Signature Draws Serious Buyers

The 11th edition of Signature IIJS registered higher footfalls versus last year. However, most of the exhibitors and visitors that Solitaire International spoke to said that the buying mood was cautious and selective.

The first trade event of the calendar year, Signature IIJS, highlighted the jewellery trend directions for the coming year. The premium jewellery show, held from February 9th–12th 2018 in Mumbai, saw a 22% jump in attendees year-on-year to 16,500 visitors from across India and 55 countries, including Kuwait, Qatar, Bangladesh, Nepal, UK, Bahrain, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kenya, Malaysia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. This year, Signature hosted more than 700 exhibitors and 1,500 stalls.

Signature 2018 was inaugurated by chief guest Arun Mehta, chairman of Rosy Blue Pvt. Ltd. in the presence of GJEPC chairman Pramod Agarwal, GJEPC vice chairman Colin Shah, GJEPC convener – national exhibitions Shailesh Sangani, GJEPC committee of administration – diamond panel Kirit Bhansali, GJEPC regional chairman – northern region Ashok Seth, and GJEPC executive director – operations Veena Wadkar.

Welcoming the dignitaries, Agrawal informed that the Council had recently met commerce minister Suresh Prabhu, apprising him about the Jewellery Park, Common Facility Centres (CFCs), and promotion of handmade jewellery. Agarwal noted that the minister evinced key interest in these proposals, and a comprehensive plan would be sent to him very soon.

The GJEPC chairman thanked the government for reducing the GST rate on diamonds and precious stones from 3% to 0.25%. “We are happy that the Union Budget announced the reduction of corporate tax to 25%. We also welcome the government’s contribution of 12% of wages towards Employee Provident Fund (EPF) for new employees in the first three years.”

Agarwal added, “We are happy to announce that the GJEPC has been supporting the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) for generic promotions to create a strong top-of-the-mind recall for diamonds. We have also requested the government to review Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with countries for providing a level playing field to the Indian industry and sign new trade agreements with countries such as the US, Canada and Russia among others where our exports can grow.

Gold and diamond earrings from the Checks and Stripes collection. By A’Star Jewellery
The 18-karat gold three-finger ring features a blooming corsage on a textured bark. By Dwarkadas Chandumal Jewellers

He added, “We are working hard to make Signature IIJS a world-class show and therefore we have integrated IGJME for upgrading jewellery manufacturing with technological development to maintain a leading position in the global jewellery industry by focusing on value addition.

Agarwal stated that the government has identified 13 Common Facility Centre (CFC) clusters in India that would be developed with a government grant. He informed that the Council will also start a helpdesk where members can seek guidance to increase exports.

“The Council has always been engaged in upgrading skills and spreading education about jewellery making and is happy to announce that IIGJ opened another centre in Varanasi; the other one is coming up in Udupi soon. The GJEPC is also planning more buyer-seller meets abroad and we welcome industry members to offer suggestions in that direction,” Agarwal noted.

Chief guest Arun Mehta stressed that jewellery demand would be severely hit if diamonds were not promoted. “It is only through generic promotion that we can get back the glory of diamond jewellery,” he urged.

GJEPC convener of national exhibitions sub-committee, Shailesh Sangani, in his vote of thanks, said that a slew of tax reforms for the agriculture sector would increase its purchasing power and will push greater spends on jewellery in the days to come. “This year Signature has grown by 200 booths to ensure that the waiting list is reduced. This also means that visitors get to meet new sellers.”

Sangani said that the exhibition has grown by 7,000 sq m compared with last year. “This time, we have a greater number of IGJME exhibitors and half of Hall 6 is dedicated to machinery. The Council wants IGJME to become the largest show of its kind and the main destination for jewellery machinery in Asia.”

A middling response

Most exhibitors commented that visitor trade enquiries turned into instant sales conversions. For some, the show was much better than expected, while others reported a dip in sales as compared to last year. Ashish Mehta of Kantilal Chhotalal felt that overall demand for higher-ticket jewellery was consistent in the market, but the bread-and-butter items below R2 lakh found more favour.

