Harmonisation of standards, terminology and testing methods critical for Chinese trade’s development, CIBJO President says

CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri addressing the international standardisation seminar in Hong Kong on February 28, 2019.

MARCH 5, 2019

Strict adherence to agreed-to grading standards, nomenclature and methods of testing are prerequisites for the development of the gemstone and jewellery industries in China, which are keen to establish a leading position internationally, and in the Asia-Pacific region in particular, CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri told audiences in Hong Kong last week. Both events took place during the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

The CIBJO President was a keynote speaker at the two seminars. The first, which was held on February 28, looked at prospects for international standardisation, and was organised by the National Gemstone Testing Centre (NGTC) of China, and the second, held on March 2, looked specifically at Fei Cui testing, and was organised by Gemmological Association of Hong Kong (GAHK), together with the Hong Kong Council for Testing and Certification and the NGTC.

Appearing alongside Dr. Yang Lixin, the Director of NGTC’s Standardisation Department, at the international standardisation seminar on February 28, Dr. Cavalieri noted that an historic revision of the standardisation systems is currently underway in China. “The success that China will have in setting standards, and then ensuring that they are applied, or at the very least accepted in other countries, will to a large degree affect the Chinese jewellery industry’s success in Asia and the Pacific basin,” he said. “The question that I am addressing today is how should these standards and nomenclature be developed and applied?”

There is a readiness among the authorities involved in the reform of the standardisation process in China to defer to standards devised by  non-governmental standard-setting organisations, such as CIBJO in the jewellery and gemstone sectors, the CIBJO President noted.

Dr. Yang Lixin, Director of NGTC’s Standardisation Department, addressing the international standardisation seminar on February 28.

Kent Wong, Managing Director of the Chow Tai Fook jewellery group and Chairman of the Jewellery Advisory Committee of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, addressing the seminar on the internationalisation of the Fei Cui Standard on March 2.

“I would strongly recommend that Chinese organisations like the National Gemstone Testing Centre not only adopt the ‘association standards’ articulated in CIBJO’s Blue Book system, but also play a greater role in helping formulate the Blue Book standards, so as to ensure that they meet the requirements of your domestic market, and also the markets through the Asia-Pacific area,” he stated.

Dr. Cavalieri proposed that NGTC lobby the Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC) of APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Alliance, to develop common standards and nomenclature, based on the CIBJO Blue Books,  in the 21 member countries – not a only for diamonds, but also coloured gemstones, pearls, precious coral and precious metals, and possibly precious materials with which China has a uniquely special relationship, like jade. “CIBJO will be your partner in the venture,” he said.

ade, jadeite, omphacite and kosmochlor, which in China collectively are referred to as Fei Cui, fell under the spotlight at the seminar on March 2, and in particular upon a testing program developed in Hong Kong, which it is hoped will play a key role in the global popularisation of such jewellery outside of its home market.

“Fei Cui is an excellent example of a product and an industry that has not been transported or translated well outside of its primary market, which of course is China,” Dr. Cavalieri noted, pointing out that, in terms of market value, after diamonds, jade products make up the most valuable gem sector in the worldwide jewellery industry.

“While Western companies managed successfully to bring diamonds to China, the same cannot be said about jade producers and traders bringing their products to the West. Indeed, I think I can comfortably state that the international potential of Fei Cui is nowhere close to being realised,” the CIBJO President stated.

CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri (centre) receiving a gift of appreciation from Liang Zhenjie, Deputy Director of NGTC, and Eddie Fan, Chairman of GAHK, during the seminar on the Internationalisation of the Fei Cui Standard on March 2.

To a large degree the popularity that diamonds now enjoy in China can be attributed to the tremendous effort that was employed in creating the infrastructure and partnerships necessary, and also in branding and marketing. But there is another critical element in that success story, Dr. Cavalieri stated. “It  was the fact that when it came to describing the diamond, qualifying the criteria by which it is graded, and listing the types of treatments and enhancements that needed to be disclosed, systems had already been developed that ensured that, even though we all may speak in different languages, we can understand each other when it comes to the product. That lies at the heart of CIBJO’s mission, and it is also why the work being done by the Gemmological Association of Hong Kong and others in the formalization of Fei Cui testing is so important.”

“But doing the research is not enough. To properly internationalise the product, it is essential that the testing and grading standards be internationalised as well,” he stated.

To date most gemmologists outside of China and Hong Kong have preferred to identify the materials covered by “Fei Cui” individually, or sometimes in the case of mixtures, by combining the internationally agreed nomenclature – namely jadeite, omphacite and or kosmochlor. This currently is the approach taken in CIBJO Coloured Stone Blue Book. “The Fei Cui testing standards that have been developed are certainly more appropriate for a major market, such as that which exists in China, and the one that could potentially develop elsewhere in other parts of the world,” Dr. Cavalieri said.

“We are open to discussing changes, especially given the growing dominance of the Chinese markets, and the massive popularity of Fei Cui in this region,” he continued. “But clearly we are dependent on your input. It is possible to align the Fei Cui testing standards with the CIBJO Blue Books, but to do that successfully we require the experience, expertise and wealth of knowledge that has been acquired by the Gemmological Association of Hong Kong and others in this area.”

“The success of Fei Cui of repeating its success in China and South East Asia, in other countries as well, will depend in part upon the companies dealing in these materials showing the same skill and commitment as the diamond industry did in China 20 years earlier,” Dr. Cavelieri said in conclusion. “But it will also depend on our collective ability to transform the Fei Cui testing protocols that you have developed into international standards. We invite you to work together with us in assisting Fei Cui achieve its full potential, not only in China and Asia, but across the globe as well.”

Go to Top