Thailand's Gems and Jewelry established a Global Reputation
Closer talk with Mr. Somdet Susomboon, Director-General, Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand
How is Thailand’s jewelry perceived in international markets? And what are your suggestions to increase Thailand’s jewelry exports?
Thailand’s gems and jewelry are renowned worldwide for their quality, excellence, and value creation. We have long-established a global reputation for creating the finest jewelry enhanced by skilled craftsmanship.
Thailand is the world’s third-largest exporter of silver jewelry and colored stones after the US and Hong Kong. In 2019, the industry generated approximately 15,000 million USD in export sales, an increase of 30.91% over the previous year. Exports of gems and jewelry, excluding unwrought gold, were worth 8,097.45 million USD, an increase of 6.34% over 2018. The 2020 export target for gems and jewelry products (excluding unwrought gold), set by the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), Ministry of Commerce, is 8,178.42 million USD, a 1% increase over 2019.
With the global economy struggling, the DITP has introduced various strategies to help sustain exports of Thai gems and jewelry. These include increasing trading channels and opportunities by creating new trading platforms, maximizing the international connections of the DITP’s 58 Thai Trade Centres worldwide, and increasing cooperation efforts with the public and private sectors, as well as the various gems and jewelry associations. We will also look at increasing the competitiveness of Thai entrepreneurs and enhancing Thai MSMEs’ capabilities. In this connection, the DITP is facilitating Thailand to become the world’s gems and jewelry trading hub.
The DITP aims to make Thailand the world’s gems and jewelry trading hub. What positive steps are being taken?
The Thai Government is working tirelessly with both public and private sectors to create various incentives, marketing programs, and training schemes that will help transform Thailand into the world’s gems and jewelry trading hub.
Government agencies have introduced a series of measures to facilitate international trade, including taxation and financial incentives, product standardization, as well as domestic and international marketing. Regulations and procedures have been either reduced or streamlined to eliminate obstacles to trade.
The DITP continues to play an important role in promoting Thailand’s gems and jewelry industry globally. Thus, the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair (BGJF) is a major international trading platform where all key players in the global gems and jewelry business congregate to source materials, trade, and network with existing and potential partners.
The DITP has initiated a global campaign, entitled “THAILAND'S MAGIC HANDS: The Spirit of Jewelry Making”. The campaign is aimed at gaining international recognition of Thailand’s gems and jewelry industry, connecting the spirit of jewelry making to the traditional way of life and advanced skills of making intricate creations.
We are currently working with the Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (GIT) to promote certified products through DITP’s B2B E-commerce platform “thaitrade.com”. GIT is a nation-wide organization that attests to the credibility and reliability of its member companies and their jewelry products, with an internationally accredited laboratory for testing gems.
In addition to being an important manufacturer and exporter of high-quality gems and jewelry, Thailand is also an attractive destination for big jewelry companies to set up business here. We have a strong infrastructure, a capable workforce, and an attractive investment. In 2020, Thailand ranks 21 among 190 countries in the ease of doing business, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business annual ratings. Already major corporations such as Pandora, Rosy Blue Diamond, and Abbeycrest have chosen to invest in Thailand.
I believe Thailand is well on its way towards its goal of becoming the world’s gems and jewelry trading hub in the near future.
What are the strengths of Thailand’s designs and cutting edge jewelry, particularly for the new Millennials?
One of the key strengths of Thailand’s gems and jewelry industry lies in the wide variety of products it creates. From the simple to the spectacular, Thailand offers a wonderful range of designs to satisfy the demands of all buyers including niche markets, such as Millennials.
Due to their spending power, Millennials represent a key target group. Tech-savvy, they often seek designs that are specifically customized to their requirements. The DITP creates a special platform for Thai MSMEs with export potential to participate at the BGJF, such as The Jewellers, which offers creative jewelry innovations from talented young and creative Thai designers, and The New Faces, that features new collections from local manufacturers across the country. Their showcases are sure to appeal to Millennials.
We are in the era of Hyper Competition. How does the DITP assist internal trade to be competitive in the world market, while attaining sustainable growth?
The DITP constantly strives to support all those involved in the gems and jewelry industry. We have initiated various marketing programs and schemes to promote trade and strengthen the competitiveness of local MSMEs to ensure their success on the international stage.
