Renowned Zhejiang-based pearl jeweller Ruans has been making inroads in the high-end jewellery retail market in recent years. On top of its business in mainland China, the brand is also revamping its wholesale operations in Hong Kong and participating once again in jewellery exhibitions. In many ways, Ruans’ journey of the last 30 years mirrors the development of China’s pearl industry.
A vertically integrated pearl jewellery enterprise, Ruans is involved in the various processes of pearl jewellery production, from the farming, cultivation and wholesale of loose pearls to pearl jewellery retail. As a measure of its experience and expertise, the company was appointed by the Protocol Department of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2011 as the official and sole supplier of pearls to important foreign guests of the government.
The pearl jeweller operates retail outlets in major cities across China, including Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Xiamen. With its wholesale business in Hong Kong enjoying significant growth of late, the brand returned to the June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair this year, after a long absence.
Frank Xu, sales manager of the company’s Hong Kong subsidiary Ruan’s Pearl (Holding) Co Ltd, forecast that pearl production would fall due to constraints in mainland China’s pearl farming industry. Given current declines in supply, pearl prices are expected to continue on their upward trajectory, he added.
The company official also disclosed Ruans’ key markets and strategies going forward. “Our Hong Kong clients currently account for approximately 60 percent of our turnover. We also have buyers from Europe and the US, and are getting more clients from Korea,” said Xu. “We presently offer pearls sized mainly between 6mm and 10mm. With our staggered introduction of more nucleated pearls in 2018, the proportion of round pearls in the market will rise significantly. As our technology matures, we believe we can improve our cultivation of round pearls, even though nucleated pearls are of smaller size.”
According to Xu, customer preference varies from market to market. “Buyers from Europe prefer medium-quality pearls. American buyers are more varied. Some are partial to premium-quality pearls, while others look for the more affordable goods. As for Chinese buyers, they seek round pearls with high surface clarity,” he remarked.
Xu cited the sourcing of raw materials as the biggest challenge facing China’s pearl industry. “Pearl farming is not suitable in many parts of Hunan Province due to water pollution. To tackle the problem, Ruans strengthened its efforts in purchasing the best pearls from pearl farmers. The brand has arguably successfully acquired 40 percent of the raw materials in the market,” indicated Xu.
Other issues confronting the pearl industry are skyrocketing prices of loose pearls, the gap between supply and demand, and the need for sustainable development of the sector, the company official said.