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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Luxury Jewels Were In Abundance at the September Hong Kong Fair

A buyer inspects a diamond paved necklace from Studio Reves. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Despite much of the focus being placed on large manufacturers and retailers, luxury jewels are a significant part of the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. Most of the contemporary luxury jewelers and manufacturers (outside of Hong Kong and China manufacturers who have their own pavilions) are located next to each other in the Fine Design Pavilion and the International Premiere Pavilion.

Located at the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention & Exposition Centre, the Fine Design Pavilion showcases high jewelry from more than 70 internationally known jewelers and dealers of estate jewels and watches. The high-ceiling and luxurious environment of the Grand Hall is an appropriate setting for these designers who feature rare diamonds, gemstones and pearls in their limited-edition creations. 

A conch pearl necklace by Saboo. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Jewelry brand, Saboo, is one of the regular exhibitors in this pavilion. Chand Bihari Saboo had some time to talk since several appointments were cancelled due to buyers trying to leave Hong Kong before Super Typhoon Mangkhut arrived. The Hong Kong-based company specializes in one-of-a-kind and limited edition jewels, made with exceptional diamond and colored gems. Many items are sold to Middle East royalty. The Hong Kong-based company started as a gem manufacturer so it is skilled at choosing stones. 

Saboo showed me a necklace and ring featuring conch pearls of different sizes and colors, and a flexible bracelet paved in rubies and diamonds. 

A ruby and diamond bracelet by Saboo. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Despite the impending doom that the typhoon was going to bring there were still eager buyers. In the International Premier Pavilion, which houses about 60 luxury jewelry manufacturing brands, a salesperson at Studio Reves, a Mumbai based diamond jewelry manufacturer and DTC sightholder, was showing a large, well-constructed, flexible necklace paved with rose-cut diamonds. 

As we were talking a woman walked up and asked its cost, felt it, tried it on and soon they began negotiating a sale. 

When Super Typhoon Mangkhut Became A Real Threat

Buyers in the jade the day before the typhoon. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

For the first three days at the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, the Super Typhoon Mangkhut was an afterthought. However, on Saturday the storm became real. 

On the fourth day of the materials portion of the fair at the AsiaWorld-Expo and the second day of the finished jewelry portion of the fair at the Hong Kong Convention & Expo Centre, the hurricane and the impending disruption was the main topic of discussion. It is affecting business. Many exhibitors said that buyers canceled appointments Saturday so they can leave before the airport shut down Sunday. 

Exhibitors of luxury jewels most likely saw the largest number of cancellations but it wasn't a total loss, they said.

“People I expected did not show up but it’s okay,” said an exhibitor in the Fine Design Pavilion. A diamond jewelry exhibitor in the Premier Pavilion said business was good Saturday and the number of people around the booth proved his point. 

Certainly the Hong Kong and Chinese buyers were not overly influenced by the typhoon. These type of storms are a way of life for coastal residences in China and its autonomous regions, such as Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

The aisles were certainly not as busy as normal but there were still plenty of people milling through the various themed halls throughout the HKCEC and they were buying. I visited the entire show and while exhibitors were a bit gloomy, they understood the circumstances were unique. 

The busiest halls housed the Antique & Vintage jewels, jewelry from Hong Kong and China manufacturers, the CORE section and wedding jewelry section. Several of the designer areas and silver jewelry sections also attracted buyers. The Thailand and Japan pavilions were the largest exhibiting groups outside of those from Hong Kong and China and they remained busy. 

Exceptional Antique and Vintage Jewels at the September Hong Kong Fair

An emerald and diamond tiara by Bijan & Co. It was in the antique and vintage jewelry area but it is a new piece. Photo Credit: Anthony DeMarco

Tucked in a corner of the Hong Kong Convention & Exposition Center are antique and vintage jewels. It doesn’t get the press or attention that the large manufacturers and branded designers receive but it is an essential part of the September Hong fair. The space itself is easy to miss but those attracted to these special pieces and art objects were there in strong numbers. 

The selection is quite diverse and the quality overall is exceptional. Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany and Bulgari were well represented; as were many famous individual designers such as Verdura, Schlumberger and Belperron. The section overall was very crowded with buyers on the opening day and upon returning for the second day it was one of the busiest areas of the show. 

