The economy may face doom and gloom but this year's Singapore JewelFest (SJF), which opens today, is set to add some much needed sparkle.
First, there is the vast inpouring of cash it generates: Organisers expect sales at the 10-day event to increase by 10per cent on last year.
That would work out to over $1million more than the $12 million chalked up a year ago.
|Faberge's World Wide Fund For Nature Egg opens to reveal a gold orang utan. Made of 18 carat gold, French enamel and diamonds, this limited-edition egg was designed in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and is worth $50,000.
Second, there is the jewellery itself at the event which has the theme Nature Of Beauty this year.
One jeweller has a particularly cheeky take on embracing nature: Swiss brand Mouawad is bringing to Singapore for the first time its Fantasy Bra set, a gem-encrusted lingerie outfit worth US$4.5 million (S$6.65 million) modelled at last year's Victoria's Secret show.
The gem of a bra set is among a record high of around $100 million of luxury bling that will be displayed, a big jump from the $75 million showcased last year.
The consumer event, now in its sixth year, is supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.
It is on at the specially built Jewel Pavilion at Ngee Ann City's Civic Plaza and entry is free.
Festival chairman Kean Ng is unfazed by the financial storm sweeping the world.
The 37-year-old notes: '(Items of) fine jewellery are valuable assets - portable wealth that possesses value which appreciates over time.'
The organisers have pulled together 32 home-grown and international brands - up from 22 last year - who have all entered into the spirit of this year's theme.
Singaporean label Joon, for example, has created Starry Night, an 18K white gold necklace studded with over 2,300 diamonds and blue sapphires.
Malaysian label and SJF debutant La Tienne, known for its artistic designs, has branched out - literally - to create a necklace named Branches Of Joy with Burmese jadeite and gems like sapphires, diamonds and tsavorite.
Making a return after a successful debut last year is Russian bejewelled egg-maker Faberge with an 18-carat gold creation it calls World Wide Fund For Nature Egg.
In line with the ode to Mother Earth, organisers have, for the first time, split the festival into two parts: a spring/summer showcase and another devoted to autumn/winter.
The former will run from today till Tuesday, featuring designs said to embody 'the experience' of spring/summer with an emphasis on gems, jade and pearls.
The autumn/winter showcase, which runs from Oct 29 till Nov 2, will feature richer, more lustrous designs and focus on gold and diamonds.
Jean Nasr, Asia-Pacific vice-president of Mouawad - which debuted at the event last year - is optimistic about how his brand will fare this year.
He says: 'The show's success last year was a strong indication of the Asian and Singaporean market's thirst for high quality exclusive jewellery.
'By showcasing our internationally acclaimed Fantasy Collection as well as upcoming designs for the new year, we are poised to surprise visitors.'
What: Singapore JewelFest 2008
Where: Jewel Pavilion at Ngee Ann City's Civic Plaza
When: Today till Nov 2, noon to 9pm daily. Please note that it will be closed from 6pm today and on Oct 29 for a private event.
How much: Free entry
The lowdown: For the first time, the event is divided into two sections.
Spring/summer showcase (today till Oct28): Expect to see more colourful gems as well as fresh pearls in designs appropriate for the spring and summer seasons. Showing exclusively during this period are labels Joon and Jadeite Collections from Singapore, La Tienne and Cherie Thum from Malaysia and Intermix Gems from the United Arab Emirates.
Autumn/winter showcase (Oct 29 till Nov 2): Exhibitors will feature more lustrous designs, with an emphasis on the rich hues of gold and the coolness of diamonds. Showing exclusively during this period are Germany's Hellmuth, Hong Kong's YEWN, local label Bedazzled with Tesoro and Malaysian brands Elegance Club and Madame Butterfly.
This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times on Oct 24, 2008.