New gold standard
Updated: 2011-05-01 07:22
By Gan Tian (China Daily)
Gold jewelry from Chinese designers competing for AuDitions awards was more innovative and fashionable than traditional designs. Provided to China Daily
More Chinese consumers are buying gold jewelry for beauty and fashion rather than solely its intrinsic value, Gan Tian reports.
Gold jewelry has been traditionally valued in China as an investment and an asset in hard times, but today it is increasingly popular for its beauty and range of designs. When office worker Huang Shuyan was shopping for jewelry in 2003 as a wedding gift to her sister, she found 24-karat gold designs were still mostly simple rings, earrings, necklaces or charms in the shape of characters like fu or xi ?fortune or happiness.
Eight years later on her birthday in April, she went to the Beijing jewelry mall Caibai and found a wide array of stunning gold jewelry crafted in far more delicate and complicated styles.
She picked up a necklace with a 3-gram gold ornament in the shape of a raindrop priced at 1,699 yuan ($260).
"It is not the traditional gold necklace I used to think of," Huang says. "It is more fashionable, yet wearable on formal occasions."
Her experience is only a small measure of the rising range and fashion in gold jewelry.
The brand Only Gold was launched in 2007 by the World Gold Council to promote modern 24-carat jewelry designs.
In the middle of April, it launched four new series that include a tree necklace, snowflake earrings and shell-shaped baubles.
"Chinese people love gold as it has been the symbol of fortune for a long time, so the market for pure, or 24-carat gold, is flourishing," says Roland Wang, director and general manager of the World Gold Council (Greater China).
"But now they have gradually begun to learn that they are buying a piece of jewelry instead of just gold."
More jewelry designers have also appeared in the last five years with shining ideas.
The latest AuDitions awards, regarded as the Oscars of gold jewelry design, reflect the progress made in China.
"There used to be a very traditional Chinese style that was difficult to move forward to innovate," said Mark Pool, marketing manager of AngloGold and a judge of the global AuDitions competition.
But this year's top award went to Hu Juanjuan, who majored in jewelry design at Saint Martins College of Art. She created a coral-shaped gold necklace decorated with red stones.
"I like the winning piece. It is very clever and something we have never seen. It is of global quality," Pool said.
Other winning jewelry included designs inspired by insects, Rubik's Cube and a spider's web. Some even combined gold with leather, lace and silk.
"Twenty-four-carat gold is still the most popular in China," Pool says. "It is very much about the value of the gold, but designers have begun to create value in their designs so consumers are willing to pay more to wear a beautiful piece they believe is more fashionable."
But Wang from the World Gold Council says there remains a big gap between local and Western designs.
He noted that a flower depicted in gold by a Chinese designer will be more literal and delicate, showing every petal, leaf and stem. A Western designer uses only simple lines to represent the image.
At the same time, more skills in crafting 18-carat gold jewelry should be introduced into the country because it is a harder alloy and has more colors.
"It has great potential. Young consumers would enjoy 18-carat gold. For designers, they can have more fun with it in more creative ways," Pool says.
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