Join E.W. Adams’ MD on a trip to the Hong Kong gem and jewellery show.
Join gemstone expert and E.W. Adams MD Ed Adams as he trawls the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show looking for rocks and shares his insights into the trends shaping demand and pricing for coloured gemstones.
By Ed Adams
Day One: Diamond and Pearls
As with most years, my week at the show [March 5 to 9] started with a short trip across Victoria Harbour on the iconic Star Ferry; a wonderful shuttle service using 1950s boats that run like clockwork and offer the always inspiring view of Hong Kong Island – this year unusually framed with blue skies and sunshine.
Once inside the cavernous exhibition centre, it was soon apparent that the five-day Hong Kong International Jewellery Show continued to draw enormous numbers, attracting some 42,000 buyers from around the world. It felt busier than ever.
One reason for this was the increase in buyers from the emerging markets, up 18% on last year’s event. The show had also grown, with additional halls created to accommodate the 3,300 exhibitors from 49 countries gathered under one, very large, roof.
Somewhat like the minutes before kick off when England played Wales for the Grand Slam title, the pre-show atmosphere was electric; the air was full of the positive vibes of thousands of buyers with much to do.
A brief conversation in the registration queue with a Russian buyer, who revealed his plans to spend US$1.5 million to US$2 million (£984,900 to £1.3m) over the following days, soon reminded me that this show really is the world’s most prolific jewellery buying event.
So, into the fray. In search of a large Asscher cut, the loose diamond section beckoned. It was soon apparent that at this show Asscher was not the cut of choice. Large rounds were two to a penny, but most of the sizeable fancy cuts on offer were cushion cuts, reflecting their current popularity and ability to hide SI marks, which Asscher cuts cannot do.
However, dogged persistency and heavy negotiations soon resulted in a beautifully cut Asscher, nicely spread, perfectly square and bursting with life.
Fancy coloured diamonds were prevalent, with yellows accounting for the vast majority on offer. There were also some very special stones, including the most stunning and perfect pair of FVS2 cushion cuts, only 10cts each, and a very, very rare 30ct D/VVSI brilliant cut (price on application!).
The whole diamond area was extremely busy and clearly there was serious business being transacted. One of the smaller dealers there told me at the end of the show that he alone had taken nearly US$3 million (£1.9m).
My next job was to locate some pairs of very fine Japanese Akoya pearls in large sizes.
The pearl hall – think aircraft hanger – seemed unusually quiet, especially in the freshwater sections. The Japanese Akoya section was definitely busier, reflecting the clear trend that buyers were coveting anything fine and rare.
Day Two: Rubies and Sapphires
After a great roof top pizza, a much needed Tsingtao and a poor night’s sleep – the jet lag is always shocking – I’m ready for day two, and some coloured gemstones.
Off to look at sapphires and I found they were available in larger sizes that were not nearly as much on offer as two years ago.
There was much talk of less rough coming out of Sri Lanka, most of which is being purchased at source by the Thais. The inevitable results of this are some fairly dramatic price rises, especially in 10cts and above, but also seen in top quality 4ct plus sizes with prices easily up 30% over two years. Even smaller 1ct to 1.50ct calibrated goods were hard to come by in fine quality and again more expensive than a year ago.
I found one absolutely stunning 8ct heated Ceylon sapphire from a dealer, who is usually noted for reasonable prices, but they were asking US$4,500 (£2,955) per ct. For a moment I hoped he meant $4,500 for the stone, but sadly bargains like those are long gone.
On to ruby, which having seen some heavy price rises over the past three years now seems a little more settled.
One major development in rubies is the increasingly prevalent African goods; earlier examples of which were usually a little orange or brown in comparison to Burmese material. They are now available in much more Burmese-like colours, and as a result are becoming more sought after.
Day Three: Aquamarine, Black Opal and Tourmaline
After a great steak – they only seem to offer US or Australian, not Aberdeen Angus sadly – more Tsingtao and even less sleep, I’m now at the show looking at aquamarine.
It is always tough looking at this stone in a foreign light, as the subtle differences in colour are so crucial. The trick is to always carry samples that you know are the right colour.
Very commercial goods were easily available, as were good colours, although a little more expensive than a year ago. However, really good colours in 2ct plus sizes were exceptionally hard to find, and the prices were decidedly high.
There is virtually no rough aquamarine being mined, and the little that is available is very included material. I was offered one top Santa Maria stone for US$900 (£590) per ct. I left that one for my Russian friend.
Looking at the more unusual stones, there seemed to be a reasonable amount of Paraiba tourmaline on offer, mostly from Brazilian dealers who all swore it is virtually extinct. Brazilian stones of top colour, even if heavily marked, were at sky-high prices, but Mozambique material seemed to offer better value, if you can find the right colour.
Padparadscha sapphire was a little scarce and rarely seen in the ideal mid peachy-pink colours. White moonstone was available, but the finer blue and rainbow moonstone was much harder to find, especially in clean material.
There were a few dealers selling black opal, all of who reported sales two to three times higher than last year. The Chinese have finally started to buy black opal, so with its already limited resource I suspect supply will become even more difficult in the next few years.
This brings me onto one major trend reported by many of the coloured stone dealers at the show; the Chinese buyers, having previously bought larger 5ct plus sizes, are now increasingly focused on fine smaller 1ct to 4ct stones. And we all know what that means.
My final trip on the Star Ferry was followed by a late lunch in the sun with an old friend, the prefect preparation for my most important purchase of the week – Toys R Us for Star Wars Lego and the latest Ben 10 for my boys.
This feature was taken from the April issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue online, click here.