Mood good at Hong Kong show

Business was good and spirits were high at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, held at the city’s convention center this week.

The number of visitors in the fair’s first two days was up 23% over last year, reaching 16,459, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which organizes the fair. Overseas visitors were responsible for much of that gain: There was a 28% jump over last year in buyers from abroad. The number of exhibitors also climbed to 1,380, a 15% jump over the year before.

Traffic was strong not only in the aisles but in the booths, with exhibitors reporting that buyers were in a spending mood. “They are not only buying, they want programs for the whole year,” said Isy Namdar, of Israel’s Schachter Namdar. “This is a very strong show, much better than our expectations.”

Attendees pointed to this show, and the even stronger post-SARS fair held here last September, as firm signs of the region’s resurgence. “The Asian market is definitely back,” said Reuven Kaufman, a New York diamond dealer who has long specialized in Asia. He said Indonesia, Bangkok, Thailand, Taiwan, and Korea all are looking good. “The whole Asian market is up,” agreed Aaron Shun, president of the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers Association. “This has been one of the better shows. The atmosphere is good, buyers are confident, and exports are growing. This year looks very promising.”

Jewelry trends at the show included chandelier earrings, colored diamonds, and the “white look”—particularly white gold and silver—and buyers were mostly looking for that trade show perennial, “unusual items.” One U.S. retailer, Tina Paterson, of Anaheim Jewelry Supply in Anaheim, Calif., said she was impressed by the prices. “What we pay a setter two to three dollars for, they pay 10 cents a stone,” she noted, “and the quality is just as nice.” She added, “The pearl selection is incredible. If you can’t find pearls here, forget it … I could not believe how many treated sapphires there were. Thank God they disclose it. They look fabulous, by the way.”

While most exhibitors felt Asia was coming back strongly, opinions differed on whether one of its largest markets, Japan, has recovered from its decade-long slump. “Things are still slow,” said Kennichi Inoue, a retailer in Fukuoka, Japan. “Sales are only a little bit up. After the banks solve their problems, the economy should go way up.”

Marring the good spirits somewhat were reports of multiple arrests during the show’s early days. On the first day, police arrested nine suspected thieves for loitering. Seven of them were from South America and used fake registration passes to gain entrance to the show, media accounts said. Later that day, police arrested two more men from Mainland China for “acting suspiciously.” They were later found to have gems and precious stones on them. And the next day, four more people were arrested, including some who police believe stole gems and pearls.