Bankable designs, creative stylings, impeccable craftsmanship and professional services reaffirm Thailand’s supremacy in the silver jewellery space.
Thailand's silver jewellery manufacturing sector leads, not follows. This form of business agility is certainly not new, but in today's market, it's often expected. With Thailand, it is consistently delivered.
Long a silver jewellery manufacturing and export powerhouse, the country prides itself on its quality designs, impeccable craftsmanship, efficient customer services and production flexibility. According to the Silver Institute-commissioned World Silver Survey 2019, Thailand was the world's second largest producer of silver jewellery in 2018, second only to India and slightly edging out China. This marks its return to runner-up position on the tally, one it once topped for years before yielding to China in 2009 and then slipping to third when India took the lead in 2014.
Before global economic uncertainties battered its export-driven sector though, its capabilities and renown in this field were unparalleled. Thailand was and arguably still is THE place to go to source for silver jewellery, so much so that it features in the origin stories of several jewellery giants including Pandora, which still manufactures its pieces in the country.
Diverse and devoted silversmiths of the past must be credited for sculpting the legacy of Thailand's current silver jewellery empire. Centuries of Shan tribes and similar groups from the hills of northern Thailand shared sophisticated and unique silver production techniques, many still deployed to this day. Thai silversmiths now look to long-standing traditions of craftsmanship and design to fulfill global demand for both classic and on-trend silver jewellery.
“Thailand is set to be one of the driving forces behind the rise of global silver jewellery demand,” states Michael DiRienzo, executive director of the Silver Institute. “Worldwide, silver jewellery is expected to expand, in large part, due to Thailand's artists and the vast array of jewellery styles achievable with silver.”
The Thai silver jewellery sector counts craftsmanship, creativity and range among its strengths. “We offer the full spectrum of high-quality jewellery designs, styles and price points. We stand out in our capability to create unique styles with exceptional craftsmanship that reflect global market and fashion trends. Thai silver companies never shy away from fresh, unconventional ideas. They often combine silver with natural materials such as rattan and fabrics to offer more dynamic textures and colour shades in their jewellery pieces,” shares Kittisak Udomdangaram, president of the Thai Silver Exporters Association, a close-knit group of around 130 silver jewellery manufacturers and exporters that largely serve as the voice of their sector in governmental and trade matters.
The industry's business agility holds it in good stead too. The customer is king, and requests for alternative materials, shapes and sizes are readily accommodated. So while 2019 has admittedly been challenging, the US, Germany, China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and other European countries remain enamoured with Thailand's silver jewellery proposition. “Southeast Asian nations are likewise more interested in sourcing silver jewellery designs and brands from Thailand,” Udomdangaram, who is also the president of Silver Bar Co Ltd, points out.
Classic plain and modern silver jewellery pieces are the sector's best sellers. But as demand for special items with unique, creative elements as well as expressive options that reflect personality grows, so do the industry's offerings of these product categories. Price points are the most influential factor in client decisions, followed by design stories and branding status. Given the economic situation, low- to mid-priced jewellery generally fare better in the market, he discloses.
The spirit of collaboration is very much alive in Thailand's silver jewellery sector, resulting in reliable, consistent and efficient service delivery.
According to Udomdangaram, Thai silver jewellery manufacturers often band together to ensure that customer orders are fulfilled, placing the national good over individual profits. “Each company has its own strengths and specialties, but we work together on big orders or specific requests one struggles to meet,” he declares.
The Department of International Trade and Promotion (DITP) under the Ministry of Commerce works closely with the association to support jewellery companies with trade policy and marketing tools, Udomdangaram remarks. The Thai Silver Exporters Association also maintains close relationships with The Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand (Public Organization) and other trade bodies to collaborate on industry policy, standards, technical support and knowledge training to stimulate Thailand's silver jewellery exports.
Resilience is yet another hallmark of the Thai silver jewellery sector. Patience during difficult times pays off; challenges turn into opportunities – and there is always a silver lining.
Rather than wallow in their sorrows during the global economic slowdown, Thai manufacturers are reviewing and invigorating their business plans to prepare for the eventual upswing. Digital initiatives are a priority, with e-commerce and social media taking on pivotal roles in marketing and growth strategies.
“Companies have started incorporating e-commerce in their traditional wholesale and retail platforms to expand their sales channels and are investing more resources in design creativity and brand building. It has been a challenging year but the holiday season is not far away. Thai silver jewellery manufacturers are all working hard and staying optimistic about the upcoming Christmas season,” Udomdangaram explains.
And as the US-China trade war heats up at press time, Thai companies have stepped up their game and their profitability. Galliana Creations Co Ltd has seen an increase in US customers as well as Chinese producers scrambling to find manufacturing facilities outside China ahead of September 1. President Gabrielle Bruni further bolsters the company's competitiveness by using contacts and subcontractors to help manufacture at lower costs.
By drawing from deep-rooted silversmithing traditions of superb craftsmanship and adapting these to modern-day tastes, Thailand keeps its shine for an even brighter future, reinforcing its indisputable position as the world's foremost supplier of silver jewellery.