Bargains galore: Spectacular designs shine at Asia's largest gem show

By Frances Cha, CNNPublished 7th March 2014
Gem-studded pandas climbing emerald bamboo trees.
Opal dragons breathing ruby fire.
A wrap knitted with strings of yellow diamonds.
These are a few of the thousands of over-the-top jewelry collections being shown at Asia's largest combined jewelry show this week.
For the first time, two major jewelry shows are being held at the same time in Hong Kong.
The 31st Hong Kong International Jewellery Show opened at the Hong Kong International Convention & Exhibition Centre on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show opened at AsiaWorld-Expo on Monday.
Combined, the shows bring more than 3,800 exhibitors and stores from 52 countries to show their most beautiful finished pieces.
Shopping destination
It's only logical that Asia's most lavish jewelry shows take place in Hong Kong, a city peppered with jewelry manufacturers and stores -- many targeting free-spending Chinese tourists.
According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, exports of fine jewelry from Hong Kong totaled $7.2 billion in 2013, a 6.5% increase from 2012.
At the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show in Wan Chai, the visuals are staggering, with a blinding glare from diamonds everywhere you look, set in every form imaginable.
Trade customers carry giant suitcases, buying diamond necklaces by the bucket, while retail customers casually stroll from booth to booth.
While the show is well known among industry people, it's not widely known to the general public, possibly due to a misconception that it's strictly a trade show.
However, members of the public can enter with an admission fee of HK$100 ($13).
Inside the halls they find one of the more shocking sights in Asia.
Hefty bargains are available to "civilian" shoppers.
Retail prices at the show are approximately 10% higher than wholesale prices, but that still means savings of as much as 70% over outside retail prices.
"I travel to Hong Kong to shop here once a year," said a female Korean shopper who asked not to be identified.
"I can't shop for jewelry anywhere else now -- the variety, the unique designs, the prices -- they've all spoiled me for life."
It's best to check whether a shop will sell retail before haggling over prices.
Most will, but some sell only wholesale.
"Around US$1 million so far," said one salesmen when asked about how much he'd sold since the show began.
Focus on design
While almost any form of design imaginable is available, it's the uniquely Asian designs that stand out.
A swarm of delicate butterflies, all an unusual shade of green, adorn the Wing Tai Ornaments and Jewellery Co. counter.
"We exclusively use an unfinished Burmese jade that's named after the Chinese word for the patterns on deer," said Mandy Ho, a representative for the company.
The show also hosts a design competition; winners are featured in the gallery above.
Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Dr., Wan Chai, Hong Kong; +852 2582 8888; March 5-9, 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem & Pearl Show, AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong; +852 2582 8888; March 4-6, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., March 7, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.