We have written before about the popularity of gold, jewelry and watches in China, and as the figures released today show that the Chinese economy seems to have positive momentum, it is likely that domestic demand will continue to grow for these luxury items. Government efforts to spur increased consumption and lower savings rates look to be at least partially successful, and as a result many global jewelry companies are now putting extra effort into their China outreach and expansion programs.
Today, Diamond Worldlooks into the growing influence of Asian jewelry brands as they become an increasing part of the global market, profiling three up-and-coming Asian jewelers who you might see at a mall near you in a few years: Luk Fook Jewelry, Kin Hung Lee Jewelry and Qeelin Jewelry.
[Hong Kong-based fine jeweller] Luk Fook, much like many fine jewellery companies in Hong Kong, considers China a significant growth engine. “We plan to open 73 new sale points in China this year, and another one in Tsim Sha Tsui in September this year,” Wai-Sheung says. In addition to opening fine jewellery stores in central cities, Luk Fook is planning to expand its presence to a secondary circle of cities such as Wuhan and Hangzhou. The company has 67 jewellery sale points, 17 of which were opened last April. The company also has two jewellery stores in Hong Kong and one store in Macau.
Kin Hung Lee
The Beijing Olympics ended nearly a year ago, but the impression it left on China is still in full force. Jewellery firm Kin Hung Lee took advantage of the fact and in December 2008 it signed an agreement with the Olympic Sports Center, according to which it was granted the exclusive rights for jewellery brand Water Cube, which combines unique and rare metals with gems and pearls. The Water Cube jewellery brand combines different elements from the Olympic swimming pool with jewellery that incorporates expensive gemstones, art and inspiration.
Kin Hung Lee was founded by the Hui family from Hong Kong, led by businessman Hui Sin-Kin. The latter built up a fine jewellery empire that took advantage of Hong Kong’s special trade status as an independence port. The company, which has spread beyond Hong Kong, does business in Macau, Taiwan and other markets in southeast Asia, and hopes to continue this trend. Moreover, the company has a supply chain in China, from Guangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north. The company’s flagship jewellery store in Beijing spreads over 3,800 square meters, and includes the only display hall of jade jewellery in China, which includes collections, displays and a private viewing room.
Kin Hung Lee holds a unique position in the luxury jewellery field: The company has provided extremely luxurious collector items embedded with jade to royal houses in Europe and in the Middle East, and its clientele includes oil, finance and media tycoons. This is partially due to the company’s commitment to art and design of the highest quality, which is why its products are so popular among elite circles in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and Milano.
In 2004 Maggie Cheung, a Hong Kong movie star, won the best actress award at Cannes, and chose to wear a set of Qeelin’s diamond earrings to the event. From that moment on, the French-Chinese brand became a celebrities’ favorite. Its international exposure was immediate, and even caught the entrepreneurs who started it off-guard, as they were still not yet ready to release it to the general population. Qeelin was founded by Guillaume Brochard from France and Dennis Chan from Hong Kong. The two describe it as “a true French-Chinese brand.” Qeelin is the first international independent jewellery brand that combines the aesthetics of the Chinese culture and the excellence of French craftsmanship. The two believe that this combination works thanks to the authenticity it holds for both cultures.
The partners’ vision was to position Qeelin alongside the most exclusive jewellery brands in the world. “Historically speaking, France is the birthplace of many luxury jewellery brands; therefore it was perfectly natural to base Qeelin in Paris at first. We also wanted to market Qeeelin in the most demanding fine jewellery markets first, and France was one of them. After launching the headquarters in France and in China we quickly opened jewellery boutiques in Hong Kong too,” Brochard says.
“Qeelin combines Chinese inspiration and French craftsmanship,” Mr. Chan also stresses. “This is a French-Chinese brand, a true combination of the two cultures. We strive to implement the best of each side and combine the most exclusive French gold craftsmanship with unique designs inspired by the Chinese culture.” Qeelin is the first luxury jewellery line that relates to the Chinese legacy, he states. “We are learning that our Western customers approve of this initiative.” Hong Kong helps Qeelin flourish as “an amazing tourist and business attraction around the world,” Chan says. “Our strong presence in Hong Kong has definitely helped us improve awareness of the jewellery product.”
In five years alone, Qeelin has become a jewellery brand with a strong identity and followers around the world. Nowadays, the brand has eight fine jewellery boutiques in luxurious shopping malls in Hong Kong, Paris, Beijing, Taipei and London. The company is expected to launch its first luxury watch collection this Christmas, and even received an award for excellence in 2009 from the French Association of Trade and Industry, which acknowledges the excellence of the French enterprise in Hong Kong.