Vikram Kothari, owner of Kosha Fine Jewellery, Mumbai, was satisfied that there was demand for his entire product range from rings, bracelets, earrings and more between R50,000 and R2 lakh. The company employs micro-pave and illusion-setting in its rose gold and diamond creations that mostly bear geometric patterns.

Rose and white gold drop-shaped earrings set with diamonds. By A’Star Jewellery
A contemporary gold bracelet with a diamond-set floral motif. By Savio Jewellery

Savio Jewellery from Jaipur, which specialises in illusion settings, and uses VVS EF quality diamonds in its high-end jewellery, met with buyers by appointment only. The company that caters to the northern and southern regions met repeat customers this time. Abhishek Sand, one of the directors, said that the conversion ratio of sales has been very high at this show. “It is our understanding that retailers with a high inventory turnover and those who buy twice in a year are the ones who visit Signature. We were very happy with the outcome.”

Mansukh Kothari of Vasupati Jewellers, Mumbai, said that visitors from across India were happy to see his themed collections. “The show has yielded above average results. Sets below 100 grams are moving well, but buyers are discerning. They don’t want to be overburdened with inventory.”

Abhineet Boochra from Silver Centre, Mumbai, informed that footfalls were good and the brand welcomed buyers mostly from the northern region. Destination weddings and the upcoming wedding season gave a fillip to their gold-plated bridal collections set with semi-precious and precious gemstones.

“Signature is the best show and our sales have been very high as compared to IIJS,” revealed Bharat Takhtani of Zar Jewels, Mumbai. “As manufacturers, we also get enough time to fulfil orders during this period.” Zar produces a range of bangles starting from 8 grams onwards and works with big brands and corporate houses. “Demand for our bangle collection has only risen,” notes Takhtani. As for GST, he adds that it is the best thing that has happened to the industry as it has become easy to supply goods all over the country. “The recent pro-agriculture budget will have a positive spin-off. Farmers are the actual buyers in the country because they ‘save’ in gold.”

Retailers were scouring for unusual items. Gold Artism of Mumbai introduced wood inlay work in its fine jewellery range, which received a good response. “We have also introduced coloured pearls, turquoise and agate in our fine jewellery collections. Most of our buyers from the southern region are preferring 70-80 gram necklace sets,” informed owner Abdul Rehman Shaikh.

The earring category also did well as suggested by Kalajee Jewellers, Jaipur. They received a stupendous response to its designer 18-karat gold ear studs, chandeliers, and long tasselled earrings. Director Naman Kala revealed that owing to the popularity of this jewellery category, their company will focus only on earrings for the next IIJS show in August.

Shilpi Jewellers, Mumbai, which caters to the central and northern belt of India, focuses on lightweight yellow gold jewellery with excellent finishing and innovative designs. Owner Pramod Mehta said, “We have begun the Platinum Club, a Shilpi initiative, along with our partner of 30 years, Emerald Jewellery Industry India Ltd., to promote platinum jewellery in tier 2 and tier 3 towns. I believe that top retailers in various cities should have a counter for platinum jewellery because the younger generation favours it and secondly, it gives additional business and high margin opportunities. Platinum is one of the fastest growing jewellery categories in India with a 40% year-on-year growth. At Signature, we received great success for our platinum as well as gold jewellery.”

Deepak Seth, owner of S.K. Seth Jewellers, Mumbai, said that 80% of his stock was booked by the beginning of the third day. “Buying at the corporate brand level is constant and retailers with large turnovers are happy to pick our 22-karat bridal jewellery set with emeralds and rubies. This year, we introduced a new range in gold and pearls – some of which was modular jewellery. Retailers are buying bridal sets between 100 and 200 grams.”

Upping the design ante

Every year, retailers visit Signature expecting to spot design directions – and this time it was no different. One could see a sharp focus on handcrafted jewellery as well.

Manufacturers continued to experiment with luxurious textures in gold and aesthetically contrast rose, white and yellow gold, sometimes in a single piece of jewellery. Two-tone jewellery is still popular across India. One witnessed braided textures contrasted with smooth and silky finishes in plain and studded gold jewellery collections. In diamond jewellery, fluid curvaceous forms were combined with perfect symmetry in chokers, earrings and bracelets.

