3 Sept 2008
Style Sells(HKTDC Jewellery, Vol 02,2008)
Young Women's Jewellery
Younger women no longer HAVE TO wait for special occasions to enjoy fine jewellery with diamonds and gemstones
A new and profitable market has developed for jewellery manufacturers as more women work and find they have more disposable income in their purses.
Many companies have responded to this exciting jewellery demographic by crafting youthful, fashionable and innovative collections that cater specifically to younger women.
"Demand for this type of jewellery has increased, particularly over the past five years," observes Dominic Mok, Principal of the Asian Gemmological Institute and Laboratory Ltd in Hong Kong and an instructor in jewellery design.
He notes younger women like colourful jewellery with stones like aquamarine and topaz, and attractive colour combinations. "Because gold has gone up in price by about 50% in the past year, jewellery that combines silver and gold, such as gold wire or filigree with sterling silver, is becoming popular in places like the US," Mr Mok maintains.
Diamonds have also increased in price. "Smaller 1-2 point diamonds have risen 15%-30% in the last year," notes Lawrence Ma, Chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's International Jewellery Show Organising Committee.
This has affected the quality of 50-point and 1-carat diamonds sold. "Five years ago, women in Hong Kong only bought VVS or VS qualities, but now even SI is acceptable," Mr Ma says. "They still expect the cutting and polishing to be very good, but have become more lenient about the clarity."
These developments are reflected at Elegance Jewellery Int'l Ltd, which is known for its delicate, feminine designs and gears 80% of its output to women aged 20-30 years old.
Elegance's trendy signature black agate collections featuring diamonds and yellow, white and rose gold are exported to Europe, Japan and the US.
Black agate sourced from China is combined with diamonds and yellow, white and rose gold in fashionable, trendy designs, explains Product Development Manager Jackson Fung. "Black is very mysterious and has a sophisticated image, and the agate is easily matched with white diamonds and gold," he maintains.
The black agate rings, earrings and pendants are large, yet lightweight. "The designs have a lot of movement, so the pieces are very flowing," he adds, noting that prices range from US$500-2,000 FOB Hong Kong per piece.
With its sales of jewellery for young women rising 30% per year over the past five years, Elegance plans to continue to focus on this category. "We are also considering introducing a more colourful collection using gemstones like blue topaz, rose quartz, smoky topaz and rubellite," Mr Fung reveals, adding that prices are expected to range from US$200-1,000 FOB Hong Kong. "There's a big demand for colour now and we want to use good quality stones that are rich-looking."
Offering a more casual design is Di-Amanda Ltd, which created specially treated denim jewellery mounted in sterling silver because blue jeans are a ubiquitous part of fashion.
The two-year-old collection includes some 300 rings, earrings, pendants and necklaces in red, blue, pink and black denim with tiny diamonds at FOB prices ranging from US$20-200 per piece.
"Our designer thought, 'Why does jewellery have to be expensive?' and came up with denim jewellery because everyone wears jeans," explains Marketing Officer Iris Lam.
Although the denim fades after several years of wear just like real jeans do, it undergoes a special treatment process to make it more durable and water-resistant.
Designs were initially quite bulky, including a big cross, a large circle, a flower and dog tags. "Now we also have smaller designs that include a little handbag, shoes and sandals," Ms Lam says, adding that the most popular denim item is a US$35 FOB Hong Kong buckle ring set with diamonds.
Hong Kong jewellery manufacturers such as Be'vish Fine Jewellery Ltd are also incorporating jade into more dynamic, Chinese-influenced jewellery designs specifically crafted to win over younger women. "I work with diamonds, pearls and jade and my designs are more antique-style, but not old-fashioned," says owner and Chief Designer Joanna Hui.
All of her handmade jewellery has movement and dangles. "I get inspired by Nature - by flowers, clouds and anything with movement," Ms Hui reveals. "I like to combine jade with black gold and I use different colours - white, green or lavender - and mix them with coloured stones."
She feels that using jade makes the designs "more Chinese", which is reflected in its increasing popularity in the West. "Our company exports to Canada, Australia, China and Singapore, and Australians in particular are getting to know more about jade," Ms Hui says. "They usually ask for white or lavender because the price is lower than green."
Earrings are the most popular items, with the top seller a beaded jade and diamond pair set in black and white gold costing HK$15,000-45,000 FOB Hong Kong depending on the size of the diamonds and the quality of the jade.
Wearable art, meanwhile, is the prime directive behind Headragon Ltd's kicky Paso Doble brand, featuring magical, dreamy designs that are the fantasy creations of designer Pinky Leung and start at HK$2,000 each FOB Hong Kong.
"I like to characterise my jewellery as a bit modern and updated," Ms Leung explains. "I use white, yellow and rose gold and sometimes mix the colours together with diamonds and coloured stones, like multicoloured sapphires."
A favourite is an 18K white gold ring featuring a row of five briolette-cut sapphires, which is also available with diamonds. "It's a simple ring but the stones dangle," Ms Leung explains. "I showed it at the show in Las Vegas and now it's everywhere."
Another best-seller is a necklace set with gemstones such as peridot and garnet that can be flipped to reveal a different design. "We do it in gold or silver," Ms Leung says. "It's inexpensive but it looks good and is popular because it's fun jewellery."
Her design inspiration may come from European fashion and colour trends but, like other Hong Kong designers, she isn't neglecting her Chinese heritage. "I plan to use Chinese motifs such as dragons, turtles or Chinese symbols in my newest collection, which is due in September," Ms Leung says.
Bigger is definitely better at Neva Ltd, where stamped earrings with 5cm diameters are true showstoppers.
"They're hollow, very lightweight and only 1-2mm thick," notes Assistant Manager Chris Kong. "Very big jewellery is popular now."
Different filigree patterns adorn a variety of shapes. "We do tailor-made designs for our customers and we can also make earrings from their own designs," she adds.
Neva's 9K-18K gold line starts at US$4.80 FOB Hong Kong, sterling silver costs US$0.99-20.00 and base metal and stainless steel sells for US$0.50-30.00, helping ensure the company meets every customer's budget and needs.
"We are known for office wear but some people want more classic designs and others more fashionable ones," she says.
The firm's 40 designers analyse the buying habits, lifestyles, trends and cultures of different countries before creating 300 new designs each month. "For example, in the US people like one medium-to-large stone in the centre, with small semiprecious stones like blue topaz, citrine, amethyst, garnet or CZ around it," Ms Kong says. "But in Europe, they like one stone per piece."
Enthusiastic market response has led the 10-year-old firm to steadily increase its production of jewellery for young women. "Now the percentage is 30% and five years ago it was only 15%," Ms Kong notes. "In a few more years, we think it will be 50%."
Given the rate at which this category is growing, young women may end up changing the industry forever as a fresh sensibility adds new flair to all types of jewellery design.
TEXT BY ANDREA PAWLYNA