Mineral & Gem Asia 2015 in Hong Kong - A New and Promising Mineral Show
TGMS Member Post: Guenther Neumeier
Every time someone mentions the Chinese market for collector’s minerals or a mineral show held in China, a shudder goes through the crowd and everyone who has ever attended a mineral show in China comes up with a story about disasters and bad experience. Even those who have never been to a mineral show in Mainland China contribute what they have heard through the grapevine or what they have seen published in magazines and/or on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. Common challenges included unreliable shippers who demand extra pay for services they had already been paid for, incomplete or missing booth setups, missing merchandise on setup days, unfathomable legal obstacles with the customs and revenue office, inflexible bureaucrats with negotiable tax rates, and crowds of people pushing and shoving with resulting damaged mineral specimens.
It seems quite understandable that when word spread that a new mineral show for the huge Asian market is planned in Hong Kong, the reactions were largely those of reluctance: head shaking, indecision, wait and see attitudes. However, there were those with a “lets give it a(nother) try” attitude.
The show called Mineral & Gem Asia was organized by UBM Asia, a group that has been organizing gem and jewelry shows for over three decades. UBM is the largest trade show organizer in the region and the largest commercial organizer in China, India and Malaysia. The show was to be held overlapping with one of UBM’s big gem and jewelry shows in the city, the 28th June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair with over 2,200 exhibitors from 45 countries. It was planned to profit from crossover traffic, just like we see in Tucson, where people with GJX and AGTA badges wander the venues of the various mineral shows in Tucson
The gem and jewelry show was held in the downtown convention center, the futuristic looking building overlooking Victoria Harbor while the mineral show was held at the Asia-World Expo, the fairgrounds out at the airport. The distance between the two venues was initially a major concern. I was pretty concerned about this situation myself until I got to Hong Kong and found an extremely well organized, inexpensive, and easily understood public transport system with trains and double-decker busses, plus a shuttle bus between the two show venues on overlapping show days. I personally preferred the double-decker bus departing from downtown which gave me and my fellow riders a great sightseeing tour every day while others chose the slightly faster subway. I stayed in a hotel downtown while others preferred to stay at the airport Marriot, which is connected to the fairground by a pedestrian bridge. Another issue that had to be considered is the time conflict with the St.-Marie-aux-Mines show; both are held on the same weekend. The deliberate linkage of the Mineral & Gem Asia to the June gem and jewelry show makes a move of the Mineral & Gem Asia to a different date highly unlikely.
Construction crews assembled the exhibition stands in sweltering heat and high humidity quickly and on time. Dealers were able to move in and set up their merchandise as scheduled. The lack of a value added tax as well as import/export duties in Hong Kong certainly helped to attract dealers. All went well and was done professionally, as in a well-oiled machine. Dealer registration on the morning of the setup day was well organized, no chaos, no lines, no problems.
A special exhibit, called the Treasure World Exhibit with 32 white, 18 by 18 inch pedestal jewelry cases were setup, and filled by foreign and local exhibitors: Two spectacular gold specimens from The Arkenstone (the Ausrox nugget and the Thunderbolt—both have been on exhibit at the TGMS), and several exceptional rhodochrosite specimens from Colorado, Zambian emeralds from the Kagem Mine and superb Pakistani specimens were provided by The Collector’s Edge. Kristalle brought excellent gold specimens from California and a great display of Nevada opal. Italian dealer Marco Tironi exhibited stunning Brazilian beauties, and German gem dealer Axel Henn from Idar-Oberstein set up what someone called the “Million Dollar Display”: Four display cases with two large agate cameos, a ruby carving in gold setting depicting a reclining Buddha, a necklace with “mandarin” garnet and diamonds, and finally, an almost 10 lbs. heavily rutilated quartz. Superb Minerals from India put out zeolite minerals while local collector Sam Yung displayed a number of fine pieces from his personal mineral collection that included one case of large Tsumeb dioptase.
Christoph Keilmann, organizer of the Munich Show in Munich, Germany and his crew set up a stunning fossil display area with the a 65%-original T-Rex skeleton, the original fossil of the 11th Archaeopteryx and informative posters. Both fossils, well traveled, had been on display at the Munich show in 2014, and the later has been on display in Tucson 2015 in the Red Gallery on Granada. Italy-based fossil dealer Kieran Nature added two more large fossil skeletons.
A total of 105 mineral, fossil and gem (rough and cut stones as well as finished jewelry) dealers attended the Mineral & Gem Asia. According to the show organizers, 80% of them where mineral and fossil dealers and the remaining 20% were gem dealers. Obviously most were locally from Hong Kong (37) followed by US dealers (15) and dealers from various European countries (18).
The local club, The Mineralogy Society of Hong Kong, had large booth staffed with members answering questions about the society’s mission and a nice exhibit from some its members. The club organized a scavenger hunt for visitors throughout the show, which was very well received, and manned an educational area for school children.
Education of the visitors was an important objective of the show. A stage with a seating area was setup for talks given by four speakers from the US, one South African expat and one local geologist. The unifying approach of the American talks was to give the local audience an understanding of Western mineral collecting philosophies in order to appreciate the specimens the dealers had on display. Photographer Mark Mauthner’s well illustrated talk was on “Collecting Nature’s Finest Rarities: A North American Perspective”, Bryan Lees’ professional presentation was on “Collecting Gems and Minerals: Why are they so rare and valuable?”, Wayne Leicht invited the audience to “Step Into the World of Collecting Gold Specimens” and Monica Kitt, standing in for Rob Lavinsky, spoke on “Mineral Collecting: Chinese Minerals, collected in the Western Style”. Local collector Dougal Pitt, from Hong Kong, introduced the audience to “Mineral Collecting by Hong Kong Hobbyists” which was, in my opinion, a great lesson for Western mineral dealers about the possibilities of the local market. Geologist and gemologist Edward Liu’s talk, held in Cantonese language drew the biggest crowd. However, it must be said that in general, all talks followed by lively discussions, were very well attended.
Which brings me to a concern about the show. The attendance of the show was not as high as expected and business was not as brisk as one would have wished. So what were the causes? I think it is fair to say that for a first-time show it was reasonably well attended. The local Mineralogy Society of Hong Kong has been organizing a small mineral show for almost a decade, but Mineral & Gem Asia was the first big mineral and fossil show with International attendance in Hong Kong. Some alleged the less-than-expected attendance was the distance of the show venue to the city, others spoke of the ongoing anti-corruption campaigns in Mainland China that cautions potential buyers from there to travel to Hong Kong and spend their money—a sentiment that, by the way, is shared with the local luxury goods retail industry.
So what are the lessons to take home?
For the dealers: The dealers who participated in this first show have to be commended for their pioneering spirit. It is expensive to send staff and merchandise around the world to a new show with an unknown outcome. So I was very pleased to hear from the major mineral and gem dealers that they plan to come back next year and support this show, maybe even at the expense of mainland shows. I also heard some dealers contemplating about bringing a different, bigger variety of specimens to the next show.
For the organizer: We must support UBM to convince more foreign mineral dealers to participate in the show. UBM is actively building up a database of customers and has offered to share the data with dealers for marketing purposes. The cooperation with the local mineral society and collectors should be intensified to spread the word of the show.
There is always room for improvement, at any show in any country, and I am very optimistic about the future of the Mineral & Gem Asia. The staff of UBM was always around to address problems when they occurred. Thanks to UBM’s proven track record of organizing trade shows, the logistics, the setup of the show and the marketing was very professional. Their staff was eager to hear feedback and opinions and I look forward not only to next year’s show but also to how they will have implemented the suggestions and recommendations to improve the show in 2016.