Bijoux, bikes and the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair

Models showcasing examples of fine jewellery at the fair.

Models showcasing examples of fine jewellery at the fair.  

Craftsmanship is at the core of the 2019 Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair, while new-age crystals and discussions on lab-grown stones abound

Crowds are common at jewellery expos, but an exceptionally large one at the recent biannual Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair catches my eye. On all five days, jewellers and buyers gravitate towards a most unexpected creation, a custom black-and-silver motorcycle named Keto. A two-year collaboration between luxury house Lotus Arts De Vivre and Half-Caste Creations, the awe-inspiring beast is crowned with the head of a mythical chimera — half dragon, half fish — embellished with seven kilos of solid silver, and comes with a $62,000 price tag.

Global connect
  • As I wander around, conversing with many of the 900 exhibitors — the iridescent colours of the stones on display calling out to the designer in me — I notice a familiar face. An exhibitor from Afghanistan. His entire family is with him, to help with customers and sales. They greet me warmly, we converse in Hindi, and joke about how I’m a “poor Indian”. I overhear many multi-lingual conversations around me, as exhibitors come from countries such as Turkey, Japan, Russia, Poland, and Hong Kong.

This is just one of the examples at the fair, organised by the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), that showcases this year’s theme, ‘Thailand’s Magic Hands: The Spirit of Jewelry Making’, most aptly. In the spotlight is a skilful melding of traditional techniques and contemporary craftsmanship, from brands like Tamas Jewelry (double diamond halo), Blue River (tremblant technique) and La Gandara (inspired by French painter Antonio de la Gandara).

The Keto bike, a collab between Lotus Arts De Vivre and Half-Caste Creations

The Keto bike, a collab between Lotus Arts De Vivre and Half-Caste Creations  

Beyond fine jewellery

It is my third consecutive visit, yet, stepping into the Impact Exhibition Centre — the size of seven football fields (it would’ve daunted even the dashing Ronaldo) — with its 1,900 booths, is always an experience. At the 64th edition, there are 700 cameras scanning the area!

Craft right
  • Two new categories are worth mentioning. ‘New Faces’ debuted with 160 local designers and manufacturers who have the potential to expand into international markets. ‘Niche’, on the other hand, showcased thematic pieces, like the royal barge, jewellery for men, and lifestyle products like handbags and objects d’art that incorporated precious stones.

Thailand has evolved into one of the world’s most active hubs for the gem and jewellery trade, spanning “mines [rough gemstones] to markets [finished products]”, with exports creating a $12 billion industry. While countries like Bahrain and South Africa promote themselves as destinations for pearls and blood red rubies respectively, the Thai USP is twofold. First, as a comprehensive gemstones trading platform — “all varieties of stones from around the world are sent here,” says reputed local jeweller Prida Tiasuwan, chairman of the Pranda Group — and second, for its craftspeople’s talent for cutting, setting and polishing gems. Case in point, the delicate 1.10 replica of the royal golden swan barge with invisibly-set diamonds and coloured gemstones, by jewellery company Beauty Gems, which took 40 artisans 10 months to create, and is today exhibited all over the world.

The Royal Suphanahong (golden swan) Barge by Beauty Gems

The Royal Suphanahong (golden swan) Barge by Beauty Gems  

India’s ruby love

At the fair, India and China, I’m told, are the biggest buyers. According to Nawaporn R, from DITP, “Indians come mostly for gemstones and silver jewellery, while the Chinese are keen on gemstones and fine jewellery.” When I reconnect with Rakesh Khandelwal, director of Gems Fine in Bangkok, at the expo, he echoes the same, adding that this year “Indians mainly looked for commercial-quality rubies, and blue and yellow sapphires [for the astrologically-inclined], and the Chinese sought high-quality rubies and blue sapphires.” Gems Fine is the largest stockist of rubies from Mozambique and emeralds from Zambia, so Khandelwal would know.

A bejewelled gold body harness

A bejewelled gold body harness  

Also vying for attention are new-age stones like pietersite (a variety of quartz) from Namibia, muscovite (mica) from Mexico, fossilised coral from Indonesia, and scolecite (a form of crystal) from Morocco. This isn’t surprising, given the fact that crystals are one of the “breakout stars of the business” now, according to a Guardian article. But I am curious about lab-grown stones. After all, they are gaining attention as new consumers, including millennials, opt for cheaper and more sustainable investments. Are they a threat to the industry?

“Since lab-grown [varieties] are synthetic, they are not a direct threat at present,” says ML Kathathong Thongyai, assistant director general of DITP. “But down the road, trends, and obviously attitudes, may change. When [more] environment-friendly products and new materials come into the market, there will be acceptance. We should keep an open mind. When that time comes, creativity will rule.” For now, I’m looking forward to what the trends will spell out at their next edition, in February 2020.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 4:21:35 AM |

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