China is one of the world’s major jewellery manufacturers, producing hundreds of tonnes of jewellery and beads each year. But for designers looking to manufacture their designs overseas, what are the considerations, implications and benefits? Kathryn Bishop finds out more.

British jewellery manufacturing has long held a place in the hearts of jewellery retailers with its heritage and history.

Whether a seal-engraved signet ring, an exquisite diamond pendant, or even a hand-beaded necklace, the knowledge that a piece of jewellery was designed and made on our shores brings a sense of pride to both buyers and sellers of the pieces in question.

At the same time, there is the wide acceptance and even necessity for brands to manufacture overseas and retailers to buy collections made in factories as far afield as China, India and Thailand.

Focusing on China, stats support its position a major producer of jewellery, from costume to diamond-set designs. Figures from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKDTC) show that China’s global jewellery exports from January to July 2016 totalled 223 tonnes, with an export value of US $525m (£397m).

However, a closer look at the figures show that China has experienced ongoing decline in jewellery export figures, a pattern of small peaks and troughs that’s been recorded since December 2014, when its jewellery exports hit 963 tonnes for the month alone, with a value of US $4.8bn.


Chinese Blessings

Yet it remains that China is a major producer of jewellery and beads for the UK market, from costume and fashion items, to glass beads, silver jewellery and precious gold designs.

David Kukadia, head of PR and branding at the Giftware Association (GA), notes: “Chinese manufacturing has certainly exerted its influence on the jewellery market, in both a positive and negative manner. It has made the market more accessible and competitive in terms of cost effectiveness and volume, however in some cases this has been detrimental to the level of quality.”

Weighing up the impact of Chinese imports and manufacturing on the British jewellery industry, Kleshna Hanel, the designer and founder of Kleshna Jewellery, adds: “I would say that 85% of the jewellery we see in the high street chain stores comes out of China, which has rather sadly commoditised it. Some high street retailers are even selling clothes with jewellery included, which is squeezing out [possible] British manufacturers.”

Yet be able to keep costs down or to produce items of matching quality at volume, overseas manufacturing has been the answer for many smaller jewellery businesses. Running a company that uses beads sourced from China, India, Israel and the Czech Republic, Handel’s own collections require overseas manufacture and sourcing to be able to offer customers value for money.

“Smaller and medium manufacturers and some of the craft specialists are unable to compete with the prices that the Chinese can offer. To the undiscerning customers who just want a bit of colour to wear they will question the price and – with the plethora of cheap product available on the high street – their reasoning is ‘Why should I spend more?’”…

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Images courtesy of The Gift Association