Due to the recent rapid expansion of China’s economy, the rest of world has become increasingly interested in what the country buys and its preferences. Jewellery is a really interesting area because the market has grown with the economy and the ways the country has become more multinational shows through in the similarities and differences to the UK jewellery market.
Ways the Chinese Market Differs from the UK One
That China is a wildly different country to the UK in a wide range of ways goes without saying. How these differences translate into differences in jewellery buying is really interesting though.
China obviously has a totally different culture to the UK and jewellery designer Isabella Lui says this is very influential in the Chinese taste in jewellery. She says the introvert culture in China means that people tend to favour more subtle looks in jewellery and big ostentatious looks are generally frowned upon. There is also a disdain for foreign brands which try to half-heartedly represent Chinese culture into their designs for the Chinese market. Lui states that Chinese people are more likely to laugh at foreign brands which try to appeal to them using dragons etc. rather than gaining a true understanding of their culture.
It makes sense that tastes vary across China because it’s such a big country but recent changes in the market have focused on the Chinese city tier system (the system which, unofficially, categorises cities in China in a hierarchy) which has seen huge changes in jewellery buying habits due to sudden prosperity and improved internet access in lower tier cities. The UK has regional variations but not the sudden changes caused by rapid development in certain areas.
Lui suggests jewellery buyers are younger in China than in the UK with 16 to 45 year olds comprising the bulk of the market but the British market has more buyers in their 50s and 60s. There’s also a big difference in men’s jewellery where the market in China for men is very limited and slow to develop whereas it’s much larger in the UK.
Similarities to the UK Market
Despite all these cultural and geographical differences, there are a great deal of similarities between the UK and Chinese jewellery markets.
With economies fluctuating and jewellery buying declining, especially in the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote, the very top brands continue to do well and are largely unaffected by any declines. They’re also hugely popular in both countries.
The jewellery buying habits of younger people seem to be similar across both countries. Both Chinese and British people in their 20s and early 30s buy more jewellery for every day wear than older generations and opt for cheaper options with a recent rise in ‘semi-fine’ jewellery which mixes precious stones/metals with cheaper alternatives. The Pandora brand is also very popular amongst younger people in both countries and commentators have suggested this is due to the preference of young people for ‘experiences’ over ‘objects’ and the way Pandora bracelets let people document their experiences through the beads they choose to customise their bracelets.
Although women have long been the main end users of jewellery in China and the UK, more women now working than ever before in both countries has lead to a change in buying patterns where women are buying jewellery for themselves rather than having it bought for them by men. This has broadened the market in both countries with women more likely to treat themselves to celebrate an achievement or just on a whim rather than waiting for a special occasion.
At James Ross Jewellers, we can’t claim to have cornered the Chinese market but we do provide very nicely for the market here in Brighton and Hove with a wide selection of jewellery ranging from high quality fine jewellery, antique jewellery and costume or ‘semi-fine’ jewellery to suit all budgets. To speak to us about any of your jewellery requirements, call 01273 239763.