The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks cast an inevitable shadow on the Hong Kong Jewellery and Watch Fair, held in mid-September.
“Whatever we talk about here is much tinier and less important than the terrible events in the USA,” stated fair manager Peter Sutton at the start of the fair’s press conference, before calling for a moment of silence for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
While business was down at the fair, some were surprised that it was down less than they had expected. “We were less disappointed than we thought we would be,” said Avram Eshad of Gemstar in Ramat-Gan. “There are people here.”
The big problem was a lack of U.S. attendees. Approximately 20 exhibitors, mostly from New York, backed out at the last minute. But Sutton noted this only amounts to 2% of the fair’s 1,700-plus exhibitors. “Some American exhibitors are said to be very stressed and upset and worried, and this we totally understand,” Sutton said. “It’s fairly normal that 2% of exhibitors don’t show up.”
And while figures were not available for attending buyers, anecdotal evidence points to a significant drop-off in the number of American attendees.
One exhibitor, David Ehani, of David Ehani Diamond Company in New York, said, “The flight from New York was empty. I’ve had three appointments today. None showed up.”
However, Joseph Edwards, a wholesaler from Felton, Mich., said he was actually planning to spend more in light of recent events. “I’ll probably get better deals this way,” he said.
In any case, Hong Kong jewelry and diamond association heads, speaking at the conference, were confident that they would ride out what’s ahead. “In past incidents, demand picked up after a month or two,” said Lawrence Ma, chairman, Diamond Federation in Hong Kong. “Eventually, we will weather all this.”
Most also pointed to China’s entry into the World Trade Organization as a big plus for Hong Kong.
The trends seemed to be small piqué diamonds in lesser quality but bigger sizes, and pastel-colored gemstones. Also, there seemed to be more pieces set in platinum and fewer in yellow gold.