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JEWELLERY is generally considered one of life's most indulgent luxuries, but it doesn't mean that one needs to dial down the sparkle during a downturn. With certain items priced as low as S$200, even budget-conscious fans of baubles can consider dropping by this weekend's Singapore International Jewellery Expo (SIJE) at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. And it isn't the only jewellery fair to include items to lure shoppers with attractively priced pieces. The Singapore Jewelfest taking place in October will also include buys that won't break the bank.
Festival organisers are certainly keeping things real during a soft retail market. So although the star of SIJE this year might be a DeGem International US$5 million necklace featuring 33 certified natural, unheated Burma pigeon blood rubies totalling over 82 carats, set in 18K yellow gold, the festival's organisers have also curated 500 special buys from its international exhibitors.
"We do this every year and under any economic climate because we want to cater to the needs of a wide range of buyers," says Edward Liu, group managing director, conference & exhibition management services for SIJE.
"So whether you are a young lady who wants to buy your first jewellery piece or a jewellery enthusiast adding another stunning creation to her collection, there is something for everyone. In fact, we have many young men who come to the show looking for a beautiful ring to present to the women in their lives."
Luxury within reach
Fuelled by discretionary spending, jewellery houses would once upon a time consider the labels "accessible" and "budget-friendly" contrary to their luxury branding. However, a greater pool of independent jewellers are happy to brandish their affordable price points.
"It is a myth that jewellery is an unattainable luxury," says a spokesman for US jewellery brand Paolo Costagli, which will be showing pieces priced from US$1,000 to US$30,000 at this year's Jewelfest. "Jewellery, even of fine quality such as our collection, is accessible to every modern woman who wants something precious and timeless that serves ultimately as an expression of her style, her essence."
Others would tap an existing business structure to minimise costs and transfer the savings to clients, such as designer of Thai brand Kavant & Sharart, Nuttapon Yongkiettakul. Mr Yongkiettakul, who works on the award-winning brand with his wife, leverages the infrastructure and expertise of his family's jewellery business to keep his prices low.
"We have been in the jewellery business for over 30 years and it is our accumulated experience and knowledge that gives us a good control over the quality of our creations," says Mr Yongkiettakul, whose jewellery ranges from S$2,000 to S$9,000.
"With this strong background, accompanied by the scale of our parent company's business, we are able to purchase top quality gemstones at a more competitive price." While it might seem that jewellery houses are only now focusing on less extravagant designs due to the economic slowdown, the revenue of many brands have often streamed in from more modest designs - despite creating multi-million-dollar show-stopping pieces for publicity.
"In fashion, the pieces featured on the international runway garnering media traction are of a different price category from the ready-to-wear selections presented in the global retail arena," says Angela Loh, Singapore Jewelfest festival director.
Showcase of rare gems
"It is likewise the case for fine jewellery. With fine jewellery being usually smaller in size compared to fashion clothing, to produce a visually significant piece to garner media and public awareness would require a substantial amount of gemstones and precious metal."
To draw in the crowds, Gueblin, an international gemological laboratory and academy, will be presenting a showcase of the top 10 rare gemstones in the world that have seen hikes in their value over the last decade during Jewelfest, including a 13.73-carat Afghan emerald (valued at US$1.3 million) from Singaporean jewellery brand Caratell, and a 4.90-carat fancy intense green heart-shaped diamond ring (valued at US$2.7 million) from another Singaporean jewellery marque, Vihari. Because the idea of a "bargain" is relative, jewellery fairs here are still hyping up more stratospherically priced buys, which might be valued more realistically by jewellers during less buoyant periods.
"We have several show highlights that are well in excess of S$2 million a piece," says Mr Liu. "There is a very important aspect of investing in luxury goods that buyers know - it is always a good time to purchase a piece of good investment value."
However, even jewellery designers who specialise in high-end, couture-esque designs have branched out into more affordable offerings. Singaporean-based brand Simone Jewels, for example, has always created one-of-a-kind, artistically driven pieces that are veritable works of art. This year, it unveiled Simone Jewels Exclusive Edition, a range of everyday pieces that start from S$1,600.
"The line has a completely new design direction of trendsetting, ultramodern and edgy designs," says designer Simone Ng, who will be showing pieces that are priced upwards of S$12,000 each alongside more accessible designs at SIJE.
"Yet they're still very exclusive, with just 10 pieces of each design created. We realised that younger women in their late 20s and early 30s who are just beginning their jewellery journey found this range extremely attractive. In addition, the older generation also loves that these pieces give them a refreshingly ageless look."