S'pore's jewellery industry stayed strong through Covid-19 pandemic: Industry players

The growth has been seen across the spectrum for both high- and lower-end pieces. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - The jewellery industry has remained strong through the pandemic, and is expected to grow further this year, said industry players at the Singapore International Jewellery Expo.

Upticks in the economy have led to an increase in retail sales over the past few months, noted guest of honour and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah. She opened the 17th edition of the jewellery show at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre at integrated resort Marina Bay Sands on Thursday (July 14).

Singapore's gross domestic product grew 4.8 per cent year on year in the second quarter, led by the manufacturing sector, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry on Thursday.

While it was faster than the upwardly revised 4 per cent in the first quarter, it was weaker than the 5.4 per cent economists had expected in a Bloomberg poll.

The economic growth was backed by strong visitor arrivals to Singapore, which crossed 1.5 million in the first half of the year. Singapore expects four million to six million visitor arrivals this year, according to a Singapore Tourism Board forecast announced on Thursday.

"Just recently, in May 2022, retailers of watches and jewellery recorded higher sales of more than 60 per cent year on year," said Ms Indranee.

"The jewellery sector can continue to see improved business performance as economic recovery is expected to continue, and as we head towards the year-end festive season," she added.

The growth has been seen across the spectrum for both high- and lower-end pieces, said retailers The Straits Times spoke to.

Russian mining giant Alrosa PJSC supplies about a third of the world's raw gems, and sanctions by the United States against the company have put a squeeze on the world's diamond supply.

Mr Ronald Low, gemologist from home-grown and family-run bespoke jeweller Ivy Masterpiece said there was a surge of people buying jewellery during Covid-19, when people had a lot more disposable income to spend and one avenue they could do it was in luxury goods.

"As the markets did open up when travel curbs eased, the demand is still really high, but supply is still at a bottleneck because of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war," he added. He said this has caused the price of diamonds the company buys from suppliers to go up by about 20 per cent.

Similarly, fine jeweller Infiniti Jewels marketing manager Kabil Raj said prices of diamonds it buys from suppliers have gone up by about 10 per cent since the Russia-Ukraine war.

But he said people who are investing in gems now to beat the goods and services tax (GST) hike from 7 per cent to 8 per cent next year are a minority so far.

He said: "The love for jewellery is always there, and people continue to purchase gems for weddings and engagements, or even for investments... The appetite for the jewellery market is still strong and the only thing that would change that is mines running out.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah with Foundation Jewellers manager Caroline Tay at the Singapore International Jewelry Expo. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

It was a sentiment mirrored by Singapore Jewellers Association president Ho Nai Chuen, who said the strong demand for jewellery here has reinforced the belief that jewellery is a good investment to hedge against inflation.

"Three things hold true during a pandemic - the number of marriages increase, birth rates go up, and people in general buy more jewellery as a good source of investment," said Mr Ho.

The number of marriages last year rose sharply, with a 25.1 per cent jump from 2020, while there was only a marginal 0.2 per cent rise in births last year, compared with 2020.

Mr Ho also noted how growth in retail sales, which rose 17.8 per cent year on year in May, was primarily led by higher spending in goods such as watches and jewellery. This marked a third consecutive month of increase in retail sales.

"This good news will give confidence to our local jewellers to continue pursuing innovation, embracing technology, adopting sustainability and brave crossing borders to seek to globalise their businesses," he said.

The expo was organised by Conference and Exhibition Management Services, alongside the Singapore Jewellers Association, and features 200 brands from Singapore and around the world.

Among the highlights is a $1.25 million necklace made up of more than 34 carats of natural unheated pigeon blood Burma ruby and more than 20 carats of diamonds.

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