Think about where gold jewellery gets sold, re-sold and more in Bangkok. China Town will probably come to mind. The scattered stalls of old school eateries, long queues for delicious savory dishes and sweets that have been passed down by generations wedged in between prominent and colorful stores selling gold jewellery.
China Town is where you’ve probably been recommended to purchase or re-sell your gold. Shops have been around for generations,
The way family businesses work is that it often falls on the second or third generation to innovate or change the way things have been done. In this case, we sit down with the founder of Sona jewellery to talk about how it was born out of So Seng Heng, a goldsmith which has been operating for over 50 years.
The Sona Story
Launched last year, Sona jewellery is the young, modern daughter of So Seng Heng. An up and coming brand selling ready to wear gold jewellery through instagram, www.sonajewellery.co and in-store at So Seng Heng.The concept is to tap into a growing niche market for more customisation, affordable, yet timeless jewellery pieces.
Gold jewellery in today’s age doesn’t have to be old fashioned or dated, and it goes against the misconception some may have about legacy stores in Chinatown.
The process from concept to commercialisation took about three months. Luckily, Sona is able to leverage So Seng Heng’s resources and with that, trusted jewellery technicians. All sona jewellery pieces are handcrafted. The brand first launched right in Song Seng Heng’s store, to provide legitimacy to the up and coming brand.
The clientele though, is completely different from the regulars at the legacy store. This can only mean good things, as it validates the shift in branding to better suit a younger consumer group and a new entrant for gold investment.
Sona’s affinity for timeless, classic pieces is shown on their Instagram profile, with sleek showcases of minimalist gold pieces, ranging from customised gold pendants to necklaces.
An average piece may be within the range between THB2,000-5,000 baht, and made from 18K or 96.5% gold. This is an affordable entry into established jewellery. A necklace from Sona will set you back about THB5,000, still within an affordable range.
Sona’s ideology is that you’re not just buying jewellery, but you’re actually making a long term investment in gold as well.
Going For Gold
Whilst talking to the founder of Sona, we managed to learn a thing or two about the gold standard. For example, 18K gold is a popular global gold jewellery standard. 18K gold’s biggest advantage is durability and the classic colour suited for European’s taste who commonly select it for engagement rings.
If you were to buy gold from Switzerland, for example, the gold quality would be 99.99% which means it’s too soft to make jewellery.
Gold has consistently been a viable asset for investment , and more often than not- a hedge against inflation. Articles have even begun circulating in the media about whether bitcoin has become the new gold.
“When people say bitcoin is becoming the new gold, we don’t necessarily see that happening right now in terms of real world value. Gold has been reserved and proven as a real tangible asset since forever, we don’t see that outlook changing in the near future.”
What more is that currently, bitcoin has a limited supply.
Gold price surged up a lot during the beginning of the pandemic, then tapered off slightly. Prices dropped as the dollar moved higher and US yields rose-historically, this has always been the way.
To many, gold still remains a valuable asset and unlikely diamonds, doesn’t depreciate.
“Gold’s value has already been proven many times over. If you have certifiable gold, you can sell it across the globe. There is always trading activity with gold”
By having a traditional goldsmith manufacturer and directly selling modernized versions of gold jewellery, it actually benefits the customer because they can go directly to the source without paying for the marked up price.
For Sona, they acknowledge that renowned jewellers such as Tiffany’s will sell similar offerings but for a bigger price tag. In this sense, if you’re just looking for high quality gold, you can go to Sona jewellery.
Part of the appeal in purchasing gold jewellery is in its sustainability.
“Fast fashion jewellery is very much like fast fashion clothing, it may look stylish but ultimately it won’t last long.”
The idea of paying slightly more and receiving a long lasting product fits with Sona’s concept of sustainability. Instead of throwing out the latest fast jewellery necklace after less than a year, you’ll get to appreciate a piece of gold jewellery that doesn’t depreciate in value that you can always resell back to Sona.
Sona’s mission is to keep inspiring people to be mindful with jewellery buying whilst starting small. Even if it’s a smaller gold pendant, it could still be passed on to the next generation.
What more, you can always re-sell the piece as well.
Challenges in the industry
Because most of us don’t have gold testing kits at our homes, it is important from whom we buy the gold from. The reputation of the gold shop, therefore, creates a barrier to entry for the gold business. High levels of trust from consumers are earned by decades of consistent services. So Seng Heng is one of the few shops in the country that is always ready to buy back its own gold at the market price without reduction, as their gold quality never depreciates.
We also talk about the general challenges of running one of the most long-standing goldsmiths in China town.
“Training and managing craftsmen is really challenging. It’s almost impossible for newcomers to come into the supply chain and build everything from scratch. At So Seng Heng, we also have another service where we act like OEMs to other goldsmiths and charge them wholesale prices, and they don’t have to go through the process themselves.”
When asked about the future challenges for the goldsmith industry, technology seems to be the most obvious positive challenger. With the rise of technology and ecommerce, you can technically buy gold from anywhere, even though the issue of trust remains a barrier.
To tackle this challenge, So Seng Heng has also launched a store on Shopee and Lazada, although the platforms still make up a small amount of sales.
Sona is leveraging the history and resources of So Seng Heng and aims “To alter the perception of the average Instagram shopper to spend just a thousand baht more on something that can really last, which also functions as an investment asset.”
Sona plans to launch more collections, and continue to grow the gold jewellery market within its traditional realm. Alongside digital ambitions for So Seng Heng to evolve with the times, Sona is also eyeing expansion in international markets. For the brand, they see a potential market due to the affordable price with high quality of 18K gold and 96.5% gold.
Opportunities appear when you least expect. So Seng Heng itself received a unique request to craft an all gold mask to protect the customer against Covid-19. You never know where your next product could appear.
The ultimate goal then, is to grow Sona into a sustainable, timeless jewellery house-independent of its owner brand and to introduce more variations of gold jewellery to a wide, global market.