Iran’s GEMKISH showcases craftsmanship in turquoise, agate
By David Brough
KISH ISLAND, Iran, November 2018 – Gems and jewellery show GEMKISH was a showcase for Persian turquoise and agate, and highlighted a need for international marketing to raise awareness of the skills of Iranian craftsmanship.
GEMKISH, whose fourth edition took place from November 19-22, coincided with the first symposium on Iranian trade in turquoise and agate, which also featured presentations by three international specialists about diamonds and emeralds.
A strong turnout from buyers, both in the trade as well as tourists from across Iran and beyond, visited the show to choose superbly crafted gem-set jewellery including diamond jewellery and pieces set with gems, including Persian turquoise and agate.
“In terms of gems and jewellery, Iran is perhaps most famous for its turquoise and agate,” said Zohreh Amini, gemologist with HRD-Antwerp-Iran, based in Tehran.
Trade with India
Indian participants at GEMKISH were down this year due to the impact of renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran, organisers said.
Some Indian traders chose to visit Jewellery Arabia in Bahrain instead of GEMKISH this year.
However, Kish, which benefits from duty-free status, welcomes business opportunities with the Indian and international trade and hopes to deepen ties in the future as the show progresses, organisers said.
GEMKISH is also looking to strengthen ties to buyers from Europe, Asia and beyond.
There is a strong flow of gems and jewellery trade between India and Iran: Iranians export minerals, such as turquoise and agate, to India; and India exports manufactured and handcrafted jewellery and gems to Iran.
India is by far the leading partner in Iran’s gem and jewellery trade, GEMKISH organisers said.
GEMKISH displayed a wide selection of jewellery and gemstones, notably pure and matrix turquoise, in blue and green, and a vast range of agate jewellery, as well as diamond jewellery, and jewellery set with cut gems sourced from Jaipur.
Exhibitors included Shamse Mehr Soltan, which presented a variety of gem-set jewellery, including jewellery set with lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and turquoise and agate jewellery from Iran.
“We see GEMKISH as presenting a big opportunity to attract buyers because of the duty-free status of Kish Island,” said Alireza Iravani, managing director of Shamse Mehr Soltan.
“Iran is very proud of its turquoise and agate production, and we are hoping to develop business opportunities for the Iranian gems and jewellery sector.”
Adel Gold & Jewellery, based in Isfahan, showcased gold and gem-set jewellery at GEMKISH, featuring high standards of craftsmanship.
Young and talented Iranian jewellery designers, many of them women, were out in force at the show, underscoring the skilled craftsmanship in Iran, one of the most populous countries in the Middle East.
“Now is the time to consider carefully how best to market internationally the skilled craftsmanship of Iran’s gem and jewellery industry,” said Tehran-based Professor Fariborz Masoudi, a geochemist and mineralogist, who was one of the main organisers of GEMKISH and the symposium.
A key challenge for the Iranian gems and jewellery sector is the need for marketing and branding.
The Iranian trade understands that it should raise awareness in the wider gems and jewellery world of the skills of Iranian craftspeople and the attraction of its indigenous turquoise and agate gems.
Much of the discussion around GEMKISH, coinciding with the invitation of three international specialists to the show, centred around how the Iranian trade can inform buyers around the world about the talented jewellery makers, and rare materials available in Iran.
“We are very pleased to have invited the three international speakers who have shown their strong support for the Iranian gems and jewellery trade,” said Vahid Ahadnejad, a gemologist and mineralogist, who was also an organiser of the event at Kish.
GEMKISH, with the advantages of its duty-free zone status, has the potential to be an important conduit for Iranian gemstone and jewellery exports to the rest of the world.
That potential is currently complicated by the U.S. sanctions, but there was widespread hope in Kish that the economic situation in Iran would eventually improve, creating new opportunities for the trade.
In the debate about the future of the Iranian gems and jewellery trade, visitors to GEMKISH suggested the following actions:
Develop the GEMKISH website, in both English and Farsi;
Consider rebranding GEMKISH, focusing on its status as Iran’s number 1 gems and jewellery show, with a strong social media plan.
Presenting GEMKISH at other international gems and jewellery trade shows, for example the India International Jewellery Show (IIIJS), staged twice a year in Mumbai;
Boosting education for members of Iran’s gems and jewellery trade;
Promoting a future Iranian jewellery design competition, with a financial prize for the winner that gives incentives to talented jewellery designers to enter the contest. Boosting the profiles of leading Iranian jewellery designers via editorial on the internet;
Developing the brands of GEMKISH and leading Iranian gem and jewellery exporting companies;
Boosting GEMKISH’s international communications;
Developing new features of GEMKISH, including fresh content for future symposiums and seminar programmes;
Raising awareness of GEMKISH’s duty-free status;
Advertising GEMKISH in international trade media;
Inviting influential international trade media, influencers and bloggers to GEMKISH, subject to budget constraints;
Boosting the brand value of Persian turquoise, the leading indigenous gemstone export revenue earner of Iran;
How to boost the export value of the Iranian gems and jewellery sector?
One of the talking points at GEMKISH was the extraordinary auction sales results at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s magnificent jewellery auctions held in Geneva on November 13-15.
In the sales, the 18.96-carat Pink Legacy achieved a world record price per carat for a pink diamond of $2.6 million per carat at Christie’s, selling for $50 million to U.S.-based jeweller Harry Winston. It was the most valuable pink diamond ever sold by Christie’s.
