and develops OEM and ODM - from conception and production to shipping.
"During our 12-year history, we have produced items for such demanding customers as Hollywood movie studios, professional sports teams, large retailers, athletic leagues and multinational corporations," notes Manager Ray Wong.
The company's clients in the US, Australia and France are fuelling an increase in demand for Green Field's crystal animals, popular examples of which include a crystal unicorn (model GF105) and a pair of dolphins (model GF142).
"We can create designs, but most of our customers come to us with a specific idea," Mr Wong explains, adding that creating each crystal animal is a "lengthy" process.
The initial design is made into a clay model for the client to approve before an aluminium mould is filled with liquid crystal and fired at high temperature for 60-90 minutes.
The liquid turns into solid crystal as it cools, after which the shape is removed and then polished. "Many customers prefer optical glass to lead crystal as the latter is more expensive," Mr Wong says. "However, there is very little difference between the two in terms of appearance, and we can produce products made from both."
K9 crystal, a superior quality optical glass, is the material of choice for Treasure Island, which manufactures products such as souvenirs, gift items and trophies.
Treasure Island supplies elegant products such as the striking standing dragon (model CT099) to markets worldwide. "The market is stable and there is steady demand for our products from the US," spokesman Koman Lai explains, adding that the 2008 Olympic equestrian events being held in Hong Kong have boosted sales. "There has been an increase in demand from the Hong Kong retail sector for crystal horses, such as the jumping horse model KF0573."
Equally cutting edge is Sky Tress Ltd, which was originally established in 1987 to focus on digital inkjet printing and provide printing-related equipment but now uses the latest computer technology and machinery to print directly onto high-grade optical glass.
Items such as the small polyhedron crystal with dragon design and mid-sized polyhedron decorated with a water lily feature ink designs printed directly onto the flat surface of the base. "We use computer software to make modifications to the design," explains Director Queenie Cheng.
Once the modifications have been made the computer masterminds the image-printing machine, which can print on "almost any material" and thus allows for a no-minimum-order-quantity requirement.
Sky Tress sources high-grade optical glass crystal from China. "It is convenient and offers a vast choice at good prices," says Ms Cheng, explaining that the crystal is hand-polished and bevelled to create mystical refractions and can be produced in a variety of shapes.
Also sourcing from China is Chi Lik (Hong Kee) Investment Ltd, which produces myriad crystal items - mostly with K9 crystal. "But this depends on the client," explains Manager Jimmy Hon. "If they want to reduce costs we can use K6."
The company either prints on the outside of an item or laser prints on the inside, as seen in one of its most popular items, decorative pen holder model CKJ-0700004.
Whether crafted from full-lead or optical glass, Hong Kong manufacturers offer a vast choice of uniquely designed and well crafted crystal items, backed by a dedication to professionalism and quality.
Undoubtedly, as demand for these products continues to grow worldwide, manufacturers will ensure that crystal crafts - a unique combination of fire, water and lead - remains a clear winner.
TEXT BY MARTINE BEALE