The business of jewelry in the Philippines

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THE jewelry industry in the Philippines has been identified among the emerging profitable businesses in the country. This is especially so since the country is considered as one of the leading producers of gold in Asia.

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Teresa “Mia” Florencio, president of the Guild of Philippine Jewellers Inc. (GPJI), believes that the jewelry business in the Philippines has a great potential to contribute to the national economic development of the country. That is, if the industry is given the proper support.

She explained, “The Philippines’ gold deposits are estimated to be the fifth largest in the world, with a figure pegged at 203 million metric tons. At current prices of $1,100 per troy ounce, this translates to approximately $9 trillion.”

Florencio further recognizes the excellent craftsmanship of Filipinos in the area of jewelry manufacturing.

“I’m very proud of our Filipino goldsmiths who can and do produce world-class fine jewelry,” continued one of the forces behind the family-run TFlorencio Jewelry and Golcondia Cultured Diamonds, both established jewelrs in the country.

“I’m a witness to how good our plateros [goldsmiths, silversmiths and stone setters] are. In fact, they are the only well-paid employees that don’t have formal education because their craft was passed on from their fathers and by mere experience.

“In our company, we still have goldsmiths who create fine jewelry the traditional way or merely by hand or what they call mano-mano.”

Florencio furthered, “Creative industries such as handicrafts, furniture, décor, fine jewelry and fashion jewelry employs less educated people, but only the fine jewelry industry can pay well above the minimum wage.

“Current wage rates in the jewelry sector start at about P700 per day for goldsmiths and over P1,500 per day for stone setters. That’s even more than BPO employees.”

She noted too that regardless of social rank or status, Filipinos have a penchant for fine jewelry, thus the proliferation of alaheras (jewelry sellers/agents who sell and collect payment in staggered system) in every community. According to Florencio, this practice is uniquely Filipino.

“Majority of Filipino jewelers on the other hand operate family-run companies and only few have corporate structures,” she compared. “These jewelry companies are mostly in Metro Manila and are members of the guild,”

Many jewelers, especially in the provinces, run on artisanal, or mom-and-pop operations.

Gov’t support
According to Florencio, the government created the Confederation of Philippine Jewelers Inc. (CPJI) in 2003 to serve as the umbrella organization of all existing jewelry organizations in the country. It also aims to exist as the official single voice of the jewelry sector.

CPJI, of which Florencio is also president as representative of the guild, is comprised of Camarines Norte Jewelry Association, Cebu Fame Foundation Philippines, Guild of Philippine Jewellers Inc., Meycauayan Jewelry Industry Association Inc., Mindanao United Jewelry Association, Philippine Association of Pearl Producers and Exporters Inc., and Philippine Jewelry Business Club Foundation Inc.

Making up the above organizations are jewelry manufacturers, contractors, gold dealers, precious stone dealers, corredoras, tools and equipment dealers, and jewelry consultants and trainers. Each group produces fine jewelry from gold and silver with precious stones, pearls, diamonds, as well as costume jewelry.

According to Florencio, CPJI aims to promote the jewelry industry in the Philippines, with the objective of hastening its development and growth in order to produce high quality jewelry for both the domestic and international markets.

It further envisions the Philippine jewelry industry to regain its position as Asia’s jewelry capital, and in doing so become a reliable source of jewelry. Under this thrust is the industry’s strength in utilizing the long tradition of design, artistry and craftsmanship of Filipino jewelers, and of course the availability of indigenous raw materials for sustainable growth in partnership with government and non-government organizations.

Despite the ideals of CPIJ, Florencio admits that there remain many concerns and challenge that face the jewelry industry in the country, but she believes overcoming all of them will prove a worthy endeavor.

“We don’t get paid as officers of GPJI and CPJI but we committed ourselves to elevate the status of jewelry business in the Philippines, and we continue to upgrade ourselves by attending exhibitions and conventions here and abroad,” Florencio concluded.

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