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The fair had about 1,500 exhibitors
The fair had about 1,500 exhibitors

Thai jewellery industry relaunches

Seeking ways to revitalise Thailand’s reputation as a gemstone hub, the Thai gemstone and jewellery industry used the Bangkok trade fair to make two major announcements. COLEBY NICHOLSON reports.

In an attempt to rejuvenate the Thai gemstones and jewellery industry, organisers of the 57th Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair (BGJF) made two significant announcements.

The first was a change of dates for the trade show. Effective immediately, the BGJF will shift to ensure the biannual show no longer coincides with the larger Hong Kong International Jewellery Show.

Speaking at a press conference at this year’s BGJF, Suttipong Damrongsakul, president of the Thai Gems and Jewelry Traders Association (TGJTA), stated, “The 59th BGJF in 2017 will no longer be held in February but rather earlier in January 2017 to ensure buyers will not need to hurry from our fair to other fairs in the region and so that exhibitors will be able to participate at both fairs.”

The decision is considered a strategic move to relaunch the Thai event; by decoupling the two shows, it’s anticipated that the BGJF will once again become a stand-alone trading event.

Thailand hosts two annual BGJF shows – February and September – that have traditionally been before the Hong Kong fairs. For example, this year’s BGJF closed on February 28 and the Hong Kong show opened on March 3.

Speaking at the same media conference, TGJTA vice president Anthony Peter Brooke, explained that splitting from the Hong Kong show would enable major buyers to attend the BGJF without the pressure of visiting the Hong Kong show straight after.

“Up until now, I must admit, some Thai companies have not been exhibiting here [BGJF] and have been exhibiting at Hong Kong,” Brooke said. “This is why there’s a strategic move to split so we anticipate a growth of exhibitors, not a decline.”

The latest BGJF, which ran from February 24 to February 28, presented around 1,500 exhibitors, which was a decline from previous events. In comparison, this year’s Hong Kong show featured around 2,400 exhibitors. A post-event media release stated that more than 30,000 visitors attended the BGJF.

Brooke said that despite the downturn in the global economy caused by China’s sluggish economic performance, the overall outlook for the industry was distinctly rosy. He believed that holding the two BGJF shows in January and August, instead of February and September, would revitalise the Thai market.

“We expect the market to come back. The latest TGJTA committee is very much focused on creating long-term strategy for the development of our industry. We are looking at a two to five year strategy,” he said.

Organisers announced changes in an effort to boost the Thai industry
Organisers announced changes in an effort to boost the Thai industry

Stakeholders of the industry appear to have welcomed the change, which is considered necessary to re-stamp Thailand as the gemstone hub of the world. Gemstones and jewellery is Thailand’s third-largest export category behind the automotive and electronics industries.

Suttipong outlined that the industry generated US$7.2 billion (AU$9.3 b) in exports in 2015 and employed 1.3 million people in more than 3,500 registered companies. In 2015, the industry increased 3 per cent and is expected to grow between 3 and 5 per cent in 2016.

Focus on rubies

The second major announcement designed to revitalise the industry came from Somchai Phornchindarak, president of newly formed association Gems, Jewelry and Precious Metal Confederation of Thailand (GJPCT), who declared that Bangkok would host the “world’s first” ruby symposium in April 2017.

“Our aim is to promote Thailand as the central hub for the world’s leading businesses operating in the gemstone industry to come together to express their opinions and ideas, especially about rubies,” Somchai said.

All ruby-producing countries and parties, such as leading brokerages, government agencies and grading laboratories, will be invited to develop plans and set the direction of the industry, while also contributing to comprehensive data-gathering and analysis.

According to TGJTA, ruby supply chains and sources remain inconsistent and highly unregulated. As such, the association believed an enhanced, regulated industry and improved grading system would benefit the overall international gemstone trade.

The organiser hoped that as many as 400 people would attend the first event.

Along with the new jewellery fair dates, the ruby symposium is seen by many as a much-needed initiative.

Speaking at the fair, Brooke was pragmatic about the purpose of the symposium. “The aim is to reclaim Thailand’s reputation after the gem diffusion crisis of about 10 years ago,” he said. “A lot of stones were being diffused [treated] here, which created a huge impact resulting in massive bankruptcies. Unfortunately Thailand’s reputation was damaged and we intend to bring our reputation back to where it should be.”

Somchai added that the symposium aims to promote Thailand as the hub for rubies and bring together leading manufacturers and exporters to focus on the latest developments and the outlook for processing and trading of rubies.

Models showcased Thai jewellery
Models showcased Thai jewellery
Bangkok fair opening
Bangkok fair opening

Immediate BGJF changes

While the latest announcements were aimed to make future fairs more successful, there were also new initiatives put in place this year. The BGJF is now designated as a duty-free zone so exhibitors are exempt from the customary 20 per cent import duty on gemstones and jewellery products.

In addition, a media release stated, “You pay no Value Added Tax (VAT) when you hand-carry rough gemstones through the Bangkok International Airport to attend the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair. The Zero VAT scheme is a year-round privilege allowing for a 1 per cent withholding tax that is levied on the buyer.”

On February 9, 2016, the Thai Government approved a tax exemption to promote the country’s gemstones and jewellery industry. Under the initiative, VAT on imports of unpolished diamonds, coloured stones, rubies, emeralds, topaz, garnet, opal, zircon, chrysoberyl, jade, pearl and gemstones will be waived for importers or sellers registered as individual  traders.

Imitation or artificial items are not exempt. In addition, individual importers will be exempt from paying personal income tax on money earned from selling unpolished gemstones and pearls, and pay a 1 per cent flat tax on income instead. These measures aim to support and promote the Thai gemstones and jewellery industry to be able to compete on international markets.  

Coleby Nicholson attended the event courtesy of the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair.

Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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