For instance, the New Faces program provides a special platform for MSMEs with export potential to exhibit their products in BGJF’s New Faces Zone. As newcomers, the selected MSMEs are given a briefing to prepare them for dealing with international buyers, covering such topics as the type of products to display, market trends, and pricing to achieve international sales.
Accurate trade information is crucial to international success. The DITP provides current and extensive information, as well as recommendations, to Thai entrepreneurs through various channels. These are supported by seminar programs to strengthen MSMEs’ marketing and management skills.
Moving towards sustainability, the concept of developing products that cause less stress and have a lower carbon footprint on nature is now uppermost in the minds of Thai designers. Many contemporary Thai brands incorporate alternative materials in their innovative and unique designs. Brands featured at the 65th edition of the BGJF included Basic Theory, a company that transforms waste into the most incredible pieces of jewelry, La Orr that offers urban-lifestyle jewelry pieces made of Thai silk using traditional techniques, Pikul Din Pao who turns unique pottery wisdom from Dan Kwan village, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, into everyday lifestyle jewelry and many others with innovative concepts.
Being a key global exporter of semi-precious stones, what do you think of synthetic stones?
For decades, Thailand has earned an excellent global reputation as the source of the most beautiful gemstones, from rubies to sapphires, to other precious and semi-precious gemstones. In my view, the demand for semi-precious stones and for synthetics has evolved into separate markets. The synthetics have their own characteristics and colours that have created their growing international market.
Even though synthetic stones are becoming more popular around the globe, such gemstones still represent a niche product in the jewelry industry.
I believe that the BGJF provides an excellent showcase for anyone seeking to explore our incomparable range of gemstones, from authentic precious stones to the semi-precious and laboratory-manufactured synthetic stones.
How will the DITP manage the forthcoming 66th Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair to maintain its global reputation and overcome various health challenges?
The BGJF is one of the world's most renowned gems and jewelry trade showcases, organized by the DITP in February and September every year. The forthcoming show will be the 66th edition, providing testimony to its popularity and longevity. Participants regard it as a significant trading arena, where all key players in the global gems and jewelry business can achieve their purposes of sourcing, trading, and networking.
For the 65th edition of the BGJF in February 2020, the DITP welcomed almost 10,000 visitors from 106 countries with 994 exhibitors – a 10% increase over the previous year – in 2,086 booths. Even though the COVID-19 outbreak was just beginning in Thailand at the time of the fair, attendees gave the organizers very high scores for security within the exhibition and at registration services. DITP was also complimented for the strong health measures already in place throughout the fair. We worked closely with the Public Health Ministry’s Disease Control Department to implement the strongest precautionary measures against the spread of COVID-19.
As always, our priority is the safety and well-being of our exhibitors and trusted trade partners. The DITP continually tries to improve and develop the BGJF, collaborating with the private sector to introduce exciting activities for all participants. At the BGJF’s 65th edition, the DITP organized a design trend showcase, a silver jewelry exhibition (in conjunction with the Silver Exporters Association), a gold jewelry exhibition, and a colored gems tender, organized by Bonas, a renowned diamond brokerage from the UK.
For the 66th edition of BGJF, the DITP will organize a special networking reception as a platform for all jewelry participants to meet and exchange business information. The GIT will offer lab support to provide gems testing services to assure customers they can purchase gems at the fair with confidence.
How would you rate Thai-made jewelry in international markets?
Thailand’s gems and jewelry enjoy a strong reputation around the world. We are not only a trading hub for the international gems and jewelry industry but also
a country that has highly skilled artisans capable of creating exquisite works of jewelry. These skills are rooted in our rich heritage of art and crafts.
Global jewelry brands have long recognized the skills of Thai artisans and some have made Thailand their manufacturing base for decades. More recently, our industry has incorporated modern western practices and knowledge. This combined with the unique skills of Thai crafts-persons and their creative designs provides Thailand with a unique comparative advantage globally.
In past Thailand was regarded as a source of materials and a manufacturing base. Nowadays, it has become one of the leading countries in value creation for the global gems and jewelry industry. Thailand boasts a significant and growing number of internationally recognized jewelry brands, highly skilled artisans, and designers. Because of these skills and strengths, I have absolute confidence that Thailand will become the gems and jewelry hub of the world.
The 66th edition of the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair will be held from 7-11 September 2020 at Impact Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok.