Amber Trip was one of only a few jewellery exhibitions in the world organised this year. What challenges did the organiser of this exhibition encounter?
Even before the Amber Trip exhibition and during it, we received various questions from representatives of the jewellery market regarding the organisation of the event, cancellation and other questions. As the coordinators of the exhibition, we had to take into account the wishes of all the market participants (buyers and exhibitors), which led to the decision not to cancel the exhibition and organise it by weighing all the circumstances in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic which also affected Lithuania, and take all the necessary safety measures to protect the participants, buyers and guests of the Amber Trip show.
Even though buyers and participants from Italy opted out of participating in the exhibition, there were plenty of guests from other countries. However, due to the decision of the Lithuanian Government to ban mass events, the Amber Trip show lasted only two out of four days and had to be closed on March 13. Nevertheless, the exhibitors and buyers were very understanding and grateful to us for organising the exhibition and making it possible to meet up, buy, sell and arrange future transactions. We are all thankful for that.
Jewellers and amber artists often find themselves in a variety of situations, but the coronavirus outbreak is a non-standard situation where other challenges such as the financial crisis, shortage of raw amber, rising prices of gold and the like fade away in comparison to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
We are glad that, after the quarantine has been imposed in Lithuania, we still managed to attend the Jubinale exhibition in Krakow which has not been cancelled, even though there were not many participants. I want to congratulate all the participants of this exhibition. Hopefully the Amberif exhibition in Gdansk (this interview took place on 23 July – editor's note) will not be cancelled and participants from European Union countries will have the opportunity to take part in it.
The urgent decision of the Lithuanian Government to ban mass events has obviously affected all the participants, buyers and guests of the Amber Trip show. Did you receive any support or compensation from the government or other institutions?
In order to react quickly to the spread of the coronavirus in Lithuania, the exhibition has been closed as of March 13. However, the quarantine was put in place in our country on March 16, therefore Amber Trip has not been included in the list of companies eligible for subsidies. Amber Trip did apply to the Lithuanian Government for support and, although the voice of our exhibitors has not yet been heard, we hope to receive a response from the authorities sooner or later.
Amber Trip stands out from other exhibitions with its Art Jewellery Contest and Author Jewellery Zone which has been organised for three years in a row now. How did these events fare this year and what else was unique during the show?
We are happy that the Art Jewellery Contest organised during the Amber Trip show is becoming an increasingly well-known and internationally recognised art jewellery platform. This year, 75 professional jewellers from 22 countries around the world (Taiwan, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Iran, Poland, Turkey, Italy, United Kingdom, United States, Russia, South Korea, the Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, Latvia, Greece, France, Austria, Belarus and Lithuania) competed in the Ecosight competition.
For a number of years now, the commission of the competition has been chaired by Laima Kėrienė, professor at the Department of Metal Art and Jewellery of the Vilnius Academy of Arts. The list of members of the commission also includes well-known names such as doctor of arts, philosopher and art critic Pille Veljataga, jeweller and founder of the jewellery school "Vilnensis" Darijus Gerlikas, Polish professor, artist and writer Giedyminas Jablonskis, as well as silversmith, jewellery designer, director of the Finnish Goldsmiths' Association and editor of Baltic Jewellery News magazine Henrik Kihlman, and Latvian jewellery artist, lecturer at the Department of Metal Design of the Latvian Academy of Arts and active participant in international artists' residencies and group exhibitions Rasma Pušpure.
The Author Jewellery Zone was held for the third time and this year attracted the highest number of participants: 40 participants from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, the United Kingdom and the USA. Author Jewellery Zone is like a separate exhibition presenting unique works of art and providing guests with a wonderful opportunity to talk to jewellers about their creative directions or to buy articles of jewellery that they like. The idea behind the Author Jewellery Zone was to build a bridge between wholesalers and art contest participants attending the exhibition, helping them to communicate and learn from each other. And this project turned out to be very successful.
I would also like to single out the exhibition “Inspired by Freedom” organised by the jewellery community and dedicated to Lithuania's Independence Day which we celebrate on March 11. The exhibition organised by the Lithuanian Jewellers' Association (Lietuvos autorinės juvelyrikos kūrėjų asociacija) displayed the works of 30 authors, and the number of the exhibition's participants symbolically matched the 30th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuania's independence. This exclusive exhibition was attended by creators of metal plastic and jewellery art representing different generations.
The Amber Trip exhibition also included other exclusive showpieces such as the skeleton of a mammoth that lived at least 50,000 years ago and was found in Siberia, as well as works of art – sculptures made from mammoth bone, and a blue stone from Sweden.
There were also creative workshops with wax, amber and enamel, as well as seminars providing information on what you need to know when buying jewellery, and how hydrogen is used in jewellery and Baltic amber in food production. For the second year in a row, a raw amber exchange-auction was held, during which a number of transactions were concluded. Therefore, every year we look for new 'pearls' which would delight all of our participants.
Do you think the format of Amber Trip and other exhibitions will change in the future?
The format of the exhibition will remain the same, but certain safety requirements and measures will bring some changes in terms of distance between the stands and the people, the limitation of the number of people indoors, hygiene requirements, distribution of disinfectants, and so on.
Of course, like other businesses, jewellery is entering and fully focusing on the online platform, but there are downsides to communication and shopping at a distance. It was plain to see that shoppers were particularly delighted to be able to once again browse through and physically touch jewellery in jewellery and amber salons after the quarantine in the country has been lifted. After all, even the highest quality photo cannot portray the actual beauty of jewellery.
The consequences of the coronavirus can be felt by both businesses and individual people. Did you notice any changes in the habits of jewellery and amber buyers?
Of course. The market was in complete stagnation for two months, but now life is slowly getting back on track. There are birthdays and various other celebrations. People need gifts and positive emotions which can certainly be provided by jewellery. Thus, as I mentioned before, the jewellery trade is recovering. And the number of sales has also increased in the renewed online stores.
How did the pandemic and the resulting crisis change the prices of jewellery, amber articles and raw amber?
It is clear that the global COVID-19 pandemic has also affected retail prices. Sales are often announced during which jewellery and amber articles are sold in retail with a 30 percent discount. In wholesale trade, which had come to a complete halt at the beginning of the pandemic, we are seeing a 10-15 percent drop in jewellery prices. The price of raw amber has dropped by a tenth and we believe that this price will remain for a while, but it should not drop any lower than that.
What would you like to wish for the next year's Amber Trip show, its participants and buyers?
The world has not stopped because of the coronavirus. I wish every participant and buyer of this wonderful exhibition to protect themselves and their health, love their country and continue to enjoy life.
The Amber Trip show will flourish as long as each market participant will be actively involved in it. This year’s exhibition, which took place during the pandemic, was the product of the entire jewellery and amber community. We can only hope that these good initiatives will continue on in the future.
I am convinced that Amber Trip can continue to maintain its high standards with the help of other market participants. We, as the coordinators of the exhibition, simply need to listen to them and meet their needs. Jewellery is a form of expression and people will never stop looking for ways to express themselves. It has existed for thousands of years and will continue to exist as long as there are humans on earth.