highlights from the hong kong shows
The largest gem and jewelry show in the world is held in March in Hong Kong. Sponsored by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, it features twin venues, one for jewelry and one for colored gemstones, diamonds and pearls. This year, the show attracted not only a record number of exhibitors but also a record number of visitors.
By Cynthia Unninayar
Optimism ran high as the twin gem and jewelry shows kicked off in Hong Kong. Opening first was the 4th Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show at Asia-World Expo (AWE), February 28 to March 2, showcasing a vast selection of raw materials, including loose diamonds, colored gems of all types and pearls of every provenance. The 34th Hong Kong International Jewellery Show opened its doors from March 2 to March 6 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) on Hong Hong Island with a wide assortment of beautiful jewelry from brands, manufacturers and artist-creators.
The twin shows welcomed a record number of 4,480 exhibitors from 53 countries and regions as well as a record number of buyers—85,000—from 144 countries and regions. “Despite economic challenges, especially in the luxury goods market, the two shows attracted a record number of buyers, up 6 percent over last year,” said Benjamin Chau, Deputy Executive Director, HKTDC. “This demonstrates that the jewelry industry remains confident about business prospects this year, reinforcing Hong Kong’s position as a proven global promotion and sourcing hub for the industry, as well as the success of our ‘two shows, two venues’ format.”
At the HKCEC, nine themed zones hosted a range of elegant exhibits, plus national pavilions that displayed jewelry from around the world, of every type, from inexpensive mass-produced to luxurious one-of-a-kind pieces in silver, gold and platinum, as well as gold-plated items. There was something for every taste and budget.
Over at AWE, the show was divided into three zones, for loose diamonds, colored gems, and pearls. For purchasers of raw materials, the show was the main source of everything, from small melee to rare unheated stones to unusual and museum quality stones and minerals.
There were no particular new or major trends seen in either jewelry or gemstones. Just about everything could be found at the Hong Kong show. In colored gems, the most popular were sapphire, ruby and emerald. Blue sapphires were very popular as were the perennial rubies, many of which are coming from Mozambique. The use of the “big three,” in engagement rings is also fueling demand for these gems.
In terms of emeralds, a number of exhibitors were talking about the recent find in Ethiopia, while others were delighted to find remarkable blue tourmalines coming out of Nigeria. Yet, there was no shortage of other popular gems. Paraiba tourmaline continues its meteoric rise in popularity, and was seen as both loose gems and exquisite finished jewelry. Spinel in all colors was also a favorite, with morganite gaining increasing attention.
From a price perspective, nearly all dealers I spoke with indicated that the very high end and the low end are doing better, with prices fairly stable and even rising on the upper end of the quality spectrum. Prices in the mid-range, however, are still undergoing a correction. Sailesh Lakhi, CEO of U.S.-based Sparkles and Colors, explained, “Demand for high quality stones is up—gems above $200,000 sold well—but the middle is not doing that well, i.e. in the 5 to 15-carat range.” He also mentioned that rose cuts and moonstone saw a fair demand and that, overall, the show was good.
As usual, the winners of the two major design competitions organized by the show were announced and showcased. First was the Hong Kong Jewellery Design Competition, divided into a student group and an open group for designers in Hong Kong. Secondly, the biennial International Jewellery Design Excellence (IJDE) Award recognized outstanding designers from around the world. This year, the IJDE received 165 submissions from winners of various jewelry design competitions from 27 countries and regions. The winners were announced at a cocktail on March 2.
In designer jewelry at the show, everything was available, but popular motifs were floral and animal themes, especially butterflies. Rings continued their diversity, with multi-finger, full-finger designs and those linked to hand decoration. Exotic earwear was also apparent at many booths. Styles varied from earcuffs to asymmetrical designs to ear climbers and other unusual earring combinations.
While diamonds are, of course popular, colored gemstones stole the show with exquisite combinations of gems in nature-inspired designs. Shown here are a few of the gems and jewels that were at the Hong Kong shows.