The Jakarta Post
Like fashion designers, jewelers are discovering creative ways to reconcile modern tastes with inimitable cultural flourishes.
From a dainty white gold pendant in the iconic shape of Hello Kitty's head to a diamond necklace worth over Rp 1 billion ( US$103,000 ), the coruscation of gemstones at the recent Jakarta International Jewelry Fair had visitors oohing and aahing over the glass cases at over 200 stands.
Merchants, suppliers and distributors from 95 jewelers from Hong Kong, India, Italy, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore convened from May 9-12 to tout all manner of precious gems, semi-precious gems, rough stones, gold and silver.
Diamonds ' a jewelry show stalwart and high-liquidity asset ' and South Sea pearls, the world's largest cultured pearls, distinguished by their smoky silver and gold sheen, embellishing wispy chain necklaces and prong and cluster setting rings wrought from 18-carat white gold, counted for the majority of the wares from Hong Kong.
The proliferation of rose, orchid and hibiscus floral designs on necklaces, rings and brooches substantiated their popularity.
Some had been modeled very realistically; the gradations of light to dark from the outer extremities of the petal towards the carpel of the flower marked by the alternate use of white and gold diamonds for a shading effect. Mother-of-pearl and South Sea pearls straddled the center of the rings, competing for focus with their light-reflecting petals.
Indonesian sellers, too, touted an abundance of pearls, with prices ranging from Rp 200,000 to Rp 5 million per gram.
Sellers from Hong Kong were eager to flaunt their ever-popular cultural export: Burmese jade stones in milky white, royal yellow and forest green in the form of pendants shaped like the big-bellied Buddha, their smooth surfaces and semi-translucency a testament of utmost quality on the jadeite totem pole.
Another easily-spotted trend echoed across the stalls from India, Indonesia and Hong Kong was the chunky statement rings featuring right-angled edges and the metallic sheen of titanium and stainless steel for a masculine, city-slicker look.
Styles spanned from simple to flashy to ethnic: from stainless steel with gold inlays studded with a diamond or two, to those peppered with tiny rubies, emeralds and sapphires to chunky rings planted with large rough-cut stones whose jagged surfaces and murky color attested the covetousness of imperfection.
Displaying a fidelity to cultural predilection for large jewels in colors as sundry as their saris, the Indian merchants touted a smorgasbord of gold and silver pendant earrings, juxtaposing diamonds with precious stones such as moonstone, rose quartz and aquamarine.
These were displayed alongside multi-layered beaded necklaces and chunky signet rings featuring moonstone, jade and amethyst stones bordered by tiny diamonds.
In keeping with the recovery of gold prices following a historic mid-April 2013 slump by 9 percent of $140.40 to $1,360.60, local jewelers offered much in the way of gold and silver.
Matahari Terbit's latest collection, Neo Deco, featured bold, geometric shapes inspired by art deco, the repetition of tribal shapes conferring a modern edge.
'We chose art deco because through market research we found that art deco is still admired until now in Indonesia. Even modern architectural designs use [elements of] art deco,' explained Ignatius Widyapraja, the brand's Senior Corporate Advisor.
'We wanted the collection to convey optimism and the power of feminity. So, the power of women and also the functions of history and tradition.'
King Halim's showcase dazzled with the understated glimmer of gold and silver multi-layered necklaces, the variations of box link, Brazilian chain and Cuban link chains differentiating each piece by texture and shine.
Occupying a raised glass case was a diamond-studded headpiece ' not for sale ' in the shape of a peacock, whose plume was represented by tendrils resembling thorny vines which, when donned, would overarch the crown of the head.
Artisan bohemian jewelry made from glass and wooden beads had its place, too, among the exhibits of pricey gemstones. In fact, one merchant perpetually thronged by visitors was the Batu-batu Kalimantan, or the stones of Kalimantan, occupying a corner stall.
Peppering the walls were statement necklaces made from white shells, glass beads in pastel colors, and floral-inspired brooches with beaded fringes made from kuningan brass, some larger than the palm of the hand.
'People are more comfortable wearing glass beads and imitation stones than the real thing,' said Djonny from Arara Art, a Surabaya-based handicrafts business specializing in ethnic accessories, who said his wares sell like hotcakes with tourists.
'One time we brought our wares to the Merak port to sell to tourists who were getting off the ferry and we made Rp 10 million in just a few hours.'
The wooden necklaces, available in red, purple, green, orange and yellow beads strung on cord chains, were his best-selling item, he said. The brooches, too, mixed wooden and glass beads in bright colors on kuningan wrought into the shape of flowers ' perfect for fastening a sarong or hijab.
For those cowed by the volatility of gold prices, fossil investment has recently entered the mainstream market. Fossilized wood from Banten, ranging from pebble-sized slabs to veritable sculptures, was sold for Rp 500,000 per kilogram and can double as a living room decoration piece while they appreciate in value.
The Jakarta International Jewelry Fair set SMEs on even ground with established jewelers, as seen by the diversity of the participants and the wares touted. It is this synergy which, according to Catur R. Limas, CMO of PT Untung Bersama Sejahtera, will act as a springboard for the growth of Indonesia's jewelry industry.
'Indonesia is now ready to replace Italy as the world's jewellery hub,' he said, referencing the decrease in the number of jewelry manufacturers in Italy from 1,225 to 885 from 2001 to 2009 following the European economic recession.
'Indonesia has found its own unique style. What is unique about it? Modernity with touches of traditional Indonesian culture. Now that's unique. Modern but traditional, so there's a fusion. Also, using high technology but also manual labor of our craftsmen. So [production] is not only robotic, but is mixed with manual. And that's what we call Indonesian style for the world.'
' Photos by JP/P.J. Leo