Buyers were seeking smaller, simpler silver jewellery pieces
at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show (Picture courtesy of HKTDC)
Business sentiment in silver jewellery trade circles is slightly more upbeat after the wave of trade fairs in the first quarter. Manufacturers note that buyers have been favouring smaller, simpler designs that they knew they could sell in their markets.
Precious Products Jewelry Co Ltd of Thailand had a good start to the year, according to sales manager Suwit Arunkeereewat. The company did well at the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair in February and had an exceptional Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, said the company official. "At the Hong Kong Fair, we won over new clients from the Czech Republic and Germany. Some old customers of ours also returned to place orders with us. We also managed to get several promising leads from various markets," says Arunkeereewat.
Roma Kulisra, product development manager of Advance Manufacturer's Co Ltd
The Bangkok and Hong Kong shows also delivered for Thailand-based Advance Manufacturer's Co Ltd. Product development manager Roma Kulisra cites the company’s new personalised jewellery lines and items that can be mixed and matched as among the more popular pieces with buyers.
Poland's Gielo is likewise pleased with its first quarter results. "We noted strong post-Christmas reorder volumes in January and positive market response throughout the shows and exhibitions we’ve been to so far this year," says CEO Mariusz Gielo.
At the Hong Kong Fair, the amber silver jewellery specialist entertained regular customers and, more importantly, attracted new potential clients, increasing overall order volumes at the show by over 20 percent compared to last year, Gielo continued. "Buyers are always looking for fresh ideas and new looks. These can be anything from unique designs or shapes, unusual finishes or, at best, a mix of both," he notes.
Western markets still face economic uncertainty hence are more comfortable with lower price points, often opting for smaller pieces rather than big, elaborate designs. The Chinese market though maintains a voracious appetite for larger white or milky amber pieces and remains a strong market for the company, Gielo adds.
Buyers are indeed seeking smaller and simpler styles, says Hang Po Jewellery Ltd marketing manager SoSo Lam. "Clients want something that is wearable. If they are certain they can sell it in their markets, then they will place an order. They may like some designs that are fancier or unconventional but if they are unsure about their customers' response to these items, they will simply ask for quotations and think about whether it is worth the risk. The safe bet for them is simple, daily wear pieces that are easy to match with fashion and other accessories," Lam explains.
Hang Po built its name on pearl silver jewellery but has branched out to offer gem-set pieces as well. These new lines have been particularly popular among buyers, says Lam.
Hang Po Jewellery Ltd marketing manager SoSo Lam (second from right) and her team
Thailand's Goldlip Jewellery agrees that buyers have become more cautious. The manufacturer unveiled new organic, handmade silver jewellery lines with boulder opals, baroque pearls and red corals at the Hong Kong Fair. These new releases along with Goldlip's regular ranges were well received by buyers from America, remarks managing director Tal Levran, who admits that surviving in today’s market requires plenty of innovation and hard work.
"The general atmosphere is that the good, high-end shops that used to sell expensive jewellery are now looking for more affordable items so they can fill up their shelves and sell quantities. That is not my line or my production. So we respond by innovating with materials, designs and prices," Levran explains.
Manufacturers noted that US buyers were once again placing orders but have become extremely price-sensitive. NK Silver Co Ltd sales manager Lesley Anne Vivero reveals that the US clients have been buying their silver jewellery set with larimar but are showing a preference for smaller styles. The Japanese and European markets have also been placing orders, she adds.
Lesley Anne Vivero (right) of NK Silver Co Ltd
Silver Light by New Silver Srl of Italy also met up with a number of potential clients from the US at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show. Sales manager Arianna Neri also touched base with buyers from France, Germany and the Netherlands at the show.
Russian buyers were also back at the show after a prolonged absence, noted Goldlip’s Levran. European markets remain relatively soft, though some suppliers got small orders from the UK, Germany, Spain and France. Asian markets showed promise too, with suppliers reporting orders from Japan, Korea and the Philippines, among others.
China was also a good source of OEM business and design projects for some Hong Kong and Thai companies as retailers on the mainland sought greater variety for online and in-store business. Thailand’s Feminine Jewelry Co Ltd was on the lookout for potential partners in China at the show, according to director Kik Sopchokchai.
Bespoke pieces and design services are emerging as one avenue for growth, note silver jewellery producers. Kusion Jewellery of Hong Kong is diversifying its business to provide consultation and design services to meet this need. "Many clients are now looking for new suppliers who provide not only wholesale silver jewellery pieces for the mass market but also special items that can fit their image and style," reveals owner and designer Kate Po.
Kate Po of Kusion Jewellery
Moreover, order quantities have been shrinking since products now have shorter shelf lives. Retailers are responding to this trend by offering niche and exclusive designs that will make customers return to their store, Po notes, adding that she is setting up a new company to cater to such requirements. On the wholesale side, Kusion will continue to focus on high-value bespoke designs and high-quality bridal jewellery, she adds.
Swan Chung of SWAZ Jewelry has also been fielding enquiries for design consultancy services. "A number of wholesalers from China have actually approached us to design silver jewellery pieces for their own labels since they have difficulty finding what they need on the mainland. We are exploring a few such deals where we create the designs for the pieces and hopefully these could lead to manufacturing contracts in the future," she says.
Swan Chung of SWAZ Jewelry
SWAZ specialises in transformable silver jewellery with modern designs such as reversible bracelets, hand bracelets that join with a pinky or midi ring, and mismatched earrings. The company, which usually uses pearls and cubic zirconia in its designs, has added affordable white jade to its repertoire. "Our designs are very feminine and dainty, and tend to attract buyers from Korea, Japan and Australia. We can swap the cubic zirconia with rubies and fancy sapphires if need be," Chung remarks.
Themed collections and inspirational, meaningful pieces are also in demand. Sea life motifs, in particular, are showing great promise for a number of manufacturers.
Ocean-themed silver charm by Autumn Lines Co Ltd
Autumn Lines Co Ltd of Thailand is seeing strong interest in its sea life designs, according to Sonia Rachanivarakonkul, partner for business and product development. Buoyed by positive market response, the company has expanded its sea life collection. Autumn Lines has over 500 designs in four distinct collections. The 45 Degrees Collection are inspired by the elements of nature, namely space, air, fire, water and earth. The 90 Degrees Collection features fauna-themed designs, while the 180 Degrees Collection takes on the floral world. The 360 Degrees Collection meanwhile centres on human nature by encapsulating thoughts, feelings and actions in silver jewellery.
Johnson Hui, owner and designer of Special Concept
Special Concept of the US is extremely bullish on the theme that it aims to become the top provider of silver jewellery with sea life motifs in the next two to three years, according to owner and designer Johnson Hui. "Based on our research, the majority of our repeat customers are from coastal areas. So we will develop an extensive collection of sea life-themed silver jewellery that they can package as souvenirs. This will be a new market segment for us," Hui explains.
'Scrambled' gold plated-silver jewellery with
coloured gemstones and pearls by Special Concept
According to Hui, the directional shift came when he realised that the market now prefers smaller jewellery pieces, especially if they are meaningful to the wearer. Special Concept will thus phase out some of its lines and focus more on its ranges with coral, pearls and larimar. "We will also introduce new techniques like broom casting and scrambled designs that will create unique textures for our jewellery. The name of the game is to continually provide something new to keep the market excited," Hui says.