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As jewellery fans get more polished, she knows how to satisfy their desires

With the annual JeweLuxe festival a month away, its founder Angela Loh tells CNA Luxury what shoppers, investors and connoisseurs should look out for this year.

It was a tiny diamond that sparked it off.

“I was 23, and my mother bought me a 0.3 carat solitaire to celebrate my graduation,” said Angela Loh, when asked about the moment she fell in love with jewellery. She went on to work branding and marketing with local brand Lee Hwa Jewellery – and spent her performance bonuses on jewellery.

At the invitation of several top local jewellery brands and the Singapore Tourism Board, she spearheaded and helmed the annual event Singapore Jewelfest between 2003 and 2016.

In 2017, she decided to branch out on her own, establishing JeweLuxe as an annual jewellery and watch festival. In the short two years of its existence, the event has quickly become Southeast Asia’s biggest such outing.

Last year’s installation drew 13,000 visitors and raked in US$9 million (S$12.36 million) in sales over 10 days, while the 2017 event drew 11,000 visitors and achieved similar sales figures.

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JeweLuxe 2019, which bears the theme Inspire, Indulge and Invest, promises to be a showcase of independent jewellery houses, designers and watchmakers reputed for exclusive creations and investible collections. More than 80 exhibitors will showcase over US$150 million worth of jewellery and timepieces.

At the 10-day festival that will take place at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza from Oct 11 to Oct 20, visitors will get to acquaint themselves with brands making their Asia debut, such as the award-winning micro-mosaic jeweller Qayten from Italy, famed for jewellery creations with scintillating movements. Another highlight is India’s Studio Reves, which is renowned for pieces featuring high octane artistry and craftsmanship.

“The genre of independent jewellery houses, designers and watchmakers is gaining traction globally as its presence is evident in world class retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Takashimaya, Barney’s, Lane Crawford, etc as well as auction houses,” Loh explained.

“As such, JeweLuxe’s curatorial goal is to elevate investment potential for shoppers and collectors with jewellery and timepieces that command value in the different global resale markets – also enabling deeper appreciation and more discerning purchase choices by enabling interactions directly with the creators. This is a whole new value perspective to shopping for jewellery and timepieces at an economically challenging time when people need to be wiser about the money they spend, especially for high-value purchases.”

To wit, items on sale at JeweLuxe 2019 will range from everyday pieces priced from US$500, all the way to investible rare gems and one-of-a-kind pieces worth millions, as well as limited edition and bespoke timepieces and clocks.

“We made it a point to request that our participants bring in affordable pieces so that this year, everyone can have their own piece by a world-renowned, award-winning independent jewellery designer, such as Sicis Jewels or Utopia Jewels,” Loh noted.

After all, while jewellery lovers are drawn to extravagant showstoppers such as multi-million dollar gem-studded bras, Loh says the majority of pieces sold on location at last year’s JeweLuxe fell within the US$5,000 to US$50,000 price range.

In recognition of the need to spend wisely, and perhaps as a nod to sustainability, JeweLuxe will also offer, for the first time, a No Regrets programme, where customers work with a concierge to transform old jewellery pieces they no longer desire, into new and signed creations by their choice of jewellery designer.

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(Photo: Aik Chen)

Loh also notes that shoppers today are getting more sophisticated.

“As a country matures with more affluence, its shoppers deepen their understanding of what they buy. They don’t simply buy ‘commodities’ like gemstones, jewellery or timepieces without provenance because those are cheaper. They are beginning to see the value of the brand name on the luxury goods they buy,” she elaborated.

“For the latter, there are two categories of shoppers – those who follow what most desire by buying internationally renowned names, and others who truly pursue the passion of human endeavours in buying works of independent curators, artists, designers and craftsmen who are recognised in elite circles of sophisticated cities of New York, Paris, Milan, etc.

“We see more and more Singaporeans in the latter group as can be seen in the 20 per cent increase in number of transactions in 2018 from 2017 that is putting their money behind alternate investments such as jewellery and independent timepieces.”

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In order to cater to such sophisticated shoppers, the fair will also host Savoir Series events, which is open to the public upon pre-registration. Participants will get to appreciate unique and iconic creations with insights, learnings and trends from international influencers such as Katerina Perez, curators, designers, watchmakers and established watch collectors from different parts of the world.

“The maturing of a consumer to collector to connoisseur applies to me as well – from my fledgling interest in gemstone-specific jewellery, to more aspirational ones incorporating haute design – it was an evolution that took place over several decades. I started buying only diamond jewellery when I turned 23. In 2008, I started collecting jade in fine jewellery but without an emphasis on design. Since 2016, I’ve been collecting signed jewellery by designers such as Caratell, Paolo Costagli, Kavant & Sharart, and so on,” she revealed.

“We recognise that consumers can only buy what they know. This explains why mass luxury is having its foothold in international spend. Coupled with the high inventory cost of jewellery, independent brands have limited budgets for sustained marketing and overseas growth. This inhibits the growth of such inspiring brands with compelling design and craft propositions.

“Impactful marketing as well as sustained brand presence are needed for indie brands to grow in new markets. To help them grow – and at the same time create buzz and excitement in Singapore retail – JeweLuxe will be complemented by curated showcases (both pop up and permanent) in selected jewellery retailers,” she concluded.

Loh also has plans to spread the buzz and excitement across the region. In September, she will conduct a private preview showcase in Kuala Lumpur, as well as a satellite exhibition from Nov 7 to Nov 9 in Jakarta, featuring international brand names such as Mouawad, Bhutani, and Oro Di Italia; Singapore powerhouses like Caratell and Infiniti Jewels; and Indonesia’s Passion Prive. Plans are also underway for a JeweLuxe showcase in China and another city in Southeast Asia in 2020; with New York City and London in the pipeline come 2021 or earlier.

JeweLuxe Singapore runs from Oct 11 to Oct 20, 2019 at the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza. Opening hours: 12pm to 7pm daily. Admission is free.

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Source: CNA/ds