By Brecken Branstrator
Last week, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair. I was excited not only to see a new city, but also because I knew that as the colored gemstone editor, this was an important market with which I should become familiar.

While the show seemed kind of quiet and a few exhibitors noted that it was a little slow this year, the opportunity to talk to people and see a new aspect of the market provided interesting insights and learning experiences.

Here are a few that are of interest.

1. There’s upside for the Thai market. The Department of International Trade Promotion made it very clear that the show, and the country’s gem and jewelry sector, are an important part of their future, and that they will work to grow it.

While I think the show faces an uphill battle, especially since it competes with the Hong Kong show that generally takes place right after it, I want to be optimistic about where this show is headed and the work that the department is doing to move it ahead.

If the department can find the right formula for attracting more international buyers, establishing more of a foothold with the U.S. market and differentiating itself, it could have a bright future.

20160912 Paraiba tourmalineParaiba tourmalines in front (with morganite at rear) from Azizi Gems at the Bangkok show2. High-end and high-quality stones continue to do well.
This isn’t really news, but talking to a number of exhibitors at the show confirmed the fact fine quality stones continue to sell well, with no signs of slowing. 

Sapphires and rubies were selling, and fine red and pink spinels were too. And according to one exhibitor, Paraiba tourmaline of all sizes are flying off the shelves, especially when it comes to the best colors.

3. The differences in which stones are prevalent and which are missing. What I didn’t see much of in Bangkok were opals, which differs from the U.S. shows I’ve been attending lately. I only saw a handful of booths selling the stones and they were mostly either the white or fire opals, with hardly any boulder or black opals. Whether that’s because they don’t sell as well with the buyers in the Thai market or because the show needs to work to get more opal dealers there, I’m not sure, but there could be an opportunity for them at the Bangkok show.

On the other hand, it was interesting to take note of what was there in greater numbers than I’m used to seeing; namely, amber. It was everywhere and buyers seemed very interested in it.

On the shape/cutting end of things, it appeared that cabochon gemstones were big in the market. It seemed like I would only walk past a booth or two before seeing another one with a significant amount of cabochon gemstones, either loose or set in jewelry.

4. A trade show is a great way to serve as an incubator for young(er) talent. The U.S. shows could learn from the Bangkok show when it comes to providing a space for students. Two universities had booth space on the show floor, giving students studying jewelry design the chance to display their creations. On the last day of the show, I also saw the students walking around the show, getting the chance to talk to exhibitors and network with the trade.

I think if the U.S. industry wants to get younger talent interested, this could be a great way to do it.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok show could do with growing its space for emerging designers, especially as it tries to build the branded business and differentiate its products. Ten up-and-coming designers had a special space in the show floor, but it needs to continue to grow to have an impact and encourage others to enter the market.

20160912 SpinelSpinels of all colors (as well as a few zircon and peridot thrown in) from an exhibitor from Myanmar at the show
5. Spinel is unequivocally my favorite gemstone now. This is just a fun, random note to round out the blog, but it was one thing that kept popping up in my head over and over again.

The show had a section for ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) exhibitors, and it was fun to walk through it and see the differences in jewelry design as well as the gems they had to offer.

The best part was talking to exhibitors at the Myanmar booths, where there was spinel after spinel in every color a gem hound like me could want, and I couldn’t get enough. I think that August’s new birthstone has a beautiful future ahead of it.

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