4 May 2007
Jade & Pearl Jewellery(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 05,2007)
|Classic European necklaces from Shafiian Gem Corp feature 13mm-16mm white and golden South Sea pearls from Australia and the Philippines, adorned with yellow and white diamonds. The necklace (left) is set in platinum and available with matching earrings and ring. The simple strand (right) is set in both platinum and 18K gold|
With long traditions in Asia, both gemstones lived up to their reputations for elegance and opulence in grand fashion. For example, luxuriously feminine jewellery featuring white, Tahitian and golden South Sea pearls are the hallmark of New York-based Shafiian Gem Corp.
"We specialise in bigger pieces and one-of-a-kind designs," said Robbie Shafiian, president of the company founded in 1980. "However, we don't use the same design again as it would be unfair to our customers to see the same jewellery on someone else's neck."
While some designs might be offered as a three-piece necklace, earring and ring set, the firm's conservative design style tends to emphasise the finest quality pearls and simple clasps of platinum or 18K white gold, typically with fancy-cut 30-40 point diamonds.
Baroque, drop and button-shaped pearls are the hottest trends today, as well as conch pearls. "Irregular shapes give a more natural, more individualised look," said Shafiian, who noted that the average FOB US price for a necklace was US$50,000, while earrings with diamonds sold for US$25,000.
Pearl jewellery, however, doesn't necessarily have to be monochromatic. For example, of the six pieces per month that the company produces some feature white and golden South Sea pearls or soft black and white varieties. "On average, it takes one month to create a single piece of jewellery," Shafiian said.
Shafiian Gem's jewellery is manufactured in Hong Kong and India but the ODM firm plans to move all of its production to India to take advantage of [even] lower labour costs. No minimum order applies, and delivery is one month after order confirmation to the company's major markets in the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Elsewhere, turning a 600-year-old Korean openwork design technique into a modern-day jewellery business was the brainchild of M B Jewelry's director K S Myung. The technique is achieved using raw materials such as green quartz, lavender jadeite, onyx and nephrite jade sourced from the mainland and Korea and overlaid with 14K sawn-gold designs.
"I started the company five years ago but I've known about the handicraft technique for 20 years," recalled Myung, who added that his factory in Seoul employed 14 people who produced 3,000 pieces of jewellery per month (increasing to 5,000 pieces by the end of 2007).
The entire production is sold in duty-free shops in Korea or exported to the mainland, Japan, Russia and India. "Many of the designs are very Asian in style and appeal to people aged from 40-60 years," he added.
Pendants, rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches sell for US$20-90 per piece FOB Korea. Pendants range in size from 11x17mm to 35x50mm. The company also makes cufflinks for men.
The minimum order value is US$5,000, with a two-month delivery time after order confirmation. Pendants account for 60% of the OEM/ODM firm's sales, and it carries an inventory of 3,000 pendant designs in various round, oval, square, rectangular and heart shapes in addition to manufacturing any shape a customer requests. Besides 14K, 18K gold and silver mountings are available.
Myung said the company planned to introduce more modern designs that appeal to a younger age group. "This is a unique technique that we want to introduce to the world," he maintained.
Offering traditional and modern European and Asian designs in jadeite jewellery is 32-year-old Hong Kong manufacturer United Jewelry Co. Items embrace a palette of jadeite colours, usually derived from Grade A jadeite rough.
"There's more demand for modern designs that incorporate more free-form shapes, compared with traditional designs that may be too big or expensive," explained director Cecilia Lai. "We see the future trend for jadeite as being more fashion-oriented."
Although Imperial green jadeite is still a favourite, the company also favours black, white, lavender and orange. Settings can be in 18K yellow, white or rose gold, or on a silk cord. "The main look combines jadeite and diamonds," said Lai, who added that the collection included contemporary rings, bracelets, earrings, pendants, bangles, brooches and necklaces.
The most sellable price range is from HK$20,000-400,000 per piece FOB Hong Kong, with rings and pendants the best-selling items of the 2,000 pieces the company turns out at its production facilities in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. "For high-end jadeite, we use fewer diamonds because the focus is on jadeite," Lai said.
About 80% of the firm's jewellery is jadeite, with the rest incorporating diamonds and coloured stones. The OEM/ODM firm has a minimum order requirement of 10 pieces and delivers 15-30 days after order confirmation to customers in Hong Kong, the mainland, other Asian countries, Europe and the US.