Designer rings have been getting more audacious – multiple-finger rings, full-finger rings, cocktail and three-dimensional rings were spotted at various vendors at the show. Illusion-setting and micro-pave setting in jewellery to give the appearance of a larger stone is all the rage. Manufacturers have been using full cuts juxtaposed with rose cuts to add more drama to the necklace sets

Vitreous enamelling, too, seems to be catching the fancy of many jewellery manufacturers. Pastel hues have been dominating and colours such as parrot green, pale aquamarine, baby or blush pink or lavender shades are lending bursts of colour in kundan-meena jewellery.

Taking a cue from the enamelling trend, precious or semi-precious coloured gemstones of similar colours evoke the glory of nature’s splendour in ear studs, shoulder dusters, chandeliers, rings, bracelets and more. Although rubies and emeralds have always been the mainstay in bridal or couture jewellery, corals, turquoise, pearls, quartz, lapis lazuli, amethyst and agate are also gaining traction.

Pendants and necklaces are beautified with gem-studded, three-dimensional bouquets, while tasselled elements in necklaces and earrings are still going strong. Signature 2018 seems to have fulfilled the promise of offering a high-design quotient with one eye on restricting price points to make them more budget-friendly

Loose stones’ appeal fades

Signature 2018 didn’t attract many visitors to the loose stones section. Exhibitors were not happy with the overall results. Vaibhav Dhandia, partner, Dhandia Gems Corporation, Jaipur, observed, “The footfalls at Signature have been low so that has had an obvious negative impact on business. Most of the booths in the loose stone section are empty. In fact, in the last 6-7 years that we have been participating in Signature, this has been the worst year for us. In previous times, even though footfalls were less, it would still translate into business as we met serious buyers. The colour gemstone market has picked up in the last 8-12 months, but we will have to wait and watch how the Hong Kong show goes for the gemstone sector.”

Jiger Jain, manager, AB Gems, Mumbai, commented: “We had no expectations when we came to Signature this year as the colour gemstone market had been slow in general. Demand at Signature is strictly okay this time.”

Kiran Trivedi of Gaba Diamond Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, noted that the footfalls in the loose stone section at Signature were steadily going down with each passing year. “This year is extremely slow with no real enquiries to speak of.”

However, some exhibitors in the section had a good run. Commenting on the recent drop in GST on cut and polished precious gemstones and diamonds, Anil Punjabi, Partner, Tahilram Tirthdas Jewellers, Mumbai, who received a fairly good response at the show, said, “We are very happy with the implementation of GST because it will help us augment our trade – one nation, one tax. The drop to 0.25% GST on cut and polished precious gemstones and diamonds is a welcome move. However, it’s unfortunate that the GST on cut and polished semi-precious gemstones still stays at 3%. I wonder why this duty reduction did not get applied to semi-precious gemstones as they all belong to one category – gemstones.

“While synthetic cut and polished precious gemstones invite only 0.25%, synthetic semiprecious cut and polished gemstones invite a GST of 3% – this is very confusing. Post budget, the Customs duty on rough and cut and polished gemstones has risen from 2.5% to 5% and this will affect the growth of the Indian gem and jewellery industry. The educational cess (2% of Customs duty) and higher educational cess (1% of Customs duty) has been replaced by a social welfare surcharge that works out to 10% of the Customs duty, thereby increasing the overall Customs duty by more than double. I think the trade should sit across with the government and sort out this aberration,” he added.

Hitesh Dusad of Bliss Gems, Jaipur, noted, “After 2016, this is the second time that we are participating in the Signature show. This year has been better than our previous experience. Although footfalls are low, there is some movement in emeralds and tourmalines.”

Sandeep Koladiya, proprietor, Koladiya Brothers, Mumbai, “We are pleased with our first-time participation in Signature and are seeing good demand. We specialise in VVS in melees and +11 sieve sizes and our main clients are from South India, especially Bangalore and Hyderabad. We are also seeing high demand from our export markets Belgium and Hong Kong. The diamond market has stabilised after Diwali and we anticipate no further correction in prices.”

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