The Asia Fancy Color Diamond Association (AFCDIA) is set to make a positive difference for the region’s luxury jewellery sector through collaboration and creative marketing initiatives that will shine the spotlight on the world’s most extraordinary gems.
Led by Lily Leung, founding chairperson of AFCDIA, the Hong Kong-based association aims to promote the development of the colour diamond industry in Asia, with particular emphasis on the Greater China markets. The association’s goal is to position itself as a unique forum for stakeholders in the colour diamond sector, and to pool its members’ collective expertise in an open and entrepreneurial environment, share ideas, and implement education, training and marketing programmes.
Leung, who swapped her banking career for the jewellery sector, came from a family of diamond wholesalers. A few years ago, she worked as a consultant and specialist for a Beijing-based auction house before joining the Jewellery Department of Sun International Auction in 2014, a position which she continues to hold today.
In an interview with JNA, Leung talks about AFCDIA’s priority projects this year, the association’s online strategy, and why she believes fancy colour diamonds represent opportunities in Asia’s luxury jewellery market.
JNA: What is your strategy to further grow the fancy colour diamond market in Asia, especially in Greater China?
Lily Leung: We plan to develop marketing programmes for retailers in Asia to further promote colour diamonds in the region. There will be many elements to this, including in-store promotions. We also need to work with manufacturers in the design and production of exciting colour diamond jewellery collections, which will help improve the quality of goods available to consumers. A colour diamond jewellery design competition among retailers is one of the events that we have planned for next year. Through such activities, we hope to discover new design talent since they are vital to industry growth.
JNA: How many members do you have now?
Leung: We now have around 50 members; they are mainly from India, Israel, Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. We will continue with our membership campaign and hope to attract more industry stakeholders.
JNA: What are the main highlights of your association’s marketing and promotion programme this year?
Leung: Our main focus for 2017 is to build a sound membership base in Hong Kong and China, as well as other countries in Asia. While we will be able to cover Hong Kong and China, we plan to invite companies in other Asian countries to form local chapters that can provide us with market expertise. Of course, these local markets are important for our retail members but many companies in say, India, may be interested in China. Hong Kong will be the ‘hub’ and we will build the ‘spokes.’ Membership dues will provide the financial resources for us to fulfill our mission.
We also plan to hold a cocktail event and invite speakers from auction houses, retailers and China-based companies during the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. We are also in the process of building an English-Chinese association website, which will serve as a marketing and sales platform for our members.
JNA: How are you reaching out to younger consumers?
Leung: As time goes by, I believe the jewellery industry needs to be more amendable to change and adapt to new ways. The banking business is also a conservative industry but it has embraced Apple Pay and WeChat Wallet. Banks are investing in new players, too. So if we want to win over and connect with younger consumers, we need to be more open-minded and respond to consumer demands. The jewellery business is dominated by family-run enterprises. Many diamond trading companies have been in this sector for several generations. Several luxury jewellery brands take pride in their heritage. It is not easy to embrace change. However, we need to welcome it for our industry to grow.
When you visit jewellery shows, do you see anything that strikes you as exciting? The pace of innovation within this sector is slow compared with other consumer industries. We have to find new ways to generate buzz and create excitement in our business.
JNA: Will you be working in partnership with retailers?
Leung: Yes. Most of our board members are fancy colour diamond retailers, and they will contribute their time and efforts to AFCDIA. We will work together on developing our association website, newsletter and education programmes.
JNA: Is consumer education a focal point for AFCDIA?
Leung: It’s one of the main missions of AFCDIA. We have invited companies based in Asia that are interested in acting as our country representatives, and their main tasks are to actively recruit members and share market information. AFCDIA will also occasionally hold educational seminars on fancy colour diamonds and disseminate information through our social media platforms, specifically on the latest fancy colour diamond market trends.
The most important role of AFCDIA is to increase consumer awareness of colour diamonds and colour diamond jewellery as a luxury item. The market for colour diamonds is still in its earlier stages and not many consumers are knowledgeable about colour diamonds. If you visit any brick-and-mortar jewellery store in Hong Kong, you will find a very small selection of colour diamonds at those shops. This represents huge untapped potential for the industry. Soon, people will appreciate and value the power of colour, and AFCDIA will make sure that happens.