A pearl and diamond pendant once owned by ill-fated French Queen Marie Antoinette, garnered an all-time high price for a pearl of $36 million, many times its $1-2 million estimate, at Sotheby’s.
Visitors to GEMKISH spoke about the supreme marketing skills of Sotheby’s and Christie’s in driving demand for such extraordinary jewels, and asked themselves how to maximise the value of Iran’s handcrafted gem-set jewellery and gems.
Part of the answer to the question is figuring out how to increase the value of, and appreciation for, Persian turquoise, the most precious gem mined in Iran.
Branding of a suitable name for Persian turquoise, and possibly creating a trademark, would be a first step.
Boosting ties between the Iranian and Indian gem and jewellery trades would be key, because of India’s importance as a potentially growing export market for Iranian products.
The Iranian jewellery and gems trade, with the guidance of the GEMKISH board, could consider creating a new jewellery and gems organisation to unite the domestic sector.
A new Iranian jewellery and gems body could approach India’s Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) to enhance cooperation and business ties between the two countries.
GEMKISH’s key organisers aim to initiate a dialogue with CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, in order to begin a process to elect and appoint an Iranian delegate to the annual CIBJO Congress.
There may be time to appoint an Iranian delegate to CIBJO before its next Congress in Bahrain in late 2019.
The CIBJO Congress sets the global guidelines for gems and jewellery trade, including nomenclature.
GEMKISH’s key organisers can build relationships with industry groups in other countries, such as the UK’s National Association of Jewellers (NAJ), and international trade fairs, such as VICENZAORO in Italy.
Presentations to GEMKISH
The following is a summary of the key points presented by the three international specialists who gave presentations to GEMKISH:
David Brough, Editor, Jewellery Outlook (November 19): Challenges in the marketing of lab grown diamonds: future global turnover in lab grown diamonds is set to increase markedly.
Lab grown diamonds need to be clearly identified and segmented from natural diamonds. A technology race is under way between lab groups to be able to identify the smallest lab grown diamonds in parcels of natural melee.
CIBJO seeks to boost dialogue with the lab grown diamond manufacturing community, according to sources attending the 2018 CIBJO Congress in Bogota in October.
In their marketing, lab grown diamond manufacturers will likely extol the virtues of sustainable diamonds at more accessible prices than natural diamonds.
“Diamonds” author, Marijan Dundek (November 20): Marijan Dundek, one of the world’s leading experts in the sale of high-value coloured natural diamonds, who formerly worked for Graff, gave a presentation about drivers of value, noting the extraordinary prices achieved at auction for some of the world’s rarest diamonds.
A discussion panel focused on how the beauty, rarity and provenance of superb coloured diamonds can send prices to all-time highs, as in the case of the Pink Legacy which had once belonged to the Oppenheimer family, who helped De Beers become the world’s leading diamond miner.
In the case of the sale of Marie Antoinette’s pearl and diamond pendant sold at Sotheby’s Geneva on November 14, much of its value was attributed to provenance: the fact that Marie Antoinette had held this jewel in her collection in the days prior to her execution by guillotine in Paris in 1793, in large part explained its sale for many times its $1-2 million estimate.
Jeffery Bergman, celebrated gemmologist and director of Bangkok-based coloured gemstone company Primagem (November 21): Jeffery Bergman gave an overview of emeralds production in leading origins, such as Colombia, Brazil, Zambia — and lesser known source Ethiopia.
He spoke of the importance of the marketing of responsibly sourced emeralds (such as Gemfields emeralds from the Kagem mine in Zambia), in light of studies showing that many Millennial (young adult) consumers insist upon the highest ethical standards in production of the luxury products that they buy.
Millennials want to be sure that those who are involved in the creation of luxury goods, have not been exploited, earn fair compensation for their labour, and are not associated with degradation of the environment.
Jeffery spoke of the Shakiso emerald mining project in Ethiopia, and highlighted the exceptional quality of the emeralds extracted there, some of them on a par with Colombian emeralds.
Shakiso is a partnership of mine owners, emerald cutters and international gemstone marketers.
The socially responsible emeralds come from the Hallo emerald deposit owned by the Bu’a Obsa Association in Shakiso.
Jeffery, who like David Brough attended the CIBJO Congress in Bogota, talked of the success of the marketing of high quality Muzo emeralds in Colombia.
What is the way forward for the Iranian gems and jewellery trade?
Iran is a little known player in the international gems and jewellery community. The country is having to deal with the impact of U.S. economic sanctions. The small-scale, fragmented and largely unbranded jewellery makers of Iran face challenging economic times.
The debate at GEMKISH focused on how best to increase the knowledge of gem and jewellery buyers around the world about Iran’s skilled craftsmanship and gemstone heritage.
The historic jewels of Iran, safeguarded in the Treasury of National Jewels of Iran in Tehran, are among the world’s most remarkable jewellery collections, and include the fabulous Darya-i-nur diamond, or Sea of Light, the largest pink diamond in the world.
India, one of the world’s leading jewellery suppliers, which plays such a major role in international gem and jewellery trade with Iran, can have a major impact in supporting Iran’s future in the sector.
India holds the key to helping Iran boost its stature in the international jewellery and gems trade.
One idea being considered by GEMKISH organisers was to create a special pavilion for the Indian trade.