Beijing jewelry fair glistens with nervous cheer

Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:18am EST
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By Tyra Dempster

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - They hunted for bargains. They haggled. Customers and merchants, hoping China can keep the global financial crisis at bay, turned a bustling jewelry fair at one of the world's biggest gold consumers into a bazaar.

Visitors sought lower prices than those in high street stores, while designers and wholesellers tempted retailers ordering for the next season with offers.

Items at the fair ranged from standard gold earrings, priced by the gram, to the tailor-made luxury of a gold tiara or bra.

The star of the showcases at Tu Chunhua's booth at the China International Jewelry Fair was a diamond ring priced at 55,710 yuan ($8,159). Tu was confident the wealthy Chinese he sells to would be able to weather the storm.

"The financial crisis is making an impact abroad and on export companies but there is not much of an impact on our domestic manufacturers. We mainly focus on the domestic market," said Tu, general manager of jewelry retailer Arts Diamond.

On the surface, things are looking up. China's annual retail sales figures for October showed jewelry sales to be up 30 percent from last year.

However, October sales growth slowed noticeably compared with the previous three months, when jewelry sales were up by more than 40 percent on the year.

SHINY SAFE-HAVEN   Continued...

<p>A visitor to the China International Jewellery Fair walks past a poster and gold jewellery display in Beijing November 12, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray</p>