1 Nov 2010
Testing & Certification Services for the Jewellery Industry
(i) Potential Demand
Different from testing of other goods, which is usually conducted on a sampling basis to determine the acceptance of a batch of goods, testing of jewellery is frequently carried out on an individual basis in view of its high value. Locally, the jewellery trade has a successful experience in the use of accredited testing services for jadeite jade to improve business.
There was a time that consumers were wary about purchase of jadeite jade due to the lack of commonly accepted specifications on product quality and procedures on testing. In order to strengthen the confidence of consumers and to enhance the credibility of the local gemstone testing sector, the jewellery trade developed the "Standard Methods for Testing Fei Cui (Jadeite Jade) for Hong Kong" in 2004. The standard was developed with funding support from the SME Development Fund and technical assistance from HKPC. HKAS introduced an accreditation scheme for laboratories providing testing for jadeite jade in 2005 to dovetail the initiative from the trade. According to the trade, business in jadeite jade has improved since then as consumer confidence has been restored with the availability of testing reports from accredited laboratories.
In view of the successful experience of testing for jadeite jade, some sectors in the jewellery trade have been exploring the potential of new testing and certification services to support the growth of trade. The areas being explored include:
(a) product certification scheme with identification for individual pieces of jewellery which is being developed together with HKPC; and
(b) development of local trade standards for testing of other precious gemstones (e.g. ruby, pearl etc.).
Hong Kong’s jewellery trade is renowned in the world market. Combined with re-exports, Hong Kong is the fourth largest exporter of precious jewellery in the world. The value of Hong Kong’s jewellery exports was about HK$36 billion in 2009.
Hong Kong’s strategic location and close connection with the Mainland enable it to be benefited from the growing demand for jewellery in the Mainland market. Exports of jewellery to the Mainland increased by 52% in 2009.
The demand for jewellery by tourists visiting Hong Kong is also significant. According to 2008 statistics, jewellery was the third highest category of tourists’ shopping spending in Hong Kong in terms of value and amounted to HK$7.8 billion. About 80% was accounted for by Mainland tourists.
Consumers will welcome greater quality assurance given the high value of jewellery. There should be potential synergy for the jewellery trade to make use of the high credibility of Hong Kong’s testing and certification industry to enhance consumer’s confidence and hence the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s jewellery trade in both the Mainland and overseas markets.
(ii) Competitive Edge of Hong Kong
Apart from the potential demand as mentioned above, Hong Kong also possesses the following competitive edge in developing testing and certification services in the field of jewellery:
(a) a major centre for jewellery – Hong Kong has long been recognised as a major centre for the production of jade jewellery and has also evolved into a leading trading and distribution centre for pearls in recent years. Moreover, its manufacturers are good at producing small stone fashion jewellery. The standard of jewellery design is also highly appreciated which when accompanied by high quality assurance through testing and certification, will further elevate our positioning in the international jewellery market;
(b) good recognition in the Mainland market – In the growing Mainland market, the "Hong Kong Brand" has enjoyed extremely good recognition. According to a survey conducted by HKTDC, Hong Kong brands are top on the list of Mainland consumers; and
(c) expertise built up from past experience - the introduction of the accreditation scheme for jadeite jade since 2005 has helped to bring the technical competence and the operation of jewellery testing laboratories in Hong Kong to a high standard.
(iii) Specific Points to be Noted in Following Up
In developing testing and certification services for jewellery, apart from following the generic model explained above, HKCTC notes the following:
(a) it is desirable for HKAS to recognise the initiatives taken by the trade and to explore with it the provision of accreditation service for more types of testing and for product certification of jewellery. The Secretariat of the HKCTC has already established links with relevant trade associations in the field;
(b) to raise Hong Kong’s technical expertise and international standing in the testing of jewellery, HKAS should explore the feasibility of taking the lead in organising proficiency testing for jewellery within the framework of the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC), the regional accreditation organisation;
(c) given the complexity and high standards required in this area, apart from local experts, it may be necessary to seek the support of experts overseas. For instance, the trade has involved experts from the US and the Mainland in developing local trade standards in the past; and
(d) HKTDC has done a lot of good work in the promotion of the jewellery sector in Hong Kong. Its trade fair on jewellery is one of the highest acclaimed in the world. Its assistance should be solicited to actively market the success in the development of new testing and certification methods in the area of jewellery in future.
Content provided by : Hong Kong Council for Testing and Certification