September 7, 2012 11:19 pm

Middle East links: European designers connect with Arab world

rings at a Vicenza Oro event in Italy©La Presse

On show: Fiera di Vicenza organises some of the world’s most important jewellery exhibitions. Seen here, rings at a VicenzaOro event in Italy in January

In a sign of the increasing partnerships between Europe and the Middle East, Fiera di Vicenza, the company that organises some of the world’s most important jewellery exhibitions, inked an agreement this year with the Dubai World Trade Centre, organiser of Dubai International Jewellery Week.

Through its annual calendar of events spanning Italy, the US and India, Fiera di Vicenza unites more than 4,500 exhibitors from 35 countries with 43,000 buyers from 124 countries.

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IN Watches & Jewellery 2012

Its exhibition roster takes in Italian VicenzaOro events in January, May and September, VicenzaOro About J – a travelling invitation-only show focusing on high-end jewellery, and T-Gold, held in January alongside VicenzaOro and specialising in manufacturing equipment for the industry.

In November, Dubai International Jewellery Week, an important showcase for the Middle East’s increasingly upmarket jewellery trade, will play host to 300 exhibitors from 20 countries.

Under what is likely to be a lucrative agreement, Fiera di Vicenza and the Dubai World Trade Centre will capitalise on their specialist knowledge, local contacts and event experience. The exhibition organiser will co-ordinate all Italian and other European brands at the Dubai event, increasing trade and retail opportunities in both Europe and the Middle East for producers and buyers of gold and jewellery. Fiera di Vicenza will act as the exclusive representative for all European jewellery, gold, watchmaking and related technology companies at the exhibition.

According to figures from the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai imports 360 tonnes of gold a year, valued at $3.3bn.

Dubai is also expected to acquire a significant proportion of the 6 per cent annual rise increase in the diamond supply predicted up to 2020. The United Arab Emirates imports €670m of Italian jewellery a year, 13 per cent of Italy’s gold and jewellery exports.

“The Arab world loves gold and precious stones. It appreciates Italian jewellery, Italian products and European luxury style,” says Roberto Ditri, Fiera di Vicenza chairman.

“Our role as exhibition organisers extends to offering our Italian exhibitors, who often include small ateliers of highly skilled craftspeople, the support they need to respond to the needs of the market. For example, Italians can’t compete with the Arab jewellers on weighty gold pieces. We suggest our Italian manufacturers show light and very elegant pieces.”

When Fiera di Vicenza hosted an Italian pavilion at JCK Las Vegas last year as part of its expansion to new markets, Mr Ditri remembers seeing a queue forming outside the booth of a small Italian company from Torre del Greco specialising in cameos.

“I was thrilled when I realised a vice-president of the purchasing department of Tiffany was standing in the queue for this tiny Italian company, with fewer than 10 employees,” he says.

Fiera di Vicenza offers exhibitors at all its fairs access to industry analysis from its in-house research centre, known as Trend Vision Jewellery and Forecasting, run by Paola de Luca. At VicenzaOro later this month, a seminar given by Ms de Luca will present predicted jewellery trends between now and 2014.

The event will also give a nod to Italy’s illustrious jewellery heritage with a display of historical pieces by Italian jewellers Buccellati, a company with roots in 18th century Milan whose clients have included two popes and composers Verdi and Puccini.

“We have been very busy organising the police and our security teams for this exhibit and we’re very excited about it,” says Mr Ditri. “Jean Maria Buccellati inspired generations of jewellers when he said ‘a piece of jewellery is made to express love’.”

Elsewhere, as the Middle Eastern appetite for high-end luxury items and jewellery soars, a new organisation has formed with offices in London and Jeddah. The aim of the Anglo Arab Association is to offer British luxury brands easy access to retail their wares in the Middle East.

After the organisation’s July launch at the Mayfair Hotel in London, 21 brands, including nine royal warrant holders, expressed an interest in giving the company the green light to identify Middle Eastern partners within 24 months. Jewellers who attended included Theo Fennell, David Marshall, Dinny Hall and Auric.

“There is an insatiable desire for British luxury in the Middle East, particularly royal warrant holders,” says Andrew Lloyd, chief executive of the Anglo Arab Alliance. “A Saudi sheikh recently told me: ‘If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for anyone’.”

Jewellery and watch brands with a growing Middle Eastern presence include Montblanc, which has had boutiques in Arab countries for 15 years.

But in the past two years, the company has brought its full collections of watches, jewellery, pens and leather goods to sumptuous new flagship boutiques in Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh and Beirut.

Today, the luxury group’s retail network includes 17 boutiques in the United Arab Emirates and 13 in the rest of the region.

Meanwhile, following its success at the Doha Jewellery and Watch exhibition this year, Fabergé is preparing for Middle East expansion and expects to announce details of its developments in the region before the end of the year.

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