Head of world jewelry group says Thailand should lead Asia

With its established strengths and experience in the gems and jewelry industry, Thailand should position itself as the gateway to ASEAN and become the leading nation in Asia for the trade, production and servicing of jewelry, while also focusing on the United States market, the head of the World Jewelry Confederation said last week.

“For Thailand, the status of being the primary ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) gem and jewelry center could be an irresistible unique selling proposition,” said Gaetano Cavalieri, president of the World Jewelry Confederation. Cavalieri spoke at a dinner hosted by the Ministry of Commerce to promote the 58th annual Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair, scheduled for September 7 to 11.

Government officials and jewelry industry leaders and executives attended the dinner, which was a working affair. They discussed a range of strategies with the goal of making Thailand one of the top three gem and jewelry trading centers in the world. Cavalieri urged Thai industry executives to make the “U.S. market their primary target, since 55 percent of the production of diamonds and gemstones are consumed in America.”

In 2015, the U.S. was the third-largest market for Thai gems and jewelry, taking 11.9 percent of the Kingdom’s glittering output. Hong Kong was the leading market at 21.3 percent, followed by Switzerland with 16.6 percent.

Overall, exports of Thai gems and jewelry rose 9.27 percent in 2015 to over $10 billion, compared to the previous year, accounting for 5.1 percent of all Thai exports.

Thailand has long been among the leading global trading centers for rubies and sapphires because of its proximity to mines in neighboring Myanmar and Cambodia. The gemstones are often finished and processed in the Kingdom. Thailand once had rich deposits of rubies and sapphires, but most have already been mined out.

The Kingdom has also been chosen as one of the top five destinations for polishing and cutting diamonds by DeBeers of South Africa, the world’s leading diamond-mining and trading firm. The skills of Thai diamond cutters and finishers have long been recognized within the industry.

Cavalieri was also critical, however, of Thailand’s efforts in the field. He said the Kingdom has all the ingredients to be among the top three centers: raw materials, infrastructure, skilled workforce and a gemology community. But despite having those ingredients for more than a decade, not enough has been done to achieve the goal. “Were you able to optimize your potential? In all honesty, I suggest you have not,” he said.

Somchai Phornchindarak, President of the Thai Gems, Jewelry and Precious Metal Confederation of Thailand, agreed that the industry needs to do more to raise its game, even though it has come a long way in the past two decades.

“Firstly, we should build up more skilled workers and designers,” Somchai said. “Second, find the way to fix the shortage of upstream materials like rough stones, raw gems, rough diamonds. Third, stimulate marketing support for manufacturers and exporters. Fourth, amend the laws to support the industry. Next, help SMEs to access financial support from the financial institutions in Thailand. And last, we should encourage technology and innovation development in the industry.”

Suttipong Damrongsakul, president of the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association, believes that Thailand can build on its comparative advantages to become a regional powerhouse. “Thailand is a good place to do business in the region compared to Singapore, Hong Kong and China,” he said. “Our business operation costs and expenses are much affordable.”

Image credit : www.bkkgems.com