Setting out to be Southeast Asia's largest showcase of the world's finest jewellery and gems fair, the Singapore Jewellery and Gem Fair is the sister _ but hardly the complement _ to the world's ultimate and most established fine jewellery event: the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, which is held in September and organised by UBM. Making its debut appearance at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre from Oct 12-15, the fair has established itself as an exemplary contender likely to emerge as the next top ruler of Asean's fine jewellery exhibition.
Van Cleef & Arpels 1960’s ruby and diamond set from Windsor Jewelers (USA) in the Antique Pavilion.
Melo pearls come from sea snails and have been gaining in popularity lately. Rare finds are ones that are round as these pearls usually come out flat and are never drilled into in order to retain their value. This necklace from DeGem (Singapore) consists of a Burmese ruby, conch pearl and melo pearl at the bottom.
As Asia emerges as the world's largest market for luxury goods, many brands are setting their sights on acquiring more Asian customers as opposed to the flat European market, which has been slow ever since the euro zone's economic downturn. Managing director of UBM Christopher Eve says, "There is a big shift towards Asia regarding manufacturing and sourcing, but also in the consumer market, which is highly pronounced. Twenty years ago it was a crazy market in Japan, but today it's shifted to China."
For now, the fair consists mainly of retail sales, but Eve hopes that it will eventually grow to become a business-to-business affair like the fair in Hong Kong, where professional trading and larger exchanges take place, as business traffic is very important not only to the show, but also the wider economy. The Indonesian market is a potentially fruitful one for fine jewellery. "The Indonesian market has a strong economic growth as well as a growing middle class expenditure," says Eve. "However, it's not very easy to do an exhibition in Indonesia because of the tax regulations so it's much easier to organise a show here."
Inspired by the force of diamonds coming out from deep inside the earth, this piece at the Exquisite Pavilion from SA Birth (Japan) captures that magnificent movement with a centre-fill that moves along with the dynamics of the wearer.
He adds: "The [Asian] market is also more developed and mature today with greater appreciation of jewellery. Certain customers are no longer only looking at the weight of the gold. Now they also look at the design and not merely how heavy it is, which is a very interesting trend."
Waruth Vasanajoti, artist and jeweller of Thai brand Warutti, reveals that Singaporeans and Thais prefer large pieces, while the Indonesians also love jewellery _ a market that is indeed worth tapping into, although sky-high taxes prove an obstacle. "The taste in Southeast Asia is completely different from the Japanese, who like small but delicate pieces. Singaporeans, however, are strongly attached to brands and are actually reluctant to buy anything that isn't expensive."
With 283 exhibitors from 28 countries, visitors can see all sorts of pieces of varying flair in country pavilions (China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and USA), alongside the three special-themed pavilions _ Antique, Exquisite and Designer Atelier _ for finds that are among the industry's best. It is indeed an impressive feat for the fair to have rounded up many long-standing veteran jewellers as well as manufacturers who supply jewellery and gemstones to some of the world's largest and reputable international brands.
It is practically a blinding experience to browse around the Exquisite Pavilion, where the brands that will secure a position can only be the ones with the rarest and largest gem stones and where the designs are more spectacular and excruciatingly meticulous to create. The brilliance of the jewellery flashes at you under the glass cases of this more upscale section which looks more like a real store with walls, where showcasing can be conducted in privacy at upholstered armchairs some brands may have in their booths.
The Antique Pavilion was also a don't-miss. Many vintage collectibles _ from Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, Chanel and Boucheron to name a few _ were on display for visitors and buyers to get up personal and close to these rare beauties. Jewellery from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras were also on display. In fact, the oldest piece, a Victorian diamond tiara worth US$20 million dating back to 1850, was sold on the very first day of the fair.
On the home front, Thailand had the second most prominent presence at the fair after Singapore with 30 exhibitors and it is pleasing to see how our nation's offerings size up to the rest of the world. However, while it is a promising four-day affair for Thai brands to be retailing and trading at, there is no doubt that this first-time fair will eventually emerge as Southeast Asia's ultimate hub of jewellery and pose a threat to our own scene at the Bangkok Gems & Jewellery Fair. With a dwindling number of exhibitors, less enticing venue and no support from the state, Bangkok's biggest jewellery fair now has some serious competition.
"It's not about our products not being good enough, it's about customers not coming to see us anymore," says Thailand-based brand Trimoro designer Ampol Taerapornpanich. "If people had to choose where to go exhibit, they would choose Hong Kong first. Now, Singapore might become the place they choose to head to first."
It's likely that there's not much glimmer of hope for Thailand with where the industry is heading in this region, so beware Bangkok Gems, because the Singapore Jewellery & Gem Fair one might just edge you out from becoming the hub of jewellery in Southeast Asia.
Singaporean brand Glajz’s signature is using pink diamonds and their specialty is fancy coloured diamonds. Situated in the Exquisite Pavilion, their centerpieces are large and rare at (from left to right) 20.07 kts, 13.10 kts, 11.72 kts.