A few times a year I find myself in Hong Kong for the gem and jewelry trade shows that take place in March, June and September. These shows exist all over the world, in Bangkok, Mumbai, Istanbul, Munich and more. While most are regional events drawing local buyers, the shows in Hong Kong are a global happening. The March and September shows are so big that they take place in two venues; Asia World Expo (AWE), adjacent to the Hong Kong International Airport, and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center (HKCEC) in Wanchai. Approximately 3,700 exhibitors from 56 countries participated in the event. AWE features exhibitors of raw materials including diamonds, loose gemstones and pearls, while the HKCEC features companies exhibiting fine finished jewelry, packaging, tools & equipment.
It’s no mystery why 56,000 visitors came to Hong Kong for the September 13-19 edition. Hong Kong has become the world’s premier trading hub for jewelry. It is a free port where there are no duties or restrictions imposed on precious jewelry products or related materials. It is also the ideal springboard from which traders worldwide can venture out to the booming markets of mainland China and the rest of Asia. Most of the key industry players are in attendance, and it seems that every conceivable jewelry related item is available.
I scoured both exhibition venues over the course of the 7 days looking for deals and filling orders for clients. There are always new and remarkable things to see. Along with supply and demand shifts, some gems and jewelry styles go in and out of fashion. As a result, we see more of less of them in the showcases. This year I happened to notice a considerable drop in the amount of tanzanite being displayed. In years past, everyone who could get in on the action was cutting and selling this hot gem. However, as the source of tanzanite is limited to one location, the supply is always in question. Another issue is the lack of any meaningful emerald production from Colombia. At present, finer material is not coming out of the mines, only lighter to medium tones. The appetite in Asia for fine Colombian emeralds is high and with limited material, buyers bought up what was available and considered its more readily available geological cousin. Zambian Emeralds in a variety of qualities are in much stronger supply in the market due to the highly mechanized mining efforts in recent years. In general, I felt both exhibitors and attendees were generally pleased with the shows. This was a welcome result as the industry continues its radical transformation as a result of changing consumer tastes, globalization, and the internet.
The added benefits to being in Hong Kong make the trip very worthwhile. The participants at the shows are business partners, colleagues and friends, and it is always great to catch up. I know of no other way where I can see good friends from so many different countries all at once! Also, the city is beautiful and bustling. To me, it feels a lot like New York. It’s very fast paced, multi-cultural, rather expensive as cities go, its people are very industrious, and it’s a city that never sleeps.
Riding in the Star Ferry across the Victoria Harbour from Wanchai to my hotel in Kowloon provides an incredible view of the Hong Kong skyline. At night, the buildings are all lit up, and many with animated LED lighting. This short trip provides enough time to reflect on what an incredible city it is and the opportunities that Hong Kong provides to the world.