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Man on the Move; Bangkok fair sees resilient turnout as organisers protect against coronavirus

27 Feb 2020

Our “Man on the Move”, David Brough, reports from the Bangkok Gems & Jewellery Fair that visitor flows held up reasonably well despite worries over coronavirus risks and that organisers took stringent measures. 

The twice-yearly Bangkok fair, open to buyers from around the world, is a showcase for coloured gemstones and silver jewellery manufactured in Thailand, as well as diamonds, fashion jewellery and machinery. By mid-afternoon on the first day of the February 25th to 29th show, organisers spoke of 2,821 visitors, versus around 3,500 at the end of the first day of the previous show in September 2019.

On the second day, turnout was quiet in the morning but picked up sharply in the afternoon, with buyers seen from a number of countries including Russia, Ukraine and the UK. The organisers stepped up precautions to combat coronavirus risks.

Face masks and hand gel were widely available at the fair. Toilets and sinks were scrubbed regularly and thoroughly. Many visitors, exhibitors, show staff and police wore masks. Staff checked the body temperature of everyone arriving at the show and gave them a sticker for their entry pass after the check. A doctor was available in case anyone fell ill.

As of February 26th, Thailand had reported 40 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak. The southeast Asian country has slipped down the global rankings in terms of the number of cases. The Bangkok fair went ahead despite the postponement of the March Hong Kong fair to May 2020 due to concerns over coronavirus.

 Bangkok fair gems on show

Image: The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair offers a wide variety of coloured gemstones. The market has been slow due to coronavirus fears combined with the recent U.S.-China trade war.

Export targets

Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), the organiser of the fair, has targeted a 1 percent year-on-year increase in the value of Thai gem and jewellery exports in 2020 (excluding unwrought gold) to $8.2 billion.

DITP Director-General Somdet Susomboon, in a news briefing, spoke of plans to develop new markets for Thai gem and jewellery exports, notably in the Middle East and Central Europe, to compensate for lost sales linked to the coronavirus.

The absence of Chinese buyers at the show was evident. China is a leading market for Thai gems and jewellery.

Thailand is renowned worldwide for its expertise both in jewellery manufacturing and craftsmanship. A number of leading international jewellery brands manufacture much of their jewellery production in Thailand.

Concerns over coronavirus, combined with the recent U.S.-China trade war, had dampened gemstone sales since last year, dealers said, but they added that well-cut, high-quality and rare coloured gemstones continued to outperform.

Some gemstones that were held back from the market in 2019 were now being offered for sale, but prices were holding up, some dealers added.

Farnham-based designer-maker James Fairhurst, a member of NAJ and a regular exhibitor at Goldsmiths’ Fair, visited the Bangkok fair for the first time and spoke of a wide variety of coloured sapphires as well as rubies at the show.

He purchased an array of coloured sapphires at the fair and was looking for spinels.

He said he had seen better quality cuts at some other shows such as Tucson which he visited recently, but he was impressed by the choice of gemstones available in Bangkok.

 David brough bangkok with NAJ member

Image left: Farnham-based designer-maker and NAJ member James Fairhurst (right of picture), with David Brough. Right, Security professionals on the exhibition floor at the Bangkok show.

Gemmologist Peter Reiter, a Swiss national who trained at Gem-A in London in the late 1960s, said the market was slow due to the absence of Chinese buyers from the Bangkok show following the coronavirus outbreak.

“There is a superb selection of gemstones here but many buyers have stayed away due to concerns over the coronavirus,” said Reiter, a regular visitor to the Christie’s and Sotheby’s magnificent jewellery auctions held twice a year in Geneva.


Thailand's Friend Award 2020

The Bangkok show was inaugurated after a well-attended ceremony to celebrate Thailand’s Friend Award 2020, granted by the Commerce Ministry in recognition of support to the Thai gem and jewellery industry, the country’s third biggest export sector.

The winners included Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough, as well as leading importers from around the world.

David Brough wins Thailand's friend Awards 2020

Image: Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough wins Thailand's Friend Award 2020, granted by the Commerce Ministry for support to the Thai gems and jewellery industry.

The fair featured a Siam Silver Showcase, presenting contemporary and historic Thai silver jewellery designs, and a silversmith demonstrating his craft, as well as the New Faces section, incorporating traditional Thai brass costume jewels and the latest silver jewellery designs.

The Jewellers exhibition featured 20 Thai designers presenting jewellery pieces using innovative materials, including Tee (Worrachai Siriwipanan) who created jewellery using “forgotten materials,” including paper and rubber tubes.

A catwalk show on the first day featured Thai models showing off state of the art Thai jewellery designs.


Source: David Brough