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.

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - Contents - STORY GLO­RIA FUNG

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

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