Our 10 Favorite Jewelry Posts Of The Year
China’s first truly indigenous jewelry brand, Lan Fine Jewelry, was launched last summer, adding an “Eastern voice” to a Western-dominated luxury industry. Well-known Chinese anchorwoman Yang Lan, known for her European-style professional demeanor, announced at that time in a press conference that she would collaborate with world-famous singer Celine Dion to create a “real” Chinese luxury jewelry brand — Lan Fine Jewelry, the launch of which was two years in the making.
Reflecting its Chinese roots, Lan Fine Jewelry is designed to display distinctly Chinese characteristics, such as low-profile luxury and attention to detail in both the design and craftsmanship. The Asian essence of this type of jewelry speaks for itself. Among white-collar Chinese women, the target audience, Lan’s collections have already taken off.
Among these Chinese jewelry designers looking to enter the premium jewelry segment is Wan Baobao (万宝宝), a well-known “red princess” (so called because her grandfather, Wan Li, was a vice premier and later chairman of the National People’s Congress, and her father is also a high level government Minister). Recently, Wan spoke to fashion students at the Tsinghua University Academy of Art in Beijing about the development of China’s premium jewelry market, and the design cues she tries to adapt from Chinese culture and history in her company’s products. From Hexun (translation by Jing Daily team):
Moderator: Why did you choose to become a jewelry designer?
Wan: Jewelry design is a really great profession, every piece of jewelry makes people feel a sense of beauty and happiness, and in my products in particular I try to incorporate some of my memories and experiences. To me, emotionless design is meaningless. A piece of jewelry shouldn’t just be beautiful and please people aesthetically, it also needs to be able to have some kind of effect on them. To me, trying to do this is a really enjoyable process.
As China’s jewelry and accessory buyers start to set their own trends, rather than following consumers in more established markets, the question remains: will Western-influenced jewelry design continue to dominate in China, or will home-grown designers attract jewelry lovers with distinctive Chinese styles in coming years?
Shanghai Daily looked at one Chinese designer who has turned away not only from Western design, but from mainstream Chinese design as well, turning to China’s 55 ethnic minority groups for inspiration. After combing the countryside (and even looking abroad) to find and learn from folk artisans, Shanghai-based designer Heizi (”Black Guy”) began to create one- or two-of-a-kind jewelry designs, which he constructs from found materials collected on his travels.
In 2009, China became the world’s second-largest diamond market, behind only the US, and recently De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer, predicted that China could surpass the US to become the largest within the next decade.
Of these jewelry companies seeing China as a gold mine – or a diamond mine, France’s Van Cleef & Arpels is the latest to announce their China expansion plans for 2010. According to ChinaKnowledge, the company is actively targeting emerging markets like mainland China and the Middle East this year, and plans to double their number of Chinese stores from four to eight. These four Chinese locations make up the largest proportion of the seven stores Van Cleef & Arpels is set to open over the course of the year.
Cartier appears to be well on its way to achieving its goal, announced by CEO Bernard Fornas in 2009, of doubling the number of the company’s boutiques in China within the next four to five years. In April alone, the company will open three new boutiques in Shanghai, indicating that Cartier’s main focus remains firmly on top-tier cities rather than emerging second- and third-tier cities.
As Luxee (Chinese) reports today,
This month, major luxury jewelry and watch brand Cartier is set to open three new locations at the same time in Shanghai, the “Paris of the Orient.” The stores will be located at Hang Lung Plaza, Hong Kong Plaza and the World Financial Plaza. Cartier’s three new boutiques will highlight the brand’s pioneering work, not only writing a new style chapter in [China’s] fashion capital of Shanghai, but also adding a dose of elegant artistic flair to the upcoming Shanghai World Expo.
Looking to catch up with rivals like Cartier, or just establish a stronger brand presence, the Danish jewelry maker Georg Jensen opened its China flagship in Shanghai, the company’s first mainland location. From the Chinese news portal Sina (translation by Jing Daily team):
The legendary Danish luxury lifestyle brand Georg Jensen is set to open its first flagship store in China at Shanghai’s Peninsula Hotel. The opening of the brand’s first specialized boutique [in mainland China] marks the century old luxury brand’s official strategic entry into the Chinese market.
