The of Luster Lebanon

All may not be well in the Land of the Cedars, but Lebanon is known for its unmatched craftsmanship and purity of gold
The of Luster Lebanon

The jewellery industry in Lebanon is ancient and deep rooted and the culture around jewellery is very similar to that of India. The skills and craftsmanship have been passed down from one generation to the other for hundreds of years and Lebanese jewellers hold a position among the top echelons of jewellers in the world. The industry is quite huge and competitive and a few brands owing to their technique and craftsmanship have put Lebanon in the world map when it comes to jewellery. Remember Mouawad’s collaboration with Victoria Secret for a $12.5 million worth fantasy bra?

Lebanon is infamous for its lack of precious metals and gemstones and it is then quite remarkable that almost 1/4th of the country’s exports is formed by gold. Lebanon is the 27th largest importer of gold in the world – in 2016 alone, gold accounted for 5 per cent of its total imports accounting to nearly $1 billion. Celebrities like Madonna and Beyoncé wear jaw-dropping jewellery for their performances but little does the world know that these pieces are in fact crafted by Lebanese artisans.

Going for Gold
Gold is very much a part of the cultural milieu in Lebanon. Given the flux and uncertainty in the economy and the geopolitical scenario, gold is a safety net for the locals. People seek comfort in the fact that their money has been invested in gold as it is a measure against inflation. Gold is imported from mostly Egypt, West African countries and Switzerland.

For years now Lebanon has been a commercial liaison for gold between Europe and Arab countries. The size of the jewellery market was estimated at $600 million in 2016 – predominantly jewellers cater to the low end spectrum of the market, the remaining is shared by medium end and very few brands deal in high end jewellery. There are around 1000 gold workshops and small manufacturing units in Lebanon, jewellery being its major source of revenue.

Pearls and precious stones also account for a major chunk of exports amounting to almost $407.26M as on 2016. Demand comes from UAE, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Switzerland.

Seat of Great Craftsmanship|

Traditionally, Lebanon is known for its standard pieces in gold, like bracelets, necklaces and earrings. During the First World War, many Armenians fled from the Ottoman Empire into Lebanon and a lot of them were extremely skilled in making jewellery. Even today, their quality of craftsmanship is unmatchable considering the value for money. Lebanese artisans are especially known for their skill in stone setting. The cost of labour may be relatively expensive when compared to its Asian counterparts but the items manufactured are by far superior.One of the reasons for quality goods is also because of the strict regulations imposed by Switzerland on imported jewellery. This has led to Lebanese jewellers to push the envelope with both craftsmanship and design. Today though, Lebanon is facing tough competition from China and even Thailand – so much so that some Lebanese brands have set up shops in Thailand and have taught them the trade.

Around ten years ago the ties between Lebanon and Switzerland strengthened – Lebanon exports scrap gold as well as finished jewellery pieces to Switzerland. Luxury jewellery brands like Mouwad, de Grisogono and Chatila dot the streets of Geneva at the Noga Hilton on the stylish Quai du Mont Blanc or the gorgeous Rue du Rhône.

The Edge
As established before, Lebanon jewellers produce high quality jewellery for a relatively lesser costas compared to European countries – one labour hour in Europe costs about 100 Euros, however in Lebanon a whole days work (8 hours) costs about $500. Also, there aren’t too many intermediaries between the manufacturer and the retailer in Lebanon and the gold produced in the country is superior in quality with purity of 18 to 21 carats.

The best policy working for the industry is also the fact that no tax is levied on the import of precious stones and metals which works well for the jewellers. Sales of jewellery are also bifurcated well in Lebanon – 30 % of the jewellery is exported while 70 % is sold to the locals, hence the fluctuation in sales is offset by opening stores in foreign locations.

The Downside
The jewellery industry in Lebanon is fragmented and most of the operators are unorganized therefore lacking in transparency. Cases of zircons being sold as diamonds are rampant not to mention people with no proper background are also allowed to enter the market with no experience in the field. There are so many issues that are currently plaguing the industry in Lebanon which was once sought after for its jewellery. In 2016, close to a hundred shops closed down due to lack of visitors in the Beirut’s gold souk in the Berbir area. Many years of political instability in the country with an inflow of refugees trickling in from Syria has dampened the economy in Lebanon. People are not able to spend money on luxury like they used to. Also there is a veil of secrecy that surrounds the jewellery industry in Lebanon. A data revealed in 2010 said that 90 per cent of the sales are not declared. Jewellers hardly talk and don’t want to disclose information on figures and what the future entails.

Follow DiamondWorld on Instagram: @diamondworldnet
Follow DiamondWorld on Twitter: @diamondworldnet
Follow DiamondWorld on Facebook: @diamondworldnet

Diamond World