Founded in 1998, the Gem and Jewellery Institute of Thailand (GIT), a public organisation under the Ministry of Commerce, is the backbone responsible for promoting the Thai gemstone and jewellery industry globally. Sumed Prasongpongchai was unanimously elected as the new director of GIT in November 2020. Under his leadership, GIT has rigorously launched new entrepreneurial development projects to support the local industry and foster sustainable growth. In a wide-ranging interview, Sumed Prasongpongchai discusses in detail his background, educational and research projects, the GIT Design Awards 2021 and the institute’s vision and initiatives for 2022.
As a newcomer to the jewellery scene, Prasongpongchai is the first Director of GIT with a background and experience developed outside of the gems market. In fact, he was the Vice President of an export glass company for over 20 years, building distribution channels and expanding into new markets. In 2019, he immersed himself at GIT diving into the industry, restructuring the team while bringing efforts to strengthen Thailand’s policies and growth.
- Can you tell us about your background before your current role at GIT?
I used to work in the export field for decades and also in management level in a listed trading company. After my retirement, I wanted to share my experiences and contribute to my country, so I joined GIT as the Deputy Director and started to learn more about this fascinating yet complex trade. I was involved in many projects to promote and integrate the jewellery industry in Thailand, focusing on standardization and compliance for Thai exporters. In November 2020, I was appointed as the Director of GIT to reassess the institute’s business strategy and roadmap to propel the Thai gem and jewellery industry onto an international spotlight.
- What do you love most about being part of the gems and jewellery industry?
The industry is a complex one, from the variety of gemstones, treatments to the level of craftsmanship and expertise required in jewellery production. Every piece is underpinned by emotion. Coming from a government institution, I have met some truly kind and genuine people who are passionate about what they do. This inspires me to support these businesses, by providing training programmes on market trends so they are encouraged to plan and push their products forward.
- What are your views and vision for the next 5 years for the Thai Gems and Jewellery Industry?
Thailand will become one of the world’s main centres for sourcing gemstones and jewellery manufacturing, with greater technological advancements, production techniques and creative designs. We will ensure the sector continues to standardize and embrace international compliance requirements.
4. I have been following GIT’s recent Jewellery Design awards 2021 competition that aims to support jewellery design talent and create public awareness. The main theme was “Intergeneration jewellery – jewellery for every generation” a jewellery collection that is wearable by every generation. Why was this an important theme for GIT?
The concept was inspired by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which brought upon lockdowns and a global economic decline. As a result, people were more concerned with their spending. We wanted to showcase jewellery that is versatile and suitable for multiple audience groups, transcending different generations and genders. Perhaps these pieces can be shared or worn with other family members. The theme “Intergeneration jewellery – jewellery for every generation” was very challenging to all our participating designers. The aim of this campaign was to encourage jewellery consumers to become more aware of this concept.
- What was the criteria for the judges and what were you looking for in the design competition?
Apart from the general contest scoring criteria, candidates had to effectively present their design ideas to a panel of international judges and experts. We received 402 design drawings from 27 countries around this design theme. These were exhibited to inspire other Thai designers so they can keep informed with new ideas, innovations and state-of-the-art techniques.
- I have seen so much talent and innovation from Thai designers, how will GIT help further promote them?
We always aim to create activities to support new and upcoming designers as well as inviting them to provide support and professional coaching to help the industry. Some of these designers help train the SMEs in other provinces across Thailand, raising their quality standards and competitiveness in the global market.
- What is GIT’s involvement with the Phuket Gems and Jewellery Fest that took place in December 2021?
The Phuket Gems and Jewellery Fest was the first event organised by the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), Ministry of Commerce, aimed to stimulate the economy and export of Thai gems and jewellery as well as help Thai exporters thrive during the post-pandemic. The GIT laboratory team exhibited at the show, providing free verbal testing and regular gem testing services at a very special price to support exhibitors and traders at the show. As a national laboratory, our objective is to provide confidence to the market through our Buy With Confidence Programme, providing testing and issuance of quality certificates.
- What’s GIT’s biggest agenda and priorities for 2022?
We are currently implementing major compliance policies, especially those from the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and will announce these new requirements to businesses to inform them about policies that will affect their competitiveness and outreach to the global market. GIT will offer public training and consultancy programmes for businesses.
GIT will focus more on design and gem cutting competitions to improve their capabilities, develop new production techniques and materials to improve their product quality. We also have plans to elevate Thailand as one of the main gold hubs of Asia.
Since 80% of coloured gemstones worldwide have been circulated through Thailand, particularly Chanthaburi for cutting and quality enhancement, we will continue to strengthen the position of Chanthaburi as the world’s key hub for coloured gemstone production and trading. We will host the 7th International Gem and Jewellery Conference and Corundum symposium on 2-3 February 2022 with the display of the winner’s stone from GIT’s Enchanting Ruby & Sapphire Awards. The event is aimed to further promote the quality of Thai gemstones and to stimulate future demand among Thai and international traders and consumers. GIT and its partners will also host the next “International Chanthaburi Gems and Jewellery Festival” in 3-7 February 2022.
- What kind of initiatives are GIT taking to continue to grow Thailand as the gemstone capital of Asia?
Thailand is currently one of the main original equipment manufacturers (OEM)s and is among the top 3 coloured gemstone capitals in the world. We have the know-how, craftsmanship and the regulations laid out for the industry. The next step for us is to focus on standardization of procedures to comply with international guidelines. We will bridge the industry through strong research initiatives which will lead to more value-creation for the industry. GIT is playing a proactive role through research projects on lab-grown diamonds, diamond identification and new production techniques.
The institute is also accelerating the development of training courses for businesses in the digital age. We will continue to provide product development, brand identity, and storytelling training programmes to SMEs across Thailand. As the country’s central agency, we will keep up to date with industry developments and convey the information to Thai gem and jewellery entrepreneurs.
We are working together with the RJC to create a globally sustainable future for our industry. GIT has arranged seminars and invited RJC representatives to explain the standards’ importance to Thai entrepreneurs. These seminars are aimed to encourage business owners to become more aware and active on forming business operations that are rooted in social and environmental responsibility.
- What is your view on general trade trends and developments?
The online business is becoming increasingly more aggressive. We have been working with many online platforms to initiate a consumer protection model. In some countries like the United States, their trade regulations require certificates for online trading of gems and jewellery products. So, we aim to develop and introduce similar policies to all Thai entrepreneurs when it is ready.
Interview by Isabella Yan