Thai Gems Fair’s first day has fashion and moderate traffic

BANGKOK, Thailand—Pomp and circumstance gave way to cautious buyers during the first day of Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair, held Feb. 26 at the city’s Impact Exhibition Center.

The theme of the 31st fair is “Bangkok: City of Jewels.” This, along with the Thai government’s attempt to promote the city as an international fashion capital were reflected in the opening ceremony (held to a standing-room crowd in a large auditorium in the exhibition center), which featured a fashion runway show with Thai television stars adorned with jewelry and gems.

Prior to the fashion show, Thai Commerce Minister Adisai Bhotaramik made a ceremonial entrance surrounded by photographers and television cameramen while proceeding to the podium to announce gem export results and provide some detail of the nation’s move to fashion.

“In 2002, the export of gems and jewelry grew 18% to more than $2 billion,” Bhotaramik told the audience. “Thailand is now the gateway to success for the world’s top buyers.”

He continued, “This year the government has a policy to make Thailand as the hub of the gems and jewelry industry under the initiative of the ‘Bangkok Fashion Project,’ which is a pivotal strategy in promoting Thai products in the world market.”

Following the ceremony, the doors to the exhibition floor were opened. However, at least for the first day of the five-day event, buyers seemed hesitant to make purchases, according to several of the more than 700 exhibitors. There were some booths that were crowded with potential buyers, but most exhibitors on the first day received little traffic.

“Today is very quiet,” said a saleswoman at Jangira Jewellry booth. A woman at the Thaigem.com booth said there were “not many people,” for the first day. Another sales person at the Tom Creations booth buyers were “Just looking,” while another exhibitor said, “The show is on the slow side.”

In addition, despite the recent agreement by the Chanthaburi Gem & Jewelry Association to disclose the use of beryllium to orange sapphires and other additives to enhance color in gems, every gemstone dealer interviewed by JCK refused to disclose any enhancements to their stones, other than saying their gems were heat treated.

Later in the day, while addressing the international press, Songchai Saisavetvaree, deputy director general of the Department of Export Promotion Ministry of Commerce, announced several initiatives designed to make it easier for those in the gem and jewelry industry to conduct business. These initiatives include:

* Exemptions on the value-added tax (VAT) for companies that import and trade gemstones and raw material for the gem and jewelry industry. The exemption will include diamonds, other precious and semi-precious stones, gold, white gold, and silver. The exemption was planned to take effect March 1.

* The establishment of a Thailand gem and jewelry trading center in Bangkok funded with approximately $3 million in interest-free loans and grants from the Thai government.

Also during the meeting, Barbara Lipatapanlop, media and PR specialist, announced that the Thai Gem & Jewelry Traders Association has redesigned its Web site and held a “soft launch” of the new site during the show. Lipatapanlop, who has been contracted by the Thai government to manage the site, said the improved site will act as a conduit for buyers and dealers, will provide general information for those unfamiliar with Thailand and doing business in the country, and will provide advanced services for members. She said the Web site is expected to be online by March 8.