Several Bulgari pieces being offered by Dover Jewelry & Diamonds. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The Aaron Faber booth in particular was filled with people throughout the first two days of the finished jewelry portion of the fair at HKCEC. The New York-based dealers specialize in artist-made, classic and estate jewelry, and vintage timepieces. When I asked the owners Ed Faber and Patricia Kiley Faber said people are interested in the stories they provide behind the pieces they sell. In other words plenty of people were listening to the stories but not necessarily buying the pieces. However, there were certainly buyers among those who were listening to the stories. They’ve been exhibiting at the September Hong Kong fair for several years. 

Meanwhile, Moe Haghighi of Dover Jewelry & Diamonds, Miami, has been exhibiting at the fair for three years and he’s happy overall with the amount of business he does and the quality of buyers. 

Not all of the jewels were vintage or antique. Some of these antique and vintage jewelry dealers also design and craft jewels. In one display case there was an emerald and diamond tiara that was certainly at home with the jewels from the past. Only it was a new piece from Bijan & Co., based in New York. It was part of a set of one-of-kind pieces.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Jewelry Industry Officials Discuss Change At Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

As the expression goes, change is the only constant in life and the jewelry industry is going through monumental change. Some of it even hits close to home. This was the dominant theme at the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair press conference.

The first change is UBM Asia, the largest operator of jewelry trade fairs in the world, has merged with Informa, a London-based company that bills itself as an international business-to-business information services group. 

The second change is that Wolfram Diener, senior VP of UBM Asia and a big presence at the Hong Kong jewelry fairs, will be leaving. After 22 years of living in Hong Kong and China, the German native has accepted a new job as managing director of Messe Düsseldorf. 

Diener, 57, led his last press conference at the Hong Kong jewelry fair calling it his “final curtain” and introducing his replacement, his close friend, David Bondi, who was in attendance. 

In the rest of his presentation he noted that Thailand, with 400 exhibitors of finished jewels, gemstones and supplies, is the largest contingent at the fair, outside of exhibitors from Hong Kong and China. He added there is strong participation from Japan and an increase in exhibitors from Turkey.

Eight leaders of trade associations from Hong Kong and China gave a review of business in the first nine months of the year and what they expect by the end of 2018. Most of the speakers reported strong turnover but also expressed concern due to U.S. and China trade tensions and a strengthening U.S. dollar. 

Lawrence Ma, founding president of the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong, said diamond sales increased by 8.7 percent for the first half of the year. However, he added, that he is “cautiously optimistic when it comes to business at the September Hong Kong jewelry fair. “I expect a good show but not necessarily a great show.”

Ken Lo, chairman of the Hong Kong Jewellery and Jade Manufacturers Association, said his organization saw double digit sales gains for the first half of the year but agreed with Ma that events outside their influence could dampen sales for the rest of the year. “I’m very cautious at the year’s end about what’s going to happen,” he said. 

Most of the other speakers talked about the challenges being posed by Millennial and Generation Y consumers and how they could disrupt jewelry distribution channels in China. 

The press conference itself, an annual event, underwent some change as well. In the past all of the officials sat in front and addressed the media sitting in chairs. This year they added tables and provided lunch for those in attendance. 

Change comes in many forms.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The September Hong Kong Fair Is Now All About the Jewelry

The finished jewelry section of the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair (HKCEC) opened Friday with the ceremonial dragon dance offering good luck to all exhibitors and buyers. 

The fair officially opened two days earlier at the AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) convention center near the Hong Kong international airport with companies that specialize in diamonds, gems, pearls and other jewelry making materials. However, the jewelry portion of the fair, which displays products ranging from the most basic to the most exclusive, marks the true start of the annual event. 

It is one of the world’s largest jewelry and gem fairs, if not the largest, and with the continued economic growth in China and other Asian markets, it is one of the most important events on the jewelry industry calendar. UBM Asia, which owns and operates the trade show, said in terms of exhibitors, 3,700, it is the largest in the fair’s history. Whether that results in more buyers attending will be known in the next few days. 

It is also the most international of all jewelry shows. At any given moment somewhere on the 135,000 square meters of exhibit space you will see Japanese pearl jewelry exhibitors doing business with retailers from Dubai, Chinese jewelry manufacturers selling to South American distributors and Polish amber jewelers selling to the Chinese market. In addition, it’s a true business show. There are few new product launches or big corporate events. All of the action is done at the booths.

The day at HKCEC began with a large number of people in registration lines and even larger numbers of buyers waiting in long lines for the doors to fair to open. A large crowd also gathered around the dragon dance performers just as the doors opened to the fair. 

