Jadeite is currently much sought after by younger Chinese consumers who want to make a fashion statement in the workplace without appearing too showy, according to Phoenix Bi, executive manager of Hong Kong-based jeweller Imperial Collection (HK) Ltd.
Specialising in jadeite products, Imperial Collection caters to gem collectors as well as lovers of jadeite as a fashion item. “Manufacturers of jadeite jewellery in China did not use to place much importance on design.
This practice has only begun to change recently, and we’re one of the first Chinese jewellers to infuse Western design into jadeite jewellery,” said Bi.
The company, which runs a workshop in Guangdong Province’s Panyu District with a monthly production of 100 to 200 pieces, sets its sights on a select group of consumers.
“Unlike other gemstones like the diamond, ruby or sapphire, jadeite possesses an understated character all its own. It adorns but is never ostentatious. It’s this very quality of jadeite that many Chinese professionals seek for self-expression. The cultural significance of jade in Chinese history is another aspect that appeals to them. A person sporting a piece of well-designed jadeite jewellery gives off the impression of sophistication that befits a professional,” Bi explained.
Greater China, Singapore and other overseas Chinese communities are the company’s major markets. “Due to their cultural heritage, many overseas Chinese are fascinated by jadeite. However, the old-fashion designs of traditional jadeite jewellery often turn them off. We fill this niche by providing jadeite pieces in delicate and trendy designs that appeal to them. We firmly believe that a well-designed piece of jadeite is no less attractive than any other coloured gemstone,” Bi said.
In addition to stores in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Hong Kong, the company also operates a branch in New York. Despite the Chinese economic slowdown that has pummeled the luxury sector, Imperial Collection had reason to celebrate in 2015.
“We recorded an encouraging sales growth last year. Since customers have become choosier in their purchases, they prefer our jadeite pieces because of their designs, which add significant value to the gemstones. People may have bought fewer jadeite stones for investment last year, but our jadeite jewellery has only gained much more popularity in the ways that count,” Bi said.
The company is also growing in terms of market share, with its wholesale business taking off last year. “Many retailers, including ‘jewellery clubs’ that provide bespoke services to their members, began to buy from or collaborate with us last year. We view this as a nod of approval from our fellow jewellers and an indicator of the popularity of our products. This was our biggest achievement in 2015,” Bi added.
As WeChat sellers have proliferated in recent years, Imperial Collection has also jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon. “Last year, we started to collaborate with WeChat sellers, who helped us promote our products on the social media platform. We’re optimistic about the future of ‘socialnomics’ – as it’s called by some – and we’re putting more resources into our online business this year,” Bi said.
Selling jewellery online, particularly jadeite, is not without its snags though. “Colour is an essential factor for determining the value of a piece of jadeite. Online sellers of jadeite jewellery have to take pains to provide product photos that faithfully reflect the colour of a jadeite piece, in order to avoid disputes with customers,” she cautioned.
While it regards design as its biggest competitive edge, the company is also paying more attention to the materials it uses. “All the stones we use are fine-quality natural Type-A jadeite, with gemstone reports from China’s National Gemstone Testing Center. We’ll be even more selective in our choice of stones this year, in terms of both colour and translucency, to further enhance the value of our products,” Bi said.