HONG KONG: Amid the challenges that the Philippine jewelry industry faces, six exhibitors from the Philippines, including a government agency and a jewelers’ group, joined this year’s international show here that opened Thursday, March 2, at the Victoria Harbour, with more than 2,580 participants from 39 countries and regions.
“Despite the late formal confirmation of a government support for us to join this show and the number of challenges that we are facing, we are finally here,” Cecilia Ramos, chairperson of the Meycauayan Jewelry Industry Association (MJIA), Inc., said in an interview.
Ramos, who also owns Ricel’s Jewellery, also an exhibitor here at the 34th Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, stressed that MJIA is grateful for the government support of P1 million, which covered for the rent of a 27-square-meter area for the four booths of five participants, no matter how late the final confirmation was.
She said, however, that the country’s jewelry sector still needs a lot of help from the government, in order that it could catch up with its neighbors, such as in Thailand and Singapore, which are about 15 to 20 years ahead of the Philippines in the jewelry manufacturing and marketing.
She added that the sector, for instance, needs to embrace the latest technological advancements in order to make its prices competitive in the international market. “At the moment, we cannot make our prices competitive with our neighbors, as our sector is so labor-intensive because we lack the technology to help us produce better products faster,” she explained.
Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the show, which ran until March 6 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, showcases the participants’ finished fine jewelry, including top-tier pieces, famous brands, new designer collections, and collectable art and antique items.
With the theme “Tribute to Movie Queens,” this year’s show also features a number of fine jewelry pieces “re-creating several classic movie scenes, enhancing the glamor of the exquisite jewelry on display,” said Benjamin Chau, deputy executive director of HKTDC.
Mila Imson, a jewelry designer and owner of Kitsilver Jewellery, echoed Ramos, saying that a government help, say, a P30-million fund to build a building and purchase the latest machines and other equipment in jewelry production, has long been overdue.
“We have many times asked the government to provide us with a building housing a one-stop shop for the jewelers like me where we can start, design, and finish our products in exchange for fees,” she revealed.
Imson, who has been in the business for 40 years, the first 18 of which as a jewelry designer, said she has designed purses for some of the world’s most famous women, including former US first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, that were commissioned by some diplomats’ wives as gifts.
She has even got orders and inquiries from some international fashion houses, most of which she rejected as she could not beat the deadline for lack of the high-tech equipment. Her biggest markets, she said, are the Philippines and Brazil.
Her signature intricate design for clutches is lace-like and the material is silver dipped in 24-karat gold and adorned with South Sea pearls.
An HK-based organizer of trade fairs and promotional activities, HKTDC had also organized the fourth edition of the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show, which opened its five-day run on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the AsiaWorld-Expo, in HK International Airport, on Lantau Island. The show showcased raw jewelry materials, such as diamonds, precious gems, semi-precious stones, and exquisite pearls.
The other Philippine exhibitors included the Export Management Bureau of the Department of Trade and Industry, Karamar Corp. (Jewelmer Joaillerie, which has its own separate booth), Sterling Gifts, Inc., and VY Domingo Jewellers, Inc. Jewelmer, a French-Filipino company that owns a pearl farm in Palawan, has joined this exhibition every year for the past more than 30 years.
Jewelmer, a French-Filipino jeweler that has been joining the annual exhibition for the past over 30 years, is currently looking to partner with high-end brands to showcase its art pieces in Beijing and Shanghai, as it has seen an increasing number of Chinese buyers. It is also in talks with some brands in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
Jacque Christophe Branellec, group EVP and deputy CEO of Jewelmer, said that with the company’s experience in manufacturing and retailing of high-end pieces of jewelry to the world market, it would want to be an inspiration to the other Filipino companies—not only those in the jewelry business but also, say, in the arts—to go global.
He described the Philippines as a “unique country that has so much to offer. He mentioned, for instance, fashion houses, manufacturing, furniture, theater, musical, and dance. The artists and entrepreneurs who are into the just mentioned sectors could do productions here and sell them outside the country.
“We have such good artists, theaters, and fashion houses, and I think it’s about time they went global,” he stressed.
Ramos said that owing to high prices of gold—P1,800 per gram—the jewelry manufacturers in the Philippines have been increasingly producing silver (P30 per gram) items dipped in gold. She added that even manufacturers in other countries are increasingly doing this as well, with China as their main market.
She also stressed niche manufacturing as very important to keep her business afloat, so Ricel’s Jewellery has focused on reproducing antique pieces of jewelry, especially necklaces, rings, and earrings.
She said the MJIA hopes that the government would further help the jewelry sector become more competitive in the international market through subsidies in acquiring the latest technology, and that the association members be more proactive in advancing their cause and looking after their own interests.
Out of MJIA’s 135 members, she lamented, only about 80 are active.