There is a saying that jewelry provides a final touch on fashion. Despite the global recession, jewelry and related industries have recorded an annual growth rate of over 10%, except for Korea whose market is still underdeveloped. Some experts pointed out that it is difficult for jewelry designers in Korea to reach out to the public because of the common notion that jewelry is a form of wealth.
As of 2013, the global jewelry market, worth $200 trillion, increased by 10.5% year on year, according to the Yano Economic Research Institute. Meanwhile, the Wolgok Jewelry Foundation suggested that the market size for Korea only stood at around KRW 5 trillion. Four jewelry designers of the Korea Jewelry Design Association (KJDA), who participated in the Jewelry Fair Korea 2014, held on April 24-27 in COEX Korea Exhibition Center, gathered to discuss ways to promote the jewelry design industry.
Jewelry design as a new growth engine
Host= What does the future hold for the jewelry design industry?
Park= It is a high value-added industry with a huge potential. Given that there are endless possibilities in the world of design, the industry will grow further if we get rid of stereotypes that jewelry is a luxury item and shed light on black markets.
Kim= To our surprise, Korea’s deft-fingered jewelry designers have evolved their skills enough to compete in the global marketplace which is booming. When we attended the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair in 2012, we were very well received. However, we are not that recognized at home whose market size is only shrinking.
Jeong= Despite the global recession, the size of the world market is increasing, largely because of China. This is why we are preparing to expand our business there. We already explored market opportunities when the KJDA held a jewelry exhibition at Cheongwadae Sarangchae in September 2013. Among about 25,000 visitors, more than 70% were Chinese. Just as Koreans trusted ‘Made in Japan’ goods in the 1980s and 1990s, ‘Made in Korea’ goods are considered quality products in China.
Moon= Korean designers are more renowned abroad than at home. In Korea, even if you have a jewelry diploma at a 4-year-course college, a jewelry designer is not as well respected as designers in other sectors. This is why many talented people go overseas. We have our role to play in improving the situation. More importantly, the government should nurture the jewelry design industry as a new growth engine.
The government needs to help businesses expand abroad
Host= It is interesting to note that the global market is enlarging, while the Korean market remains sluggish. What can we do to boost our global competitiveness?
Jeong= We need to produce world-class jewelry brands like France’s Cartier and America’s Tiffany. Though the industry was once dominated by Italy, there is no strongest brand right now. Taking this as an opportunity, we have to invest more to produce premier jewelry, also considered as ‘art’ abroad. If we show respect for the artists, the domestic market as a whole will eventually grow.
Kim= Another solution would be to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with gem-producing countries, guaranteeing a reliable supply of gems. In Korea, designers use their own money to buy gems, create a design, and then have them crafted as jewelry. Under such circumstances, if you do not have sufficient financial resources, you can’t even unlock your potential as a designer.
Moon= Last year when President Park Geunhye paid a state visit to the United Kingdom, the KJDA participated in the Korea Brand Entertainment Expo in London. A lot of foreigners showed a keen interest in our work. However, it was not easy to keep up the momentum because designers have to spend their own money to take part in such overseas exhibitions. I hope that many Korean Cultural Centers would provide chances for jewelry designers to exhibit their work.
Park= President Park could wear local brand jewelry. This would promote our work and be a great help to us. The government could also organize CAD or Matrix training sessions for older generations of designers to help them use computers to turn their ideas into a digital design.
A perfect career for smart women who have a sense of style
Host= The jewelry design industry is a women-dominated industry. Why is that?
Jeong= Men make up one third of the entire jewelry industry and they are doing a great job in evaluating and making jewelry. But the design work is mostly done by women because they have a better understanding of female consumers’ need for beauty, who are our major target.
Kim= A jewelry designer should be good at everything from jewelry evaluation to design to sales and marketing. I think women who are better at multitasking are a great fit for the job.
Park= We believe that a jewelry designer is one of the best jobs a woman can have. Jewelry has the power to mesmerize us with happiness, hope, and love. Some say that the eyes of jewelry designers always twinkle. It is may be because we work with beautiful and glittering gems which are brought closer to the surface after having been buried deep within the Earth’s crust.
Moon= In Korea, jewelry courses are offered in 31 four-year colleges and 22 two to three-year colleges. Annually, the former produces 819 designers, while the latter produces 837 experts. Though there are 15,000 businesses, due to unfavorable working conditions, many designers choose to work in different areas.
The KJDA is working with the Korea Institute of Design Promotion (KIDP) to provide better working conditions and welfare benefits. For instance, we are going to introduce a standard contract for jewelry designers so that they can receive reasonable compensation. Also, we will unveil a certificate system under which designers can protect their ideas and patent at a low cost. To achieve these plans, the government should take the leading role.
• Date and time
10 am May 16th, 2014
KJDA, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul
Contents Team Director Park Gilja