While all of the trading is going on, Super Typhoon Mangkhut is barreling towards Hong Kong, described as a Signal 9 storm, among the strongest on the 10-plus point scale. If it does hit Hong Kong and remains a Category 9, the show will at least temporarily close Sunday. 

The materials portion of the show at the AWE will end Sunday and the finished jewelry at the HKCEC will run till Tuesday.

Pearls, Pearls and More Pearls At September Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

Hall 1 in the vast AsiaWorld-Expo is separate from the other halls. However, buyers had no trouble finding it during the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. 

That's because inside there are pearls as far as the eye can see. They come in every size and every shape imaginable. From blinding white pearls to Tahitians with a lustrous glow to pearls in every color imaginable. 

In addition, this section of the fair showcased coral and other fruits of the sea. All totaled there are approximately 650 suppliers of loose pearls and finished pearl jewelry, including dealers from Australia, China, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, U.K. and the U.S, according to UBM Asia, which hosts the show.

Buyers responded well, crowding the aisles the first two days of the trade fair and pressing up against exhibition booths exhibition booths eyeing the loose pearls as close possible to determine quality. 

“The September Fair is unparalleled in terms of the breadth, depth and quality of its pearl exhibits,” says Celine Lau, director of Jewellery Fairs at UBM Asia. “If you’re looking for top-quality Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and freshwater pearls – from rare single gems, matched pairs and strands to exclusive pearl suites and jewelry collections in fresh and modern designs – you will find them all at the show.”

The Japan Pearl Pavilion, one of the busiest and vibrant sections on the AWE show floor, features 108 loose pearl dealers, says Yoshihiro Shimizu, chairman of the Japan Pearl Exporters’ Association. 

"We will have a special display of gem-quality pearls, including exceptionally rare strands of Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls" Shimizu said. It’s going to be a very busy and exciting show for Japan’s top pearl specialists and hopefully, it’ll be an extremely informative, enriching and productive one for trade show visitors, too.”

Tahitian pearls and China pearls are also well represented at the fair.

"In terms of demand, high-quality round Tahitian pearls are currently the hottest items in the market, said Ida Wong, chairman of the Tahitian Pearl Association Hong Kong. "TPAHK’s strategic promotion of other fancy shapes – drop, circled, button, oval, baroque and keshi, among others – highlighting asymmetric perfection is anticipated to help boost the demand for other pearl shapes." 

Paraiba, Emeralds, Rubies, Opals Among The Highlights Of Colored Gems Pavilion at the September Hong Kong Jewelry Fair

A suite of Paraiba from Erica Courtney. Photo: Anthony DeMarco

The largest September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair in the show’s 36-year history has begun and one of the biggest draws at AsiaWorld-Expo is colored gemstones.

It is one of the world's largest collections of colored gems under one roof anywhere in the world and the number and variety of gems available is unmatched. 

An Opal originally from Cartier being offered by Erica Courtney. Photo: Anthony DeMarco

The Courtney Collection, an Erica Courtney company, is giving professional buyers a glimpse of its African Paraiba tourmaline suites at the September Fair.

“We are exhibiting beautiful gemstones of exceptionally large sizes from a private collection, showing large single gems as well as curated suites, including many extraordinary specimens of African paraiba tourmaline,” a spokesperson for the US-based company said. “We wish to reach gemstone collectors and gemstone vendors who appreciate exceptionally large gemstones.”

Zambian emeralds from Gemfields. Photo: Anthony DeMarco

An award-winning jewelry designer, Erica Courtney is known for her use of fine gemstones in her "Drop Dead Gorgeous" jewelry collection. Her love of extraordinary gemstones led her to partner with a private collector who has amassed a collection of large gems, which will be presented at the September Fair.

The paraiba set is certainly one of the highlights in the main gemstone pavilion, The sea-blue gems are being sold as a set with a full range of size and shape that would make an exceptional suite of jewels.

Not to be outdone, in the neighboring "Fine Gem Pavilion," Paul Wild has on display special paraibas from Africa and Brazil, the origin of paraibas, and one of the rarest gems, since all of the original material has been mined.

The mining and marketing company, Gemfields, was showcasing a number of their Zambian emeralds and Mozambique rubies in a stand by one of the entrances.

In addition, number of opal dealers were displaying their unique gems with lustrous colors and sparkling patterns. Opals are one of the least understood of all gemstones. They are classified as “phenomenal gems,” a group of gemstones that have various optical properties, such as gems that produce a “star” or “cat’s eye” effect. For opals it’s the play of color that exhibits an iridescent effect, appearing to gradually change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes.