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GemGenève Show Wins Industry Hearts and Minds

Inaugural event in Swiss city draws 147 exhibitors and effusive praise

May 13, 2018 7:50 AM   By Sonia Esther Soltani
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Within 48 hours of its Thursday opening, exhibitors were already hailing the GemGenève trade fair as a success.

Words like “jolly,” “friendly” and “good vibe” peppered descriptions of the Geneva-based show, which welcomed 147 exhibitors spanning the full spectrum of the industry. Booths included diamond, colored-gemstone and estate jewelry dealers, high-jewelry designers, up-and-coming designers, and labs such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and Gübelin.

Foot traffic was strong during the first few hours of the event and didn’t show any sign of abating over the next three days. But even before it opened to trade members and the public, exhibitors felt the fair was living up to their expectations at a pre-show ceremony on Wednesday night. In attendance were Geneva economy minister Pierre Maudet and a crowd that one exhibitor described as “everyone who’s anyone in Geneva high society.”

“People always come if there’s free food and drinks,” said a New York-based colored-diamond supplier, “but what we noticed was people doing business on the opening night. They managed to attract quality people from the moment the ribbon was cut.”

‘We feel truly appreciated’

One reason the participants cited for the show’s promising start was that it brought together disparate elements of the industry. Another was the care and understanding the organizers displayed for exhibitors.

“For the first time, we feel truly appreciated,” an emerald dealer said on the first day, comparing his positive experience with the disillusionment he’d felt at Baselworld. Most of the participants who spoke with Rapaport News said they had no intention of going back to the Basel-based watch fair now that GemGenève offered them another level of exposure, and at a lower cost.

Everyone praised the elegant design, intimate booths and excellent organization. One estate jewelry dealer put the show’s success down to its organizers — Ronny Totah and Thomas Faerber — being industry professionals who understood the needs of other dealers.

Exhibitors were not shy about inviting their own clients to the event, because “we respect each other’s clients, and it’s good for the overall business,” said another participant.

Perfect timing for auctions

Further support came from auction house Christie’s, which set up a dedicated booth in the city center on Friday for its Magnificent Jewels sale preview. Hostesses there gave out information about the fair, as well as free taxi rides to Palexpo, where GemGenève was taking place.

GemGenève’s timing worked out well with the auction houses’ schedules: Christie’s Geneva sale is on May 16, and Sotheby’s is on May 15. Christie’s chairman for Europe and Asia, François Curiel, has been enthusiastic about the new event since its inception.

“When Thomas and Ronny came to see me in May last year, talking about their project, I liked it a lot for two reasons,” he said. “First, it would increase the number of people coming to our auction. It would probably bring new clients to Geneva who never came for the auction, but now the auction plus the fair would drive them to come here. And in fact, we have some people who came here this weekend just because there was a fair.”

Second of all, he went on, “there’s nothing much going on in Geneva, [and the show] would create a bit of animation. It’s good for Geneva, good for our business.”

Curiel recalled the founders thinking they would manage to secure 40 or 45 exhibitors for the first show. “In fact, they have over 140. And there’s room to grow. I hear only good things. I spoke to some dealers who already made sales.”

Better than Baselworld?

Besides dealers, the event is open to consumers who care enough about jewelry to pay CHF 50 — about $50 — ensuring that only serious buyers attend the show. A Geneva-based couple who came on the first day, which was a bank holiday in Switzerland, were attracted by the prospect of buying diamonds in their hometown. After experiencing disappointment with Baselworld’s most recent offering, they appreciated GemGenève’s slightly cheaper ticket price (Baselworld is CHF 60).

“We’ve been to Basel for years, and sometimes we bought there, but this year wasn’t a good show for diamonds,” they said. “We’ve heard about GemGenève, and from the first impression, it’s a much nicer experience. If we see something we like, we will surely buy.”

Buyers from Richemont, Chanel and Louis Vuitton also attended the show, according to the event’s organizers.

In the weeks after the show closes Sunday night, exhibitors will be able to assess the full measure of GemGenève’s success. The presence of Chow Tai Fook’s chief buyer, Kent Wong, as well as other key players in the industry who made their way to Geneva to check it out, is surely an indicator that GemGenève has disrupted the traditional fair circuit and is one to watch carefully.

Image: GemGenève
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Tags: basel, Baselworld, Chow Tai Fook, Christie’s, Europe, events, Exhibitions, François Curiel, GemGenève, Gemological Institute of America, geneva, GIA, Gübelin, Kent Wong, Magnificent Jewels, Pierre Maudet, Ronny Totah, shows, Sonia Esther Soltani , Thomas Faerber, trade fairs, Trade Shows
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