The 57th edition of the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry cemented Thailand’s position as a jewelry hub while new proposals for 2017 aim to make the Kingdom the ruby capital of the world.

“I believe that the Thai gems and jewelry industry is on course to become a jewelry hub, not just in ASEAN but of the world within the next few years,” Mr. Suttipong Damrongsakul, President of the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association (TGJTA) told assembled international media at the 57th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair (BGJF) on February 26, 2016.

Thailand’s gems and jewelry industry constitutes an essential part of the country’s export trade. The jewelry industry is ranked third after automobiles and electronics generating 371 billion baht ($10.3 billion). The 15,777 businesses involved in the industry employs 1.3 million people.

“We have come a long way from several decades ago when the industry was formed,” said Mr. Somchai Phornchindarak, President of the Thai Gems, Jewelry and Precious Metal Confederation (GJPCT) of Thailand. “Recently, Thai gems and jewelry is accepted everywhere in the world due to its high-quality and skilled craftsmanship.”

The industry experts took the opportunity of the 57th BGJF to launch the Ruby Symposium 2017, which will be held in the Thai capital in April next year.

“We aim to work with the government to hold the Ruby Symposium in Bangkok in 2017 to focus about commercial issues in the world ruby industry,” said Mr. Suttipong. “Keynote speakers will include shareholders worldwide, with over 400 participants joining the event.”

“The aim of the Ruby Symposium is to address the issues and challenges of the world’s ruby trade and to establish a transparent and trustworthy supply chain on an international level,” added Mr. Somchai.

Mr. Suttipong believes that Thailand’s gems and jewelry can build on its comparative strengths to become a regional powerhouse.

“Thailand is also a good place to do business in the region compared to Singapore, Hong Kong and China,” he said. “Our business operation costs and expenses are much affordable for business people. Thailand could be a centre not only for ASEAN but can be ASEAN+6.”

Mr. Anthony Brooke, vice-president of the Thai Gem & Jewelry Traders Association (TGJTA) agreed that despite the downturn in the global economy caused by China’s sluggish economic performance, the overall outlook for the industry was distinctly rosy.

“The latest TGJTA committee is very much focused on creating long term strategy for the development of our industry,” he said. “We are looking at a two to five year strategy.”

Mr. Anthony believes that the nascent ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) offers great opportunities for the industry.

“With the advent of the AEC, we anticipate a large growth potential amongst the 10 Asian countries. Indonesia, a population of 170 million people, there’s going to be a lot of demand for Thai-made jewelry there.”

One change for 2017 is that BGJF will no longer be held in February, but rather in January, in a move aimed at distancing itself from the Hong Kong International Jewelry Show. The September BGJF will also be brought forwards to August.

“This is to ensure that buyers would not need to hurry from our fair to other fairs in the region and that exhibitors will be able to participate at the fair,” said Mr. Suttipong.

“It’s impossible for the buyers to hang around outside their homes for 15 days,” he added. “I have been talking with lots of visitors and exhibitors, they all have the same comment – Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair should be split from Hong Kong.”

The 57th BGJF was held at Impact Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok from February 24 to 28, 2016. Over 30,000 visitors from around the world visited the 2,600 exhibitors at Asia’s second largest gems and jewelry showcase.