Roskin Gem News Report

AIGS Ramps Up Services in China: an Exclusive Interview with Gloria Chen, CEO of AIGS China

by Julius Zheng

“The operation of AIGS in China brings experience, expertise  and technology  developed  by AIGS Bangkok Laboratory  in over 40 years,  to provide  high-quality, consistent, efficient, and convenient grading services to trade members, gemstone enthusiasts and consumers in China, serving the country s large gemstone consumer base and increasingly mature industry. “

Established in 1978, AIGS (Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences)  is one the first  international  gemological education institutes and gem testing laboratories in Asia. In June 2020,  AIGS made another breakthrough  as the first foreign gem testing institute operating in Shanghai and Shenzhen of China. Besides its grading services, AIGS China has also initiated a variety of innovative projects and events, including  collaborating with China’s most prominent  counterpart, holding a series of webinars, hosting  AIGS  China  Pavilion  in China’s  most  important trade shows, providing quality assurance  services in rough trading  fairs, and organising  “the World’s Most Beautiful Ruby Contest 2022”.

In  this  exclusive  interview,  you  can  gain  insight  of the coloured  gemstone  business  in China  from  Gloria  Chen, CEO  of AIGS  China. You will  also have access  to first – hand information  and analysis of gemstones  submitted  to gem laboratory,  which  is  a good  indication  of popularity and trend in China. 

How  is  the  importance  and  acceptance  of gemstone grading reports to Chinese trade members and consumers? Do  they  accept  grading reports from  any labs? Which factors are more important,  such as colour, origin and treatment? 

Gloria  Chen: Coloured  gemstones  have a long history  in Europe,  the  USA,  Japan,  Brazil,  etc.  However,  China  is a  young  and  emerging   market  for  coloured  gemstones which has now passed  its  infancy and is entering  a period of rapid growth  and development. Most Chinese consumers are still in a state of enlightenment with   coloured   gemstones and  the information in the market is not transparent.  Consumers  are more interested in verifying  the  authenticity  of a gemstone and whether it  has  been  heat-treated,  rather  than  the  more  specific needs  of colour  and origin. For the majority of domestic consumers, the first consideration in choosing  coloured gemstones  is their  investment  value, and wearability  and aesthetics are only secondary.

  Consumers   in  China  are  not  sufficiently  familiar  with various gemstone testing  institutes, so they tend to choose the more authoritative and well-known laboratories among  the  many.  For  example,  the  public  knows  that AIGS  is  highly  authoritative  and widely recognized in testing rubies and sapphires, so they  will  choose  AIGS, especially  in grading  reports  for rubies and sapphires.

What is the significance of setting up an AIGS laboratory in China and how important is AIGS to Chinese users?

Chen:  The  opening  of AIGS  China  is  a great  milestone for Chinese gemstone industry, and will accelerate its development.   The  operation   of AIGS  in  China  brings experience, expertise and technology  developed by AIGS Bangkok  Laboratory   in  over  40 years,  to  provide  high• quality, consistent, efficient and convenience grading services to trade members, gemstone enthusiasts and consumers  in China, serving the country’s large gemstone consumer  base and increasingly  mature  industry.

In  2020,   AIGS   introduced   grading   reports   of  origin for rubies from Myanmar  with specific mining areas, including Mogok and Mongshu, to make it easier for customers  to understand the origin  of gemstones, and to provide  more efficient testing  services  for businesses. We have also held a series of webinars for consumer  education as well as professional training. We have provided  a wide variety  of grading  reports,  including  the new Jedi  Spinel and Santa Maria  Aquamarine grading  reports.

As an important participant in the standardisation process of the coloured gemstone industry,  AIGS, in its capacity as a founding member of the Asia-Pacific  Gemstone and Technology Standardisation Alliance (AGA), implements standards to protect consumer confidence and enable consumers to choose jewellery products based on standards and expertise, and carries  out technology  exchanges and scientific research cooperation to share information on consumer markets and unified testing techniques.

