Chinese jewellery design - potential diamond in the rough

Under an instructor's watchful eye, a group of Shanghai jewellery design students carve copper and yak bones, perhaps dreaming of a future day when Chinese jewellery will dazzle the world.

The aspiring jewellers are part of a programme at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art aimed at cultivating expertise in a nation that is already a huge jewellery consumer but whose potential for homegrown design remains untapped.

"They have the skill and the technique, but they need more freedom in their designs and they need to learn to communicate with one another," said their instructor, who gave her name only as Grace.

"Changing their mentality is a slow process," said Grace, a Chinese who studied jewellery design at Dundee University in Britain.

China is among the world's leading consumers of platinum, gold and diamonds.

But professionals say its jewellery design remains characterised by dowdy butterfly brooches and ubiquitous pendants bearing the Chinese characters for "long life".

Most Chinese jewellery pieces are cheap imitations or costume jewellery sold around the world, said Zhang Fuwu, an official at the art institute's Institute of Jewellery and Accessories, where the apprentice jewellers are trained.

"Since the country opened up 30 years ago, there have been great changes. The demands of Chinese people in terms of culture and beauty have evolved a lot... but we still have a long way to go," Zhang said.

China has the world's second-highest number of dollar billionaires after the United States, and a new class of wealthy Chinese created by the country's three-decade boom has seized on luxury brands as status symbols.

Chinese media this week quoted a state think-tank saying China was the world's number two consumer of high-end fashion, accessories and luxury goods after Japan, buying 27.5 percent of the world's luxury goods, and was set to be world leader in five years.

Last year it was the world's second-largest market for both diamonds and gold. China's gold consumption could double in the next 10 years, according to the World Gold Council.

China imported 699 million dollars worth of cut diamonds in 2009, according to its own statistics, and increasingly savvy Chinese buyers are making new demands in aesthetics and quality, with foreign styles reigning supreme.

"One day, Chinese consumers will rediscover the beauties of their own culture, but for now, for young people, what is desirable is what comes from the West, from Japan and from South Korea," Zhang said.

Mark Brauner, the Hong Kong-based head of the International Gemological Institute (IGI), said China represents something of a contradiction.

"There is a new pride, particularly since they sent a message to the world with their impeccably well-organised Olympic Games, but at the same time they have no confidence in themselves" in certain other fields, he said.

"When it comes to luxury goods, Asia dreams of products from Europe and the United States," he said.

What's more, Chinese see buying gems as an investment, he said.

"The Chinese think of buying a diamond as an investment rather than an emotional, romantic act, and want to know exactly what they are buying, which means jewellers have to be more skilled," Brauner said.

"They (customers) are often prepared to pay a little more for the added value of a foreign certificate."

To meet these new demands, the Institute of Visual Art - with the backing of several government departments and state educational institutions - has teamed up with the IGI, whose experts will train apprentice jewellers in technical aspects of the trade.

They will learn scientific analysis of gems, how to calculate the weight of a cut diamond from the uncut stone, which angles best catch the light.

IGI experts will also teach the aspiring jewellers the "four Cs" which determine the value of a diamond: carat, colour, clarity and cut.

IGI calls the effort a "great step for the development of the Chinese market".

"China is the future. Our clients here are expanding rapidly. You can clearly see the luxury sector has benefited from the efforts to restart the economy," Brauner said.

jg/pt/pdw/dma/mtp/ft

 

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport