Thailand has ambitious plans for its gems and jewellery sector as it pursues its goal to become a leading global trade hub supported by tax incentives. The UK is a top-10 export market for Thai-manufactured precious jewellery and gemstones.
BANGKOK – High visitor turnout at the Bangkok Gems & Jewellery Fair in February augured for another strong year for Thai exports boosted by the growing popularity of colour gemstone jewellery around the world.
Thailand is a major centre for the manufacturing and export of colour gemstone jewellery and has a heritage of processing rubies, sapphires and other gemstones.
Thailand is also a leading manufacturer of silver and gold jewellery and is the manufacturing hub of Pandora, a leading player in the Thai jewellery economy, employing several thousand people.
The long-term future of Thai industry is underpinned by educational bodies such as the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS), located in Bangkok’s 59-floor Jewellery Trade Center, a leading centre for wholesale and retail trade and brokerage of Thai-manufactured gems and jewellery.
The AIGS operates a school for training in gemology, as well as laboratory services for the international trade.
The state-backed Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT) also offers educational and laboratory services.
Thai exports of gems and jewellery look set to rise again year-on-year in 2018 due to an improving global economic climate, officials attending the February 21-25 Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair said.
Leading markets such as the United States and China have a strong appetite for Thai-manufactured silver, gold, and colour gemstone jewellery.
The UK ranks as the sixth largest export market for Thai-manufactured silver jewellery, the fifth largest market for Thai-manufactured gold jewellery, and the 10th market for precious stones, according to government figures.
IMPROVING MARKET OUTLOOK
Expectations for brisk economic growth in China and for continued recovery in the United States, the world’s biggest economy, are strong growth signals for the value of Thai gem and jewellery exports in 2018.
“The key driver is the improving world economy,” said Chantira Jimreivat Vivatrat, director general of the state-backed Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), organiser of the fair. “We have been helping Thai companies with their marketing and have provided a favourable tax regime for manufacturing.”
Demand from China for grading of colour gemstones was increasing at laboratories of the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT), reflecting improving Chinese consumer demand for colour gemstone jewellery, GIT’s deputy director, Boontawee Sriprasert, said.
Thai gem and jewellery exports, excluding gold, were up 2.25 percent in value terms year-on-year to nearly 13 billion dollars in 2017, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said in an opening address at the fair.
Thailand has a long tradition of manufacturing and exporting colour gemstones and jewellery, using a highly skilled workforce and cutting-edge technology, backed by tax exemptions.
Gems and jewellery are Thailand’s third largest export earner after the automotive and computing sectors, and employ around one million people.
Thailand has set itself a goal to become a leading global hub for trade in jewellery and gemstones by 2021, exporting to fast-growing markets such as China and India.
In his keynote address to the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) congress in Bangkok in November 2017, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha outlined Thailand’s strategy to become the world’s leading hub for the trade of coloured gemstone jewellery, including tax incentives, and educational and marketing programmes. “Thailand is determined to develop products to elevate the country’s gems and jewellery industry, with the goal to establish itself as the world’s gem and jewellery trading hub by 2021,” he said.
The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair, a vital conduit for Thai gem and jewellery exports, takes place twice a year, in February and September, and is a leading trade show in Asia, competing with the Hong Kong fairs.
The Bangkok fair is a showcase for colour gemstone and silver jewellery, presenting a vast array of loose colour gems, ranging from rubies to emeralds and sapphires, as well as semi-precious stones, and rough gems from Africa and Brazil. The fair accommodates around 1,000 exhibitors in 2,500 booths, mainly from Thailand, as well as from centres including Hong Kong, Singapore, Turkey, Poland and Japan.
Exhibitors spoke of a strong presence of retail visitors from Asia and Eastern Europe. UK-based visitors tend to be a mix of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.
The Bangkok fair is segmented between Thai jewellery manufacturers, colour gemstones and diamonds, lab groups, machinery, and new designers. But its marketing efforts will require more branding and social media impetus, as seen at European shows.
The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair takes place at the IMPACT Challenger, an extensive exhibition centre which has hotel and restaurant facilities to a high international standard.
The opening ceremony in the Royal Jubilee Ballroom of the IMPACT Challenger in February, attended by Thai industry leaders, featured a glamorous catwalk show highlighting models in national dress wearing exquisite fine jewellery made in Thailand.
The expected rise in the value of Thai exports will be driven by increasing tastes for colour gemstone and silver jewellery around the world, and the elimination of gem and jewellery import duties in Thailand.
Thailand has pursued programmes of tax incentives in recent years to boost trade in gems and jewellery.
A Cabinet resolution on January 17, 2017, on gems and jewellery product imports, stipulated duty exemption on 32 items of gems and jewellery, resulting in zero tax, taking effect from January 28, 2017.
The government has approved further incentives for producers of gems and jewellery in Thailand, such as deducting tax on wages, and low-interest loans for product upgrades and replacement of machinery.
The taxation policy will help Thailand to compete with other leading suppliers in the global gems and jewellery trade.
“We want to create a favourable trade environment and strengthen the competitiveness of Thai entrepreneurs,” the DITP’s Jimreivat Vivatrat said. “Thailand’s strengths are craftsmanship, quality and reliability.”
The Thai government, recognising the importance of its gems and jewellery sector, is looking to boost global marketing initiatives, Jimreivat Vivatrat added. “More could be done. We have to tell the story (of colour gems),” she said.
The rise in gold prices has bolstered the opportunity for Thai silver jewellery exports.
Global marketing of colour gemstone jewellery has benefited from story-telling by brands and the rising popularity of colour stones, at a time when budgets for generic diamond marketing have been tight.
The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair has promoted rubies via its “Ruby Heart of Love” campaign, a charity fund raiser supported by the Jewelry Trade Center.
The fair has maintained a World Ruby Forum Booth near the main entrance, promoting Thai expertise in manufacturing rubies.
The Jewellery Trade Center, Thailand’s eight tallest building located in the Silom Road business district, is home to plush stores and small stands selling gems and jewellery, as well as fashion and home design boutiques.
A high-profile exhibitor at the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair has been PRANDA, a leading Thai fine jewellery manufacturer, renowned for its highly skilled craftsmanship.
The next edition of the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair will take place on September 7-11, 2018. For more information, please visit www.bkkgems.com