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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Impressions of the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair

HONG KONG—From the lion dance welcoming visitors to the second part of the two-tier event, to the mad scramble at buffet tables during the evening reception, the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair kept me very busy. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much jewelry. That will come tomorrow.

The weeklong event, held in two venues (September 19-23 at the Asia World-Expo near the Hong Kong International Airport for diamonds, colored gemstones, materials and equipment; and September 21-25 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre for finished jewelry) is now the world’s largest fine jewelry fair, according to event organizers, UBM Asia. After attending the show Wednesday, I have no reason to doubt them.

Trade fair organizers and trade association leaders at opening day press conference.

The first two days of the fair attracted 15,000 buyers, a 32 percent increase from last year, JimĂ© Essink, president & CEO of UBM Asia Ltd., said during the opening day finished jewelry press conference Wednesday. “It is beyond our wildest dreams,” he said. “With (an expected) 45,000 buyers from 135 countries, it cements its standing as the world’s number one jewelry event.”

Letitia Chow, UBM Asia director of Business Development - Jewelry Group, and Wendy Pang, senior marketing manager - Jewellery Fair, at the evening reception.

Why has this tradeshow attracted so much attention in recent years? Two words: China, India.  While much of the world labors under an economic slowdown, the economies of these two countries are humming along. This is where the strongest growth in attendees is coming from, as buyers try to take advantage of consumers who are more than willing to spend their newfound wealth on jewelry. People from Mainland China now accounts for 32 percent of all attendees and for the first time has overtaken Hong Kong as the top visitor group.

Hong Kong, with its international port, strong business environment and its ideal location, is considered the gateway to China and much of Asia. Designers and manufacturers from around the world are flocking to this show to get into these strong markets. More than 3,300 vendors from 46 countries represent an 8 percent increase over last year, ensuring that the 1.4 square-feet of combined exhibition space is fully occupied. Planned expansion to the two massive centers won’t be ready for at least four years, leaving the organizers with the unusual task of being unable to grow further. But as Essink told me: “It’s a good problem to have."

The official toast at the evening reception.

I last attended this event in 2005 and I have to say to say that moving unfinished jewelry vendors to a second location has certainly made the convention center much easier to navigate. Security checkpoints are fewer and I can actually walk through the hallways and exhibition areas of the five-story convention center without running through a sea of bodies. Layouts are much easier to understand. Silver jewelry and other lower cost finished product have its own area. The International Premiere Pavilion features exhibitors showcasing luxury jewelry from about 20 countries in a dedicated space. Top Hong Kong brands have their own pavilion.

As I said previously, I will be talking jewelry tomorrow.

Hungry people

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