Locally, since its founding in 1975, Wing Hang Diamond Co Ltd has grown into one of Hong Kong's largest diamond wholesaling and manufacturing companies. It also has the distinction of being a Diamond Trading Company Sightholder, enabling it to obtain a steady supply of rough diamonds.
The firm branched out into South Sea pearl wholesaling in 1980 and has an established reputation as a well-known supplier of golden South Sea pearls. A leader in the production of well-matched South Sea pearl strands, it's also known for good quality lots, pairs and sets. Several years ago, the firm began manufacturing jewellery showcasing its own diamonds and pearls.
Wing Hang manufactures two brand-name collections, both of which are sold on the mainland: Wing Hang is a high-end, special occasion line, while Cherubs is a more affordable line suitable for daily wear. Overall, FOB Hong Kong unit prices range from US$500-10,000.
Multifunctionality is a strong characteristic of the Wing Hang brand, with pendants and earrings, in particular, featuring detachable parts which allow them to be worn in different ways. "We see huge room for growth of innovative and uniquely designed jewellery that is multifunctional," said marketing director (Diamond & Pearls) Yvonne Pong.
Production takes place at the firm's factories in Conghua and Guangxi on the mainland, where more than 1,500 workers also cut rough and sort and polish diamonds.
The minimum order is negotiable, with delivery two weeks to one month after order confirmation. Exports target the mainland (the company operates 10 retail outlets there and plans more), the US, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, one of the mainland's leading pearl jewellery manufacturers and wholesalers is Shenzhen-based Perle Pearl & Jewelry, which concentrates on 8mm-18mm Tahitian, South Sea and Chinese freshwater pearls. "Tahitian pearls are the most popular. They account for more than 50% of our sales," said Xiuli Han, owner of the 11-year-old company.
The OEM/ODM jeweller is well-known for its classic 14k and 18k European and Chinese-style jewellery items priced from US$30-2,000 each FOB the mainland, where they are sold along with orders from elsewhere in Asia, Europe and the US. "We're hoping to expand more overseas," said Han, who pointed out that the company sells under its in-house Perle brand on the mainland.
Pearls are combined mainly with diamonds, while rubies, sapphires and tourmaline can also be added to create a more colourful effect. "Sometimes we mix different kinds of pearls together and other times we use only one type," Han said.
The company's factory in Guangzhou employs 100 workers and produces more than 5,000 items per month. The minimum order is 10 pieces, and customers can expect delivery 20-30 days after order confirmation.
About 90% of the firm's revenues are derived from jewellery manufacturing, with the rest from wholesaling. "We want to continue to increase our business," Han added. "I like pearls and I hope Chinese people can come to understand pearls better."
Meanwhile, operating six pearl farms, Jewelmer Int'l Corp lays claims to being one of the largest producers of white, champagne and golden South Sea pearls in the Philippines. Pearl wholesaling accounts for the bulk of the firm's business, with jewellery representing about 10% of its revenues.
Jewelmer Int'l manufactures 15,000-20,000 pieces of pearl jewellery per year, usually with diamonds set in 18K white or yellow gold or platinum in both commercial and fine jewellery ranges.
"Our commercial range is from US$150-1,500 per item FOB the Philippines, and our fine jewellery can go from US$1,500-150,000 per item or higher," said Jacques Branellec, managing director of the 28-year-old firm. "We try to go for more intricate, design intensive jewellery and we're not aiming at volume."
The company's workshop in Manila employs Italian, Swiss and French craftsmen and women who work with about 70 Filipinos. "We have a fusion of French, Italian and European traditions with an Asian touch," Branellec added. "We try to make our jewellery a blend of elegance and finesse. What we do not want is an overstatement."
The firm aims to produce light, subtle and easy-to-wear jewellery that finds its design inspiration in nature and the environment. Multifunctional pieces with detachable parts are a growing trend, especially for less-expensive items.
The OEM/ODM firm has its own Jewelmer brand name and exports to the US, Europe, the Middle East, Japan and Hong Kong. "About 65% of our business is our own brand," Branellec said. There is no minimum order requirement and delivery time averages 30-45 days depending on the volume.
With so much new, exciting pearl and jadeite jewellery on offer, buyers had their pick of the latest designs and the finest quality gemstones from around the world.
TEXT BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
Shafiian Gem Corp
15 West 47th St, Booth 23, New York, NY
United Jewelry Co
Rm F-I, 19/F, The Jade Plaza, 513 Canton Rd
Kowloon, Hong Kong