1 Sept 2000
Business Beckons Among The Jewels (HKTDC Jewellery, Vol 02,2000)
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AN IMPROVING global economic outlook is likely to translate into another record-breaking event for exhibitors and visitors at the upcoming Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, scheduled for 5-8 March, 2001, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Last March, the year 2000 show attracted a record 17,200 visitors to examine new products from 885 exhibitors representing 30 countries and regions.
"We always aim high so, yes, we expect a bigger and even more successful event next time," says Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) senior exhibitions manager Anne Chick.
The show is co-organized by TDC, the Hong Kong Jewelry Mfrs Assn, the Hong Kong Jewellery and Jade Mfrs Assn, the Hong Kong Jewellers' and Goldsmiths' Assn and the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong, China.
Chick's optimism is linked to an expectation of more exhibitors and visitors from throughout Asia as the region continues shaking off the economic crisis that struck in 1997.
"Now that Asian economies have come back full swing, we anticipate more participants," says Chick. The Chinese mainland's planned accession to the World Trade Organization should contribute to generating more visitors from across the border.
Asia was the top growth region for buyers at the last show, with the number of visitors from the region up 26% on 1999. Australia and Pacific islands followed, showing a rise of 25%, compared with 19% from Central and South America and 11% from North America.
A robust US economy has played a leading role in recharging industry sales. The number of US visitors at the last show grew by 13%. Other significant increases came from Taiwan (33%), Japan (28%), the Philippines (27%), Singapore (18%) and Australia (16%).
While the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show has strong regional appeal, its scope is definitely global. "This is an international show, an upmarket trade event involving numerous representatives from countries around the world," says Chick.
Occupying 30,000 square metres in three different exhibition halls, the 2001 show will offer a stunning array of diamond, platinum, 24K gold, silver, pearl and antique jewellery, plus a wide range of loose diamonds, coloured gemstones and pearls.
Completing the exhibits are carving/display ornaments; display and packaging materials; related machinery, tools and equipment; and jewellery watches.
The Designer Jewellery Galleria, launched in 2000 to showcase branded jewellery from Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Austria, France and elsewhere, in an exclusive setting, was so successful that plans call for it to significantly expand.
Group pavilions representing Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and the International Colored Gemstone Assn are all expected to return.
Show visitors can admire a display of winning pieces from the 2nd Hong Kong Jewellery Design Competition and the 2001 International South Sea Pearl Jewellery Design Competition.
Preview showcases featuring exhibitors' products will again give arriving buyers a quick overview of what they can find at the show.
Again, a series of seminars conducted by leading international jewellery associations will strengthen the show's role as a focal point for information exchange.
"The Hong Kong International Jewellery Show is more than a place for business deals, or buying and selling. It's also a venue for acquiring market information and networking," says Chick.
Other highlights include two world-renowned pearl auctions hosted by Australia's Paspaley Pearls and Tahiti's Robert Wan Perles.
RISING exports and a range of new-product trends combine to create promising business prospects for participants at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show 2001 next March.
Buoyed by a strong US economy and expectations of more good news ahead, Hong Kong jewellery exports rose 28% from January to June 2000, versus the same time last year.
Sales to the giant US market, accounting for about half of Hong Kong's jewellery exports, surged 40%. In 1999, Hong Kong's total jewellery exports exceeded US$1.7bn.
"The economy in the US is leading the way, but Europe, Japan and Southeast Asia are all improving. Hopefully, next year will be even better," says Kenneth Kwan, a director of Universal Jewellery Design Center Ltd, known for its high-end, handmade jewellery.
Each of Hong Kong's top-five jewellery markets shows a healthy rise in demand. During the first six months of this year, sales surged by 29% to Japan, 46% to Germany, 18% to the UK and 8% to Switzerland.
The "white look", featuring various combinations of white gold, platinum, diamonds and pearls, remains the dominant style worldwide.
Preference for white metal settings fuels demand for better-quality diamonds since any yellowish tinge is more obvious against a silvery-white background.
"There is a shift toward better-quality colours. People want I-J or better," says Lee Heng Diamond Co Ltd executive director Lawrence Ma.
Ma says the technique of setting several small stones close together to create the impression of a single, larger diamond has also gained favour, especially following the Asian financial crisis.
Meanwhile, black diamonds have emerged as a novel trend. Although many analysts believe the popularity of these industrial-grade stones will be short-lived, the resulting products offer a bold contrast to "white" jewellery.
"People frequently wear white diamonds so I guess they want something different and unusual. We mix black and white diamonds together and set them in white gold or platinum," says Denis Hazell Int'l Ltd chairman Alain Wong.
Some companies darken metal settings for black diamonds to create an antique look.
Another trend is toward pastel-coloured stones, such as light blue and light pink sapphires, or light blue topaz. "We almost always set them in white gold with diamond accents," Wong says.
There is also a small revival in traditional yellow gold. "The Italians are starting to push back to yellow gold. They're always the pioneers for new trends," notes The World Jewellery Co managing director Peter Siu.
More casual modern lifestyles set the pace for jewellery designs. Simple styles with fewer stones and jewellery to wear by day are in demand. For higher-value pieces, the time-tested classic styles prevail.
Hong Kong, the world's fourth-largest exporter of precious jewellery, is known for its wide range of medium- to high-priced 14K and 18K gold, gemset jewellery. Manufacturers are especially adept at pieces set with small stones.
Long recognized as a leading centre for pure-gold and jade jewellery, Hong Kong recently evolved into an important trade and distribution centre for pearls.
Attracted by lower labour costs, Hong Kong has shifted much of its production to the Chinese mainland. Nevertheless, domestic exports account for more than 70% of Hong Kong's total exports of precious jewellery, reflecting the fact that high-end production remains concentrated in Hong Kong.
HONG Kong's enviable position as a leading jewellery production and trading centre is based on considerably more than the flurry of business activity each March at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show.
Much of Hong Kong's success is due to renowned craftsmanship and its companies' ability to stay abreast of market trends and styles.
"With a proven history of more than 30 years, we have an edge compared to developing countries. We can produce better quality with more updated designs," maintains The World Jewellery Co managing director Peter Siu.
Hong Kong's skilled, industrious workforce enjoys a reputation for reliable, timely production. "We are consistent and punctual. We can respond to orders within 2-4 weeks. Other places may not be as fast or reliable," says Denis Hazell Int'l Ltd chairman Alain Wong.
Initially, Hong Kong had primarily a cottage jewellery industry with small firms making low-cost items mainly for tourists and the local market.
Various advantages spurred industry expansion. As a free port with no import tariff or sales tax, Hong Kong offers an ideal business environment. Companies can import precious metal and gemstones from any source without added costs.
A central location at the heart of Asia makes Hong Kong a natural trade hub. An efficient telecoms network and financial infrastructure also contribute.
Hong Kong has maintained competitive prices by moving considerable production to the Chinese mainland. An estimated 80% of Hong Kong jewellery companies have factories there. Low- to medium-range pieces are usually produced on the mainland, while higher-value goods are crafted in Hong Kong.
"Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world that can manufacture a full range from low- to high-end jewellery," says Universal Jewellery Design Center Ltd director Kenneth Kwan.
Mechanization and new technologies improve the finished products. CAD/CAM design techniques are being adopted while electrolytic gold refining and fire-assaying processes replace conventional casting methods. Use of laser-welding and stone-emplacement technologies are becoming more common too.
All this bodes well for a thriving industry still evolving to satisfy the changing needs and demands of international consumers.
Occupying 30,000 square metres throughout the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show is a global event attracting tens of thousands of participants from around the world. A diverse and nearly infinite array of new products, combined with a long list of special events, makes for an action-packed show -- the kind of action that generates business deals. From jewellery fashion shows, pearl princesses and musical interludes to national pavilions and cross-counter negotiations, the biggest problem for visitors and exhibitors often is finding time to rest.
Prime Time To Build Trade Networks
The Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, scheduled for 5-8 March, 2001, provides such opportunities and more.
The show has grown enormously since its debut 17 years ago. At the year 2000 show, 885 exhibitors and almost 17,200 visitors took part. Ten years earlier, in 1990, the event attracted just 289 exhibitors and 11,503 visitors.
"Each year, the show gets bigger and better," acknowledges The World Jewellery Co managing director Peter Siu, whose company has exhibited at the show for 15 years.
The event is especially popular among buyers from the Asia-Pacific region. Siu expects the show's growing prestige to continue attracting new visitors from beyond Asia.
Meanwhile, Denis Hazell Int'l Ltd chairman Alain Wong believes the show must maintain a regional identity. "We anticipate more Asian than European or American buyers. That's OK," he says.
Lee Heng Diamond Co Ltd executive director Lawrence Ma says the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show makes a significant contribution to the development of Hong Kong's jewellery industry.
"Trade fairs help the industry to prosper, grow and become more efficient. They attract more buyers and more ideas. Another point is that the Chinese mainland is becoming an important market. Buyers from China like the Hong Kong show because it is nearby," Ma says.
Rather than setting sales goals at the show, many exhibitors place a higher priority on establishing new business contacts and maintaining old ones. Networking is the order of the day.
"The main thing is to meet buyers and expand business. We want to display what we have and see what potential clients we can meet," Ma says.
Others echo such sentiments. "I don't really care about sales on the spot. I go to meet buyers, take orders, maintain connections and show new items," says Universal Jewellery Design Center Ltd director Kenneth Kwan.
Following Asia's economic rebound, many exhibitors anticipate an especially successful show next March. "I really feel quite positive about business toward the end of this year and the beginning of next year," says Ma.
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
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