The Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair opens with high expectations

HONG KONG – Large crowds, optimistic presentations, pageantry, plans for growth, and a fashion show were all part of Tuesday’s opening of the Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair being held in this celebrated port city.

The trade fair, which will run till Sunday, is being held at the seven-story 200,000 sq.ft. Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Billed as the biggest jewelry fair in Asia, the largest pearl fair in the world, and the second-largest diamond and gemstone fair in the world, an estimated 38,000 visitors from 131 countries viewed the products of nearly 2,000 exhibitors from 47 countries who have taken up nearly every inch of exhibit space.

The show hosts 17 International Pavilions and seven pavilions dedicated to specific areas of display, such as gemstones; jade; and equipment, packaging, and technology.

At a morning press conference four representatives of Hong Kong’s jewelry industry delivered speeches highlighting the growth of jewelry manufacturing and retailing in Hong Kong and mainland China, and the increasing popularity of the trade fair. They focused on the country’s free-port status, its low tax rate, and its increasing wealth as factors fueling the growth of the industry in recent years.

Edward Cheung, chairman of the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers’ Association, said Hong Kong’s free-port status is “a major factor” for the fact that jewelry exports have increased for three straight years, including a 19% increase in exports in 2004.

“There is no import tax or sales tax,” he said. “Jewelry enterprises can operate without restrictions in conducting business in Hong Kong.”

More than half of Hong Kong’s exports go to the U.S., but Cheung added that he is “encouraged” with the increased interest of European markets, particularly the U.K. and France.

The growing affluence of the people of China is creating new markets for jewelry within its orders. Cheung called the growth in this segment of the industry “phenomenal.”

China was always known as a manufacturing hub, but it is now trying to become an international design center by offering classes in original jewelry design and hosting an jewelry decision competition.

“Hong Kong is becoming one of the most important diamond centers in the world,” said Lawrence Ma, chairman of the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong, China. “The diamond industry, together with jewelry manufacturing is prospering because of this.” He noted that the trade fair is “the only place” where jewelers and exhibitors can exchange product and money.”

Charles Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Jewellery & Jade Manufacturers Association, said this sector of the industry grew 26% this year.

“We are proud to say that we are performing well,” Chan said. “Innovative design and quality products are the proponents for creating our success in the Hong Kong jewelry industry.”

Leung Sik Wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Jewellers’ & Goldsmiths’ Association, said the growth of the industry is due to Hong Kong’s open borders and the assurance that jewelry from Hong Kong is of industry standards.

In addition, at the press conference, Peter Sutton, president & chief executive of CMP, announced that the trade show will expand to a second venue next year, the AsiaWorld-Epo building, which is expected to completed by the end of the year. Next year’s show will be held from Sept. 18-23, 2006, at the AsiaWorld-Expo and from Sept. 19-23 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The day began with an opening ceremony featuring a Dragon Dance and a Lion Dance performance and ended with a reception and fashion show presented by HRD/Antwerp World Diamond Center, Belgium under the heading, “Diamonds are fun.”