The year 2020 has been a crazy ride leading to major power games, sudden shifts in popular hubs and realisation of self strength. Even in the jewellery industry, there has been a shift in the global manufacturing sector and my latest story ‘Thailand: A jewellery hub on the rise’, written for the Solitaire Magazine’s Oct-Nov issue, talks about the Allure, the Opportunities and the Future that Bangkok holds. Enjoy!
THAILAND: A JEWELLERY HUB ON THE RISE
In addition to being a popular tourist destination, Thailand is also a hub for gemstones and jewellery. Over the years, its rising economy has attracted the attention of gem and jewellery business owners — some are happy to travel to the country travel frequently, while others have taken the plunge and decided to shift their base to Bangkok and nearby cities. With the major shift in Asia’s political scenario, how bright is Thailand’s future in order to become a global stage for the gems and jewellery industry?
“We are originally from Armenia and my father was a well-regarded jeweller in the Middle East, Europe, and America. Post college, I joined the family business, and travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, looking for business opportunities,” says K. Arto Artinian, President & CEO of Artinian Co. Ltd. “I first came to Thailand in 1993 to buy coloured gemstones. It was a very exciting time for the business and in 1997, my brother Saro and I opened Artinian Co. Ltd. and shifted our entire operations to Bangkok.”
There are numerous such stories that have contributed to the rise of Bangkok’s gem and jewellery sector, one of Thailand’s major export contributions.
“We are an Armenian family and I personally moved to Bangkok in 2000 to work as a precious stone and diamond setter. In 2004 my brother Joseph joined me when we opened our high jewellery manufacturing company,” adds Mike Saatji, CEO of Gianna Jewellery.
Bangkok has not just attracted manufacturers; it has also enticed many jewellery designers. One of them is the talented Alessio Boschi, founder of Alessio Boschi Jewels. “I am originally from Rome with no background in jewellery. After several years of design work experiences in Greece, Italy, France, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and lastly in Sydney, I founded my own business, Lux2Lux, together with my friend Martino. We approached many prestigious international manufacturers in Bangkok and Hong Kong,” he says. “In 2013, I decided to leave Australia and open my namesake business in Bangkok, and my sister Valeria joined me soon after. It was the open mindset of Bangkok that made me shift closer to the manufacturers, as well as the large availability of gemstones and cutters.”
Combining its renowned production and design skills with cutting-edge technology and internationally recognised testing, the tax-free area Gemopolis, as well as the education facilities, Thailand has evolved over the last few decades
“The business-friendly environment, dynamic economy, reliable infrastructure, competitive costs, and access to talented Thai and foreign workers, along with the beautiful weather and laid-back atmosphere made Thailand the perfect place to live and do business in. And in order to help the manufacturing companies, the government and the Board of Investment also offers significant financial incentives, including duty exemption on the import of raw materials,” explains Saatji, who, in addition to Gianna Manufacturing, also has a brand called Mike Joseph.
According to Artinian, “I think there is no coincidence that the first French artisans chose Thailand as a place to focus on concept development and jewellery production. The Thais are dexterous, incredibly talented with their hands, and excel in crafts like art, painting, and stone cutting. Understanding jewellery is a natural talent for them.”
“Having a company in Thailand is less expensive, easier to operate, and uncomplicated compared to Italian restrictions and high taxation,” reveals Boschi. “We also enjoy benefits when dealing with many global markets. Many of my Asian customers won’t buy from Italian companies due to high costs. They would prefer for the pieces to be delivered in Hong Kong or they would just travel to Bangkok.”
With these favourable conditions, there are a few challenges too, as noted by Alessio. “While costs are low to manufacture mass or medium-end jewellery, they have risen for high end jewellery lately. Some of my best manufacturers exclusively produce for famous international brands and their high standard quality control has made them quite expensive. Also, selling to European clients is becoming increasingly difficult as they are spoilt by excessive choice. However, I love challenges and have loyal clients in Italy, Cyprus, Russia, and USA.”
With dark political clouds looming over Hong Kong, things are looking brighter for Thailand.
“Thailand has always competed with Hong Kong, so with the current political situation, it seems that Thailand would become more appealing,” explains Artinian. “Around 15 years ago, China was a challenge, as it was much cheaper. But costs have increased, and Thailand is competitive again.”
Says Saatji, “Brands like uninterrupted service. Shipping jewellery overseas needs stability for insurances and we have seen an increase in production lately. I believe Thailand is the first choice, but the next option could be Vietnam too.”
While Thailand would be the first choice for many, Boschi suggests another vibrant place. “China had developed Shenzhen to be the new powerful Hong Kong. However, the lack of real communication infrastructures, language barriers, Chinese control, and taxation has made it extremely difficult for Shenzhen to replace Hong Kong. As of today, there is only one place that could compete with the economics and business of Hong Kong — Singapore.”
With all products manufactured in Hong Kong to be marked as ‘Made in China’, it might be another blow for businesses in Hong Kong. With Thailand projecting towards a boom, some spillovers would be visible in India, and even in Vietnam and Myanmar.”