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BY RAYNALD C RIVERA
In its 10th edition, the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE 2013) has attracted a record number of international brands, demonstrating its strength, the strong market for jewellery here and the dynamism of the country’s economy.
Said to be the third largest jewellery and watches show globally, DJWE this year saw a 15 percent increase over last year in the number of international brands on display. More than 530 brands of the finest jewellery and timepieces from 24 countries are being showcased at the show, which concludes tomorrow.
For a decade now, the annual show has been drawing thousands of visitors from Qatar as well as neighbouring countries. The expo is looked forward to in the Qatari community by those preparing for weddings.
Last year, the total worth of the items on display crossed $1bn, and this year the nearly 15,000-square metre space at the Doha Exhibition Centre has gathered some of the best known names in the industry, including new participants Christie’s and Matis, who aim to establish a base in the jewellery business here.
Julien-Vincent Brunie, international director of the recently established private sales department at Christie’s, said Qatar was an excellent market for jewellery and art, with discerning buyers who know how to look for quality.
“Qataris have a lot of knowledge about jewellery, about art, and we sell to Qatari clients all over the world, and here in Qatar there are very important collectors who know what they are buying and go after quality, which Christie’s provide at the right price,” Brunie told The Peninsula.
Established in 1766, Christie’s is a leading auction house which makes around $7bn in auctions and private sales annually.
“I’ve been coming to Doha for the past 15 years and I think Qatari people have such a high level of culture and knowledge. It’s a great honour to be in this part of the world, where people can appreciate quality,” Brunie said.
Clive Golanski of Graff was of the same view, saying Qatari jewellery enthusiasts stand out in the region for their passion and understanding of the craft.
“Qataris understand stones and the quality of stones. They can tell whether it is good or bad or if it has the perfect colour and cut. I think with many years of buying and appreciating jewellery they have built up this knowledge, which is passed on in the family,” said Golanski, adding they had more Qatari women customers than men.
The 53-year-old London-based company is said to have handled more diamonds of notable rarity and beauty than any other jeweller, and is involved in every stage of the jewellery-making process.
“We go to many places for exhibitions where people enjoy jewellery but don’t necessarily have the passion, but Qataris love style and jewellery and they are always excited about new things. They contact us on the new styles we have each year, on what’s in fashion, which also helps us with our next designs.”
It is Graff’s ninth year in the expo, and Golanski said each year had seen growth in terms of the number and quality of pieces on show, and sales.
“Every year it gets better and better, but it’s very difficult to say which year is the best because prices of diamonds change. Also, we tend to bring bigger and better pieces. This year, we have probably 25 percent more items that we brought than the previous year,” he said.
Undeniably, Graff is doing well at the exhibition, with a fantastic response from buyers.
“Normally, the exhibition builds up towards the end because people would come during the weekend. But now we had very promising transactions even in the first two days of the show,” he said.
Kseniya Goryainova, sales executive at Garrard, one of the oldest jewellers in the world, said the Doha exhibition was incomparable, the city was one of the pleasant places to be in and Qataris were great hosts.
She said they always brought something they could show for the first time to a public that understood and loved jewellery.
“We have been bringing pieces they see firsthand for the first time. They understand the quality of the stone, the intricacy of design, they always go for the best, so it’s a great challenge for us to deliver,” she said.
Panerai, an Italian firm that manufactures timepieces in Switzerland, has seen sales of luxury watches shoot up in Qatar.
Milvin George, managing director at Panerai’s office in Dubai, said the company closed 2012 with a 25 percent increase in sales.
The brand has a boutique in Villaggio Mall in partnership with Ali Bin Ali, and has been taking part in the exhibition since 2008.
“We’re happy to come back every year to connect with collectors who like fine watches,” said George.
Having noted Qatar’s resilience amid the global recession, and with an important client base -- mostly Qataris -- to look after, the Italian luxury brand decided to open a boutique here.
“Every European brand attracts local people, who already have strong awareness of our brand,” he said.
Sherif El Sakkaf, Public Relations Middle East of Patek Philippe, Geneva’s oldest independent family-owned watch manufacturer, said the exhibition had always registered the highest turnover in relation to the country’s small population.
“The Qatari market has always had the highest turnover, and I’m not only talking about Patek Philippe, but also other brands that have been successful in this exhibition. It has always been strong in terms of purchases in relation to the country’s population,” said El Sakkaf, adding they had many buyers here who purchased important pieces.
“I don’t think there’s a single market in the world that can focus on spending money in such a short time. I don’t think there’s any other exhibition that can match this,” said El Sakkaf, who has more than 20 years of experience in the watch industry.
Qatar, he said, was now one of the fastest moving economies in the world, having seen unprecedented development over the past 10 years.
Ammar Radwan, Floor Brand Manager, Watches, Blue Salon, shared the same view, saying the local market had been doing very well and an even better future was expected.
He said sales had been better than last year. Among the items in big demand were watch, pen and cufflink sets for Qatari men.
“Many Qatari men buy a set consisting of a watch, cufflinks and a pen. The pieces may be made in various countries but they all match in colour, quality and brand,” he explained, adding they also provided customers watches and jewellery made according to their requirements.
Radwan said the exhibition was an excellent opportunity for companies to showcase the best they had to offer to customers.
Qatar being a lucrative market for luxury products, some jewellers and watchmakers at the show have designed products especially for Qatari clients.
Swiss watchmaker Michel Jordi has crafted a luxury timepiece as part of its ‘Icons of the World Collection’ featuring eight cities in the world, including Doha. The special watch highlights the Doha skyline.
“This is our second time participating in the expo, but this is the first time the Icons of the World Qatar is being displayed,” said Michel Jordi, CEO and president of the firm.
“Qatar is a very strong emerging market. I’m very much impressed by the quality of the show here because all the big players in this industry are present. I think this is a tribute to the Emir of Qatar for putting up such a fantastic show,” said Jordi.
Swiss luxury watchmaker Vogard has also handcrafted a Qatar-themed timepiece, incorporating Qatar’s national colour. Made of the finest steel, the watch is set with 322 precious stones. The bezel is coloured maroon, the national colour of Qatar, while the lever is set with 20 diamonds and 27 rubies to symbolise the country’s flag.
Theo Fennell, Britain’s foremost designer of jewellery and silverware, is participating in the exhibition for the first time and is showcasing some Qatar-inspired pieces.
Arabesque patterns, the Qatari flag, local animals and the astrolabe are just some of the designs in a wide portfolio of exclusive pieces by Theo Fennell, known for clever and one-of-a-kind design patterns.
Fennell had never been to Doha before and was impressed by the Qatari market for jewellery, which, he says, is different from other parts of the world.
“I think one of the interesting things about the world is everything is got to be the same, the same big brands all over the world. I think Qatar is a very individual and very original market. People here want to see new, unusual and different things, so for us it is a perfect market for our products, which are not the same old stuff seen all over the world,” said Fennell.