Impressions from the Bangkok Gem and Jewelry Show

This is one of my favourite shows. This year, however, seemed much slower and quieter than usual. Several vendors mentioned that business was down from previous years. There just wasn’t the same level of excitement that I’ve seen before.
I did notice a few trends that support my New Year’s predictions:
Silver has always been a big part of this show but this year it was really strong. Diamonds set in silver were abundant. Coloured gemstones in silver are now sporting diamond accents. I even noticed quite a few cabochon and ornamental stones in silver with diamonds. There is a growing trend of Rhodium plating over silver to resemble white gold, proving that silver is the “new gold.”
Brass jewellery with silver plating seems to be the “new silver” I even saw brass items set with diamonds, which I found surprising. With good plating, it is impossible to tell the difference between brass and real silver by eye alone. Is the next step brass with Rhodium?
Of course the Bangkok show is the epicentre of the coloured stone world and this year was no exception. Spinel is finally getting the recognition it deserves with healthy increases in prices and demand. Traffic in the Burma and Cambodia sections of the show was good, while the Thailand coloured stone section seemed a bit sleepy compared to past years. There were more offerings of lab-grown synthetics but there were less glass-filled stones this year. Salt water pearls are making a come-back.
I am lumping these two categories together because they both seemed extremely slow. Walking through these sections I saw vendors standing in the aisles talking to other vendors.  There did not seem to be a lot of selling. I think the price of gold is taking its toll. The only action I saw in diamonds was in natural coloured diamonds. Even the vendors selling diamond melee, usually a strong segment, were complaining of slow sales.
Perhaps the big winner at this show was costume jewellery and fashion accessories. One vendor was so consistently busy that I never even got a chance to explore their offerings. As long as precious metal prices stay high, I can only see this product category getting stronger and stronger.
The industry seems to be going through a soft phase. There is a definite shift toward lower price-points. My personal opinion is that this trend will continue for at least the next few years, possibly longer.  I am not sure if this trend is due to current economic conditions or if it is an overall change in demographics.   For now, it is probably a bit of both. We will have to wait and see if this is just a phase or if it is the new reality.

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