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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hong Kong Jeweler Qeelin Enters US Market

Bo Bo classic pendant in 18k white gold with black and white diamonds

Qeelin is a Hong Kong-based jeweler that combines traditional Chinese themes with French craftsmanship, a design-first philosophy, the use of precious materials and a bit of whimsy. It designs, manufactures and sells its jewels through its more than 20 boutiques and other retail outlets, mostly in Asia.

The brand has made quite a name for itself in Asia and to a lesser extent Europe and the Middle East. Now it is entering the US market.

I first met Dennis Chan, Qeelin’s co-founder and creative director, in 2013 in Hong Kong when Qeelin wasn’t a year removed from its surprise acquisition by French luxury goods holding company, Kering. So it was nice surprise to see him again in New York accompanied by the brand’s new CEO, Christophe Artaux.

Wulu ring in 18k rose gold with pave diamonds

The brand is “dipping its toes” into the US market, Artaux said. It has no plans to open a boutique in the US, opting instead to work with luxury jewelry retailers located in large Asian communities. They will debut at Neiman Marcus stores beginning this month in Newport Beach, Las Vegas and Honolulu; and a few independent retailers in California, including CH Premier in Santa Clara. They plan to open with five more retailers in the first quarter of 2016.

They will be selective with their product mix as well entering the market with the brand’s most classic pieces (the brand has 12 core collections and also produce couture pieces, bridal jewelry, accessories, and ladies jewelry watches).

They said they expect to attract well-traveled Asians who are familiar with Qeelin as well as new customers.

The brand focuses on producing fine jewelry with traditional Chinese themes combined with French craftsmanship. Chan says he creates the designs first and then finds the precious materials to build the product.

Xi Xi ear studs in 18k white gold with diamonds and onyx

The brand specializes in fashionable versions of traditional Chinese images, such as pandas, goldfish and dragons using diamonds, 18k gold and precious gems. In some cases the parts move, such as the wings on the brand’s Phoenix necklace. The jewelry is light and lively and designed to be worn daily.

“I like blending east and west,” Chan said. “Our Bo Bo collection for example; the panda is China’s most treasured animal but in my collection it took on the characteristics of a teddy bear.”

The US is an attractive market for its sheer size and wealth. However, it is also a diverse and difficult market to master. The level of penetration this Chinese-themed brand will have in the US remains to be seen. A brand that creates, distributes and retails its own jewels certainly has an advantage.

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