Homegrown brands Jewelmer and MJIA brandish Filipino ingenuity
HONG KONG: THE 35th Hong Kong International Jewellery Show and the fifth Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show were perfect venues to present fine jewelry pieces by 4,550 exhibitors from a remarkable 145 countries and regions.
Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). the annual twin jewelry shows are now considered the largest in the world. This year’s edition has also brandished the highest attendance to date.
“With improving global economic conditions, Hong Kong’s exports of precious jewelry rose 3.6 percent last year. We are delighted that exhibitor attendance at both shows has the highest in years, and that attendance of both local and overseas buyers set new records,” HKTDC deputy executive director Benjamin Chau told the international media which included The Manila Times, the only Philippine media entity invited to the exhibit.
“This shows that Hong Kong is an important sourcing platform for the global jewelry industry. The exhibitors are generally satisfied with the results at the shows. In terms of attendance, buyers from Japan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran and Turkey recorded significant growth, reflecting the market potential of these countries,” he added.
Besides the Filipino buyers, there were also exhibitors from the Philippines who participated in the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show which ran from March 1 to 5 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Proud Filipino exhibitors
Noted Filipino brand Jewelmer Joaillerie (which has its own booth at the Hall of Fame right beside the Elle booth) has been a regular participant of the annual exhibition for over 30 years now.
“We’ve been part of this trade show since the first series of HKTDC jewelry show because traditionally Hong Kong has been always an international hub for the jewelry industry,” Jewelmer Deputy CEO and executive vice president Jacques Christophe Branellec informed The Manila Times in an exlcusive interview at the sidelines of the exhibit.
“To be on this stage and to be able to showcase our collection as well as the national gem of the Philippines which is considered the pearl of the Orient Seas is a great honor,” he added.
Having their own pearl farm in Palawan, the Filipino-French jeweler has high regard for his “kababayans” which he considers one of the most talented jewelry makers in the world.
“We are very lucky to be Filipinos because we have a lot to offer and joining this kind of trade shows should be encouraged,” Branellec pointed out.
Equally proud is Cecilia Ramos, chairperson of the Meycauayan Jewelry Industry Association (MJIA) Inc., who led five members of the association in showcasing Filipino inguinuity.
“We are very happy that we were able to join again in this prestigious fair. Though we are not supported this time by our government, we believe that joining this kind of international fair will help our industry in the Philippines,” said Ramos, who wishes of participating in a big Philippine Pavillion in the next edition of the HKTDC jewelry show.
Industry trends and demands
In independent on-site surveys commissioned by HKTDC at the two shows, 62 per cent of the 1,300 exhbitors expected overall sales this year to remain unchanged, 33 per cent said they expected sales to increase while the remaining five per cent expected sales to fall.
A notable figure is the decline of negative perception of the show – where 16 percent last year said they expected sales to fall – suggesting general optimism about future prospects.
The survey was done to gauge exhbitor views on industry trends and demands.
In terms of product categories, most respondents said they were primarily sourcing contemporary jewelry (83 percent), followed by jewelry for weddings and special occasions (76 percent), designers’ jewelry (73 percent) and precious jewelry (71 percent).
For product materials, 45 per cent of respondents favored karat rose gold, followed by karat white gold (37 percent) and platinum (37 percent). As for gemstones, the percentage of respondents who favored diamond reached 61 percent, which is the highest among gemstones and more than the 41 percent recorded last year. This was followed by jade (18 percent), aquamarine (18 percent) and pearl (15 percent).
Adopting the “two shows, two venues” format on the fifth year, the HKTDC staged the Jewellery Show at the HKCEC for finished jewelry, and the Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show at the AsiaWorld-Expo, where the show focused on jewelry raw materials. The format offered exhibitors and buyers a highly effective means to connect with potential business partners.
The HKTDC also organized an array of events to promote industry exchange, including a gala dinner sponsored by the Tanzanite Foundation, as well as seminars on jewelry technology, marketing strategies, jewelry craftsmanship and quality standard, buyer forum, jewelry parades and networking receptions.
Transforming the jewelry industry
Among the events staged during the show was a panel discussion on the future of ethical business practices in the jewelry industry.
Moderated by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), an international not-for-profit standards and certification organization, “The Role of Responsible Business Practice in the Future of the Jewellery Industry” featured moderator, RJC Business Development director Edward Johnson, along with Hong Kong Jewellery and Jade Manufacturers Association vice chairman and chairman of Continental Holdings Ltd. Victor Chan, BV Schmuck + Uhren managing director Dr. Guido Grohmann and Forevermark senior vice president and CIBJO marketing and education commission president Jonathan Kendall.
The panelists identified what they considered the biggest challenges in the industry. Kendall said that synthetic and simulant gems are the biggest threat and will remain so in the future. He said that synthetic and simulant stones can infiltrate any part of the supply chain, that even one sale would be one too many. The industry has sought to tackle the problem, particularly during the last year, including by distributing testing machines to both manufacturers and retailers.
The panel also discussed promoting the importance of responsible jewelry manufacturing and retail to consumers, with Chan noting that employees serve as the key communication channel.
Kendall said communicating responsible business practices is paramount amid greater consumer scrutiny of jewelry products. Kendall added that consumers today want to know where stones are mined, cut and polished, a trend that the industry must embrace.
Mobile phones have dramatically changed consumer behavior, Kendall added, creating a relationship between the consumer and the production pipeline that did not exist 10 or 15 years ago.
To allay consumer concerns, cameras may eventually be brought into mines to document the process, allowing buyers to check on the gem’s provenance and obtain immediate answers.
The discussion wrapped up with a look towards the future and the most pressing challenges facing the jewelry industry, particularly as responsible business practices increasingly come to the fore.
Kendall said further that the industry needs to start considering the purchasing behavior of Generation Z, the post-millennial generation, who are currently aged 15 to 20 years old.
Citing research by Forevermark, Kendall said Generation Z exhibit a strong affinity to social media, are technologically sophisticated, strong communicators, risk-averse and have an interest in the environment, ethical business practices and the “greater good.”
“These traits make it vitally important for the jewelry industry to adopt more ethical and transparent practices to satisfy the next generation of consumers,” he said.
Chan echoed similar sentiments, adding that the world has become smaller with rapid improvements in the Internet and technology, which will lead consumers to seek more information, not only on jewelry but on all the products they buy.
On the other hand, Grohmann agreed that the next generation of consumers will be more interested and invested in responsible business practices, adding that language and distance are no longer barriers to checking the supply chain.
“The industry need to be mindful that the dominance of social media meant that companies that fall foul of ethical behavior will face huge problems within minutes due to viral boycotts on Twitter and Facebook,” the BV Schmuck + Uhren managing director said.