Brazilian Jewelry: Color, Style, and Form

Americas (English Edition), January-February 2011 | Go to article overview

Brazilian Jewelry: Color, Style, and Form


Much in the same way that Brazil's fashion industry has become globally known and appreciated, the nation's jewelry industry is also gaining international recognition for its innovation and style. Over the past fifteen years, Brazilian jewelry firms have begun to satisfy markets in the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia with high-quality, design-oriented pieces. Brazil's wealth of colored precious and semiprecious gemstones, as well as the inspiration that designers take from its beaches and rainforests, gives it a special niche in the international jewelry market.

With a majority of the world's colored gemstones coming from Brazil, it seemed inevitable for the country to become a major player in the jewelry industry. Brazil produces and exports stones such as aquamarine, amethyst, citrine, emerald, topaz, morganite, rutilated quartz, rubelite, and tourmaline; a few, such as imperial topaz, are only available from single mines in Brazil. Brazil is also one of the world's major producers of gold. And yet, Brazil's move into the international world of fine jewelry has happened only recently. Strong performance both domestically and abroad ensures that it will only continue to increase its prominence.

Statistics show that despite the global economic downturn, the jewelry industry--mining, production, and retail--is a big business in Brazil. The industry enjoyed estimated gross sales of US $3 billion in 2009 and employs 310,000 people.

On the domestic front, Brazil's jewelry industry has experienced notable growth during a time when the luxury goods sector around the world is in decline. This can be explained by a number of factors--a healthy economy, a large population with growing purchasing power, and a general sense that the country is politically stable.

The recent victory of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil's presidential elections appears to show that the Brazilian people are hoping for continuity in leadership and policy. Rousseff, the chosen candidate of Brazil's very popular current president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has little in the way of political experience but has promised to stay the course that Lula began. With those social programs and economic success came an improvement in living standards for many Brazilians, helping to fuel the growth of the domestic jewelry industry.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The Brazilian Gems and Jewelry Trade Association " (IBGM) reports that approximately 30 million people in Brazil have risen from poverty over the past few years. This group now has sufficient income to make discretionary purchases such as cell phones, televisions, cars, and jewelry. So, while the international market was the main prize in the 1990s and 2000s, now the industry is strategically refocusing on the thriving domestic market. The emphasis on exports is down, and some of the larger luxury brands are creating sub-brands targeting lower income Brazilians.

Although the presence of natural resources was the launching point for the jewelry industry in Brazil, other factors have ensured its global success. Formal training and education at the university and post-graduate levels have played an important role. Brazil was the first country in South America to offer a design course, and quality standards are rigorously enforced. More than 30 public institutes of higher learning, as well as many private schools, now offer programs in jewelry design and manufacturing, emphasizing both traditional methods and high-tech methods of computer-aided design.

In addition, state trade associations offer specialized Q training, technical assistance, and marketing support. The IBGM and the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency, APEX, are also working to elevate the status and quality of Brazilian jewelry. Both groups promote design-oriented jewelry through training and new technology and through jewelry competitions and participation in trade shows around the world. …

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