Customers at the new Georg Jensen flagship will enjoy the most enthusiastic and warm Scandinavian-style service. This type of service is like a whole new style of customer relations: it allows customers to feel right at home, relaxed and free to experience an unprecedented shopping experience.
Qeelin Opens First Store In Shanghai (June 25)
In mainland China, Qeelin’s approach has been more “cautiously optimistic” than anything else, with the brand opening one boutique in Beijing in 2008 and offering products at Beijing’s Seasons Place Lane Crawford department store. Considering many wealthier urban Chinese are still somewhat infatuated with imported luxury jewelry and hesitant to deck themselves out in a “created in China” brand, this isn’t much of a surprise. But as luxury brands from around the world have crowded the market, and the nouveau riche from interior provinces have appeared on the scene in Beijing and Shanghai, some adventurous shoppers are looking to new brands like Qeelin to set them apart.
Qeelin seems to recognize this opportunity, and yesterday opened its second mainland China boutique, this time in Shanghai’s Hong Kong Plaza. Likely hoping to get some business from the hordes of Chinese tourists that continue to converge on the city for the Shanghai World Expo while getting the attention of locals, this is Qeelin’s ninth boutique and first Shanghai outpost.
Chow Tai Fook (周大福), the Hong Kong-based jewelry brand, unveiled its new “K-Gold National Essence Series“, which incorporates Western nuances and re-envisions Chinese design in the company’s trademark fashion. Combining K-gold — an 18-karat gold developed by the World Gold Council, the promotion of which Chow Tai Fook began in 2004 — with silver, the line derives inspiration from the Shanghai World Expo and the growing connection between China and the international community. According to Artxun:
The Shanghai Expo theme of “Better City, Better Life” has become the creative inspiration for [the line’s] designer, who has cast the city’s changes throughout the ages into modern gold designs that seamlessly combine traditional Chinese culture and modern urban rhythm, perfectly reflecting and interpreting modern pop culture with Chinese characteristics.
China’s jade boom, which has gained most of its momentum over the past two years, hasn’t flown entirely under the radar. At a number of recent auctions in Hong Kong and elsewhere, (primarily) Chinese buyers have sought out particularly covetable lots of jade and its rarer Burmese cousin jadeite, occasionally spending outrageous amounts. In early 2010, a Chinese buyer purchased an imperial white jade seal that once belonged to the Qing emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) at auction for $12.3 million, and at Bonham’s in London in May, a collection of 66 jade carvings sold for $3.6 million, double their pre-sale estimates.
So what explains China’s skyrocketing jade prices? According to Tsinghua University economics professor (and Jing Daily “10 for ‘10″ contributor) Patrick Chovanec, the jade boom isn’t just a coincidence — and can’t be explained by jade’s rarity (since it’s not, by any means, rare) — but rather fits with three important trends that are currently “shaping the Chinese economy”: the rush to portable assets; concerns about inflation; and the country’s vast “grey economy.”
Although China’s clout in the luxury industry has grown along with high-end spending by its consumers, many homegrown Chinese brands have eschewed traditional Chinese design and handcrafting techniques, often choosing to pass themselves off as imports to uneducated consumers. Despite the obsession with imported brands that remains among most of China’s luxury shoppers, however, some domestic brands are starting to realize that a market for modern designs that incorporate traditional Chinese handicrafts does exist. This market will likely grow in coming years as “luxury fatigue” sets in among some of Shanghai or Beijing’s sophisticates. From NE-TIGER to Shang Xia, the expectation of a greater interest in traditional handicrafts in China drives the business strategy of several Chinese brands.
This week, Phoenix Online highlights “seven traditional jewelry techniques from China’s 5,000-year history” that we might see more designers incorporating into their designs in coming years.