WATCH: SHINY NEW THINGS
As Baselworld opens its doors to the world, we talk to a veteran exhibitor and get a sneak peek into a show that he hopes will bring a fresh perspective to the world of luxury and vintage jewellery and gemstones.
Jewellery show Gemgenéve is set to shine spotlight on independent jewellers during May’s auction season
When Thomas Faerber first visited Baselworld, it was some four decades ago as a young jeweller who had set out to establish a name for himself after gaining a few years of experience working as the fourth generation of a family jewellery business. An international stage for jewellers and watchmakers, Baselworld was at the time a must-visit for anyone who wished to make those crucial connections with buyers, retailers and manufacturers from around the world.
Throughout the years, Faerber has seen the show make a shift to now have a stronger focus on branded watchmakers, a change that, while welcomed by the large brands, took away some of the focus from many of the smaller, independent and family-owned jewellery traders.
This year, his 45th run at Baselworld, the Genevabased jewellery came not as an exhibitor, but as a guest and buyer, visiting booths of old friends and colleagues, as well as business acquaintances who he's worked with over the years. "It's so interesting to see the show from a visitor's perspective. As an exhibitor, we just focused on staying at our booths greeting customers. But this year I'm running around a lot more, visiting different booths."
After over four decades, Faerber sees the show through fresh eyes, that of a show organiser. In September 2017, Faerber and friend, fellow Swiss jeweller Ronny Totah, decided not to return to Baselworld as exhibitors, but instead to create their show dedicated to jewellery. To be hosted this May in Geneva around auction season, Gemgenève is
set to make its inaugural run, a feat that's equal parts exciting and nerve-racking. "When we decided to launch our own show, we were immediately supported by many of our friends in the industry, who've decided to join us." In a short span of a few months, Gemgenève has managed to sign on over 100 exhibitors and now has a waiting list as more industry folks got wind of the show.
"We have some exhibitors coming from Asia, one from Hong Kong, another from Bangkok and Singapore," Faerber says. A regular visitor to the Hong Kong International Jewellery show over the past three decades, he and Totah has amassed an impressive Rolodex of clients and fellow jewellers and is hopeful that the show will continue to gain traction within the Asian market.
"We don't have any exhibitors this year from China, but we're sending out invitations to all of our contacts and, riding on the traffic and excitement surrounding the Sotheby's and Christies' auction in May, we believe the show will be a success."
Baselworld had a shorter run this year, a move that for many signifies a shift in its dominance. Major brands such as Hermès and Boucheron have abandoned Baselworld in recent years, with the former opting to participating at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie that takes place every January in Geneva.
"For us, the decision to host our own show was because we felt like we couldn't get across to the organisers of Baselworld. We've been trying to work with [show organiser] for over five years now, trying to see how we can create a better show for exhibiting jewellers." And when they felt the emphasis on branded watches was still overshadowing everything else at the show, Faerber decided it was time to move on.
"Baselworld never contacted us after we announced our show. But they did contact those who've joined us and asked if there's anything that can be done to ensure that they stay with Baselworld." Still, some of Gemgenève's participating exhibitors have opted to take a leave of absence from Baselworld this year, and instead focus their efforts on Gemgenève.
Faerber, however, has candidly advised his fellow jewellers to consider remaining in Baselworld. "We have friends and exhibitors come to us, and we advise them to stay with Basel even if they join us. Basel has tremendous value, and it's still a great show for making international connections. We are still such a young show; we don't want them to take such a big risk."
Risk or not, Gemgenève seems to have taken off before it's even begin. With a waiting list to join the lineup of exhibitors this year, the dates are already set for next year's show, also to coincide with Geneva's auction season.
"We are confident that it will take off, and we hope to provide a platform for jewellers and independent jewellery makers to showcase their work to the world."
GEMGENÈVE HAS MANAGED TO SIGN ON OVER 100 EXHIBITORS AND NOW HAS A WAITING LIST AS MORE INDUSTRY FOLKS GOT WIND OF THE SHOW