Typhoon Damps Down HK Fair
The 36th edition of the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair boasted a record number of exhibitors— 3,730— but the downside was the shortened show thanks to the arrival of supertyphoon Mangkhut, the most severe storm to hit the region in recorded history.
When it opened on September 12th, sentiment was cautiously upbeat at the Asia World Expo (AWE) section of the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, showcasing loose gems, pearls and diamonds. Although scheduled for five days, the event ground to a painful halt early on September 15th, after three days, as the impending typhoon showed no signs of weakening as it approached Hong Kong. Fearing the worst, exhibitors packed up early, while many visitors scrambled to find flights to leave the city before the storm hit full force on Sunday, September 16th.
On the morning of the 16th, the Hong Kong Observatory raised the storm signal to T10, which is the highest level, and the city and airport shut down. Normally bustling with activity and crowded streets, Hong Kong was completely empty, as severe winds and heavy rainfall battered the city and surrounding areas, causing severe damage.
From the relative safety of my room on the 25th floor of a hotel on the Kowloon side, I could see trees uprooted and branches broken in the strong winds, while storm surges angrily crashed up over the sides of the piers. Debris flew everywhere and some buildings had their windows blown out. The heavy glass windowpanes in my hotel vibrated—a bit scary—while guests on higher floors said they could feel the 73-floor building sway as the winds whipped noisily through the streets and narrow alleyways
with sustained winds of 173 kmph and gusts up to 223 kmph.
By evening, Mangkhut left Hong Kong, travelling to wreak havoc in Macau and the Pearl River Delta in China. On Monday, the clean-up efforts of the area began, as residents and officials assessed the destruction of flooded areas, damaged streets, broken windows and fallen trees.
Two days earlier, on Friday the 14th, the jewellery section of the fair opened its doors at the main Hong Kong Convention and Exposition Centre (HKCEC). A day later, traffic slowed as visitors changed flights to leave the area.
There was however no dearth of beautiful products. Just about everything could be found—from inexpensive beads and carved gems to million-dollar diamonds and rare coloured gems—from accessible freshwater pearls to high-value South Sea pearls and everything in between.
After the storm on Sunday, the HKCEC show reopened on Monday the 17th for the remaining two days, to noticeably smaller number of visitors.
Before the storm
AWE opened on September 12th with nearly 1,600 booths and national pavilions featuring coloured gemstones, diamonds and pearls. On the first and second days, many exhibitors said that the show was doing moderately well, although others indicated that the show was slow. Whether it was in anticipation of the impending typhoon or just the current state of the market, there seemed to be fewer buyers than last year’s event, and those who came seemed to be mostly looking.
There was however no dearth of beautiful products. Just about everything could be found— from inexpensive beads and carved gems to million-dollar diamonds and rare coloured gems—from accessible freshwater pearls to high-value South Sea pearls and everything in between.
While all types of gemstones were in abundance, Paraiba tourmaline continued its upward trend, with many booths showcasing both Brazilian and
African varieties. Emeralds also seemed to be in the spotlight as did their pink cousins, morganite. Several dealers indicated that many buyers were looking for high-quality small stones in all types of gems.
Moving over to the HKCEC on opening day, September 14th, traffic was brisk in the antique jewellery section, but a bit slow elsewhere. The Designer Area— although a bit lost behind the International Premier Pavilion (IPP)—featured many creative designers from around Asia and the world. A wide variety of pieces were on display, from flamboyant bejewelled vests and headgear to very high-end award-winning gemstone and diamond pieces. The section attracted a steady stream of onlookers. The IPP, with its premium brands, was somewhat quiet. The adjoining Grand Hall with its Fine Design Pavilion seemed to fare little better. It was also noticeable that some brands from previous years were not exhibiting. Worry about the typhoon clearly impacted visitor numbers as many sought to leave Hong Kong before it hit.
Given the vast nature and universality of the show, jewellery was seen in every colour and style. In keeping with current trends, there were many examples of multifinger rings, as well as earrings ranging from simple studs to sumptuous stilettos. Rainbow coloured jewels were apparent at many booths, while statement necklaces also attracted attention.
On the more unusual side, a brand from Spain offered something for the woman (or man) who has everything—a
Diamond Gift Card, featuring diamonds and gold in a creditcard-size gold case, for a price of $100,000. Or, for those really wanting to make an impression, they could purchase a small case of ten gift cards for a cool $1 million dollars. A few other “unexpected” jewels and decorations can be seen on these pages.
The day after Mangkhut ravaged the area, the show opened to even fewer visitors, as was to be expected since many had left before the storm. One Hong Kong company lamented that, while a few of their regular customers showed up, they made no new contacts at all during the fair. This sentiment seemed to be fairly widespread, not just at this show, but others over the last few years. Does this call into question the effectiveness of trade shows? While the Hong Kong trade shows are among the most important in the world, we cannot help but wonder just how important?
Among the busiest booths at AWE were the coloured diamond dealers. Shown here is a selection of coloured diamonds by Antwerp Cut (Belgium).
Among the Indian pavilion exhibitors was Ravi Gems, which showcased a variety of beautiful jewels, including these necklaces featuring rose-cut diamonds, pearls and emeralds.
Rio Tinto (Australia) unveiled its statement necklace in Hong Kong, “Earth Magic”, composed of two of the world’s most coveted jewels: Argyle Pink Diamonds and Muzo Emeralds. (Photo: Rio Tinto)
In the French pavilion, designer Isabelle Langlois offered a selection of colourful multi-gemstone jewellery including these bold 18-karat pink gold earrings featuring iolite, tsavorites, sapphires, diamonds and peacock feathers. (Photo: Isabelle Langlois)
Rainbow colours were popular in jewellery at the show, such as this brooch from Lorenzo (Hong Kong). (Photo: Lorenzo)
India had pavilions at both AWE and HKCEC. Shown here is the entrance to the pavilion at the HKCEC, which featured more than 40 exhibitors.
Philippines-based Jewelmer offered an exquisite collection of South Sea golden pearls in several collections including its new “Summer Blossoms,” featuring golden pearls in 18-karat gold with diamonds. (Photo: Jewelmer)
A sample of rough opal by Clifton Opal (Australia) on display at AWE.
A beautiful imperial topaz and Paraiba suite offered by Manoel Bernardes (Brazil) at the AWE.
In addition to their “Puzzle” jewellery, one of the more unexpected offerings at the HKCEC was this Gift Card selling for $100,000 offered by Spanish company Goretskiy. It also offered cases containing ten gift cards for the man or woman who truly has everything.
A pair of Colombian emeralds was offered by Shaun Gems (USA).
A rainbow of fine Ceylon sapphires were showcased by Sapphirus (Sri Lanka) at AWE.
In the International Premier Pavilion, Italian brand Picchiotti showcased its “Xpandable” collection featuring this diamond and emerald ring in a patent-pending, revolutionary new line of jewellery that uses innovative, invisible technology to expand and contract its size.
Award-winning opal by Joel Price of Chris Price Opals (Australia). (Photo: Chris Price Opals)