What is the response in China to the colour codes and grading reports introduced in the past two years,  such as Santa Maria Aquamarine and Jedi Spine!?

Chen:  The price  of Jedi  spinels has  surged,  especially since 2016, therefore for the Jedi spine! market which is in a chaotic state with ambiguous standards, it is necessary for authoritative testing institute to come up with colour definition standards with reference to the market.

  Although it is only in the last two years that AIGS has introduced the “Santa Maria” aquamarine and “Jedi” spinel colour codes, they have been quickly understood and accepted by Chinese consumers, and the Chinese market has been very receptive to these names, owing to the strict standards and the aesthetics of the gemstones in line with public expectations.

Which gemstones are the most popular  in China in terms of lab submissions?

Chen: AIGS is a pioneer in developing a colour grading system  for rubies  and sapphires.  Its terminology  is in alignment with the market and the system is still widely used worldwide. Its research on detection of the treatment of rubies and sapphires and in origin  determination are also recognized by the coloured gemstone community in the world. According  to  our  2021   data,  rubies  are  still  the  most popular coloured gemstones in the market, accounting for 42% of the submitted stones to AIGS China lab.  40% of rubies are tested for origin.

As red is a highly treasured colour in traditional Chinese culture,  rubies  are  the  most  desirable  for the  Chinese market, and it is clear from the data that the majority  of Chinese consumers still favour the colour “pigeon blood red”,  which  is the first  key  factor  in  consideration for the purchase  of natural  rubies.  As a shift  in perception – consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated and  detailed  in their  requirements  for information and quality of gemstones when shopping for rubies,  in terms of colour, clarity, origin, treatment, etc.

Rubies of 1 to 3 carats are currently the mainstream of the market. High quality large carat rubies are still a rare commodity in the Chinese market, with 5 carats or more rare and 10 carats and above extremely rare.

In terms of the origin of rubies, Mozambique remains the main source of rubies, accounting for 52% of the total, followed by 25% from Burma. Other origins include Thailand, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc., accounting for a total of 16%.

In terms of treatment, unheated rubies account for 76% of rubies submitted to AIGS China Lab,  indicating that even though heat treatment of rubies is an internationally accepted process of treatment, Chinese consumers prefer “no heat” rubies that are untouched by human interference.

In  2021  and  2022AIGS  China  has provided  quality assurance service in the rough colouredgemstone viewing and sales events in GuangzhouWhat is the significance of such service?

Chen: In order to promote the standard development of the industry and to protect the trade in rough materials, AIGS China and Guangdong Gems and Jade Exchange  have jointly  organised  the Rough  Coloured  Gemstone  Fair for two years.  AIGS  provides  sampling  check  for all products in the fair. With the rapid development  of the coloured gemstone market, a grading system for gemstones has become increasingly important. AIGS China, together with Guangdong Gems and Jade Exchange and Chenghao Jewellery, which provides the rough gemstones, worked together for the first time to complete the grading of the rough gemstones to regulate the trade.

What  is the significance  of hosting  “The  World’s  Most Beautiful Ruby Contest2022 “and how hot is participation?

Chen:  The award ceremony of “the World’s Most Beautiful Ruby Contest 2022” was held on July  15  in  Shenzhen. The competition was organised by the AIGS China, with hundreds  of participating  companies,  entry  of over  a thousand pieces of jewellery  and loose  stones,  and over 10,000 voting  viewers.  As  an  international  jewellery event, we have invited internationally renowned experts from the United States, Thailand, Switzerland, China and other countries as judges. Hundreds  of guests attended the award ceremony, exchanging the latest information on ruby in a lively atmosphere. The competition brought together gemstone merchants from China, USA, UK, France, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and other countries.

  The competition aims to support and promote public awareness and  understanding  of the  value  of rubies, hoping that more Chinese brands will be known by overseas  consumers,  driving  the  development  of the coloured gemstone industry and promoting the culture of coloured gemstones.

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