By David Brough
HONG KONG – Huge crowds surged into the March 1-5 HKTDC Hong Kong jewellery and gem shows, which reopened for the first time since the pandemic, auguring for buoyant orders.
The event felt like one show, but in fact comprised two fairs running side by side, the HKTDC Hong Kong International Jewellery Show and the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show.
The big attendance boded well for the more than 2,400 exhibitors, spanning fine jewellery, loose diamonds and coloured gemstones, to silver and antique jewellery, and accessories.
The mood was boosted by the lifting of a mandate to wear masks in Hong Kong from March 1.
Many Chinese and overseas visitors milled around the show without masks, while some others chose to continue to wear them. Visitors from European countries had to have a negative Covid test result shortly before travelling to Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong show took place, as before the pandemic, in the gigantic central Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, in the Wan Chai business district, over five floors divided up into different jewellery and gemstone market segments. Natural and lab grown diamond halls were physically separated.
Officials with organisers HKTDC (Hong Kong Trade Development Council) spoke of their confidence that the show would yield strong orders, driven by the influx of visitors from around the world, many of them from Asia, delighted to have the opportunity to reconnect in-person again after the pandemic.
Sentiment was upbeat at a big networking party, attended by VIP delegates, on the terrace of the fifth floor as the sun set over Victoria harbour on the second day.
Winston Chow, director of Chow Sang Sang Holdings International, a major Hong Kong jewellery retail group, who addressed an HKTDC-organised press briefing, quoted figures from show organisers that Hong Kong fine jewellery exports had jumped by 18 percent to USD 9.1 billion in 2022, compared with before the pandemic in 2019.
Exports from Hong King of pearls, gemstones and rough diamonds were up 20 percent to USD 20.295 billion in 2022 versus 2019, pre-pandemic, he added.
The Hong Kong show was one of the largest jewellery trade events so far this year, in terms of visitor and exhibitor numbers.
Bolton, UK-based exhibitor Town Talk Polish reported brisk enquiries from retailers in Asia and elsewhere.
Italy, a major goldsmithing exporter, had its own “Italia” pavilion, including a stand representing TRENDVISION whose creative director Paola De Luca gave a well-attended seminar on jewellery design trends for the coming seasons.
She identified chunky chains and the “return of black” among key trends, and spoke of the importance of sustainability and the “circular economy” in the mindsets of designers.
Other seminars focused on the increasing use of AI, notably ChatGPT, in jewellery design, and on expectations for growth in the use of blockchain to track the journey of diamonds from mines to factories, and then to jewellery stores.
Fine diamond suppliers, such as Indian manufacturers Venus Jewel, SRK and Rosy Blue reported strong enquiries at their booths for some exceptional stones.
Venus Jewel showcased a remarkable 20.20 carat, oval shape D colour, type IIA white diamond of VVS1 clarity.
Rosy Blue’s highlighted stones included some exquisite yellow diamonds.
India’s leading diamond manufacturers spoke of the importance of blending the newest technologies, including use of AI, with a continuing investment in highly skilled craftsmanship in order to deliver top tier polished stones to the global market. India is by far the world’s leading manufacturer of diamonds.
India’s state-backed Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) gave a presentation on the sidelines of the show predicting strong growth in Indian exports of gemstones and jewellery to around USD 75 billion per year in the next few years, from some USD 40 billion now, driven in part by Chinese demand for diamonds processed in India, as the Chinese economy reinvigorates post pandemic.
Vipul Shah, GJEPC Chairman
India’s export expansion will incorporate a significant projected growth in manufacturing of lab grown diamonds, as well as natural diamonds, GJEPC executives said.
The Hong Kong show presented an extraordinary selection of coloured gemstones, including high-quality Colombian emeralds from suppliers organised by the Colombian Association of Emerald Exporters (Acodes.)
Other highlights of the coloured gemstones hall included a selection of responsibly sourced rubellites, a red variety of tourmaline, mined by Cruzeiro mines in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
The antique jewellery hall was buzzing, with Mayfair, London-based John Souglides showcasing a 1970s David Webb suite featuring 85 carats of unheated Ceylon sapphires.
On the fifth floor, the stand featuring the Vanta GX precious metal analyzer received brisk enquiries. The countertop instrument provides an affordable way to know the purity and composition of gold and other precious metals.
The Hong Kong show was attended by a sizeable international trade press contingent, mainly from Asia, and some European countries, as well as a couple of Instagram influencers from India.