Diamonds are forever. So are gold, jade and gemstones. A fusion of beauty, craftsmanship and objects of timeless value, jewelry has always been sought after by those who can afford it.
The demand for jewelry has soared in China, and the country is expected to be the world's largest jewelry market by 2020, said statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Chinese customers have also become more selective and discerning about design and brand.
Against this backdrop, a number of Chinese designers have emerged, helping Chinese brands to compete with their counterparts overseas.
However, "it might take another decade for true Chinese masters of jewelry design to emerge," said Ren Jin, a representative of the academic school of jewelry design and Vice Dean of the School of Gem Studies under the China University of Geosciences.
Together with another nine professional designers, Ren has his works to be exhibited at the 2011 China International Jewelry Fair in Beijing from November 23-27.
Visitors to the fair were treated to a visual feast of glittering gold and dazzling precious stones. One of the highlights of the fair was the participation of foreign jewelry companies and their high-quality stalls and exhibits.
As China's biggest and most influential international jewelry fair, the fair has reflects the development of China's jewelry industry, said Wang Weiwei, Deputy Secretary General of the Gems and Jewelry Trade Association of China (GAC). GAC and the National Gems and Jewelry Technology Administrative Center co-hosted the fair.
From 1992, when the fair was introduced, to 2011, the fair has expanded from a domestic one with about 200 booths, of which most are jade dealers, to an international one with 2,700 in 2011, said Wang.
China replaced Japan as the world's second largest diamond consumer in 2009. And given the fact that China overtook India to be the world's largest gold consumer in the first quarter of 2011, the World Gold Council predicted China's annual gold consumption will double before 2020.
Also, "the prices of colored gemstones have increased about 30-50 percent annually these years," said Yin Xusheng, Chief Operating Officer of the Shenzhen-based Yuqeelin Jewelry Company. Yuqeelin, with a history of more than 30 years, sells colored gemstones like rubies, sapphires, tanzanite, tourmaline and emeralds.
"China's colored gemstone market is maturing," Yin said. "Chinese people traditionally bought mainly gold, which is believed to be an inflation-proof asset, but now people understand the value of gems."
The fair served as a test market for Yuqeelin. With information collected, the company decided to open its first Beijing store in 2012.
"We found at the fair that people in north China have more diverse tastes for jewelry than those in east and south China," said Yin. "Many of them prefer colored gems to gold and diamond to demonstrate their personality."
However, despite the huge consumption volume and the fact China replaced Italy as the biggest exporter of jewel ornaments inlaid with gold and silver in 2010, there are few established Chinese brands for the high-end jewelry market.
"China's jewelry industry will be doomed to a dead end, if we are relunctant to make changes," said Wang. "We have to encourage talented designers, while refining ancient techniques."