Saturday, 15 March 2014 09:12

Tomasz Mikołajczyk: Report from the Amber Trip Trade Fair

Written by  Tomasz Mikołajczyk

"The moment before detonation" – this is how I would briefly summarise the first days of the trade fair in Vilnius.

I have always done my best to arrive at amber trade fairs just before they open. This idea has worked for years. A long time ago, I competed only with Valerio 888 in the search for beautiful and unique products. We were happy when one of us found something good, sometimes this happiness was combined with jealousy of the rival, and sometimes there a feeling of pride of the skill of making quick and right decisions regarding the purchase - especially when faced with the obvious regret of the slower one.

Today I notice that the industry has reached the limit of craziness. When I pick up a beautiful necklace made of natural amber, that is not compressed, combined with anything, or subjected to any other modifications, I enjoy touching it, but at the same time I am aware that I have to put it back. Why? As I merchant I cannot afford to buy "ornaments" anymore, that is beautiful objects that confirm the "wonderfulness" of the company and will encourage the customers to buy mass production. My reaction would probably be completely insignificant - I simply cannot afford it any more - be it not for the fact that to my surprise, I have observed similar reactions from the merchants from China. Like me, they pick up beads that they are clearly impressed with, but only to put it back a moment later. The price of nearly 10,000 Euro nett minimises the chance of further sale with due taxes and at least a symbolic profit. Although the beads will eventually find a buyer, I am positive that we have reached a certain limit. And nothing will be as it used to be any more.

The beads that cost 30, 36, or even 56 Euro per gram are actually more like objects from the virtual world than real products. Donats - not even so beautiful - cost 900 Euro, antique beads that were strung a week ago for the first time or compressed bead bracelets - with a wonderful certificate of the Lithuanian PROBIERCZY office that certifies naturalness of amber used in them - act more as a repellent towards the merchants than an attraction. The products that even a year ago at Ambermart would have disappeared before the start of the fair, today still sit on the shelves and announce the coming breakthrough. The problem doesn't concern merely those "pearls", also small bracelets that last year were sold at 120 PLN in Sukiennice, or hand-made rings for 200 PLN, today are impossible to be bought in bulk for such price. Who will survive?

Even though the Chinese will continue buying, I know that we have crossed the "thin red line". As of then a sharp drop in prices is much more likely than further price dumping.

Unfortunately, the Amber Trip has also lost its attractiveness, as the products that today sit on the exhibitors' shelves, will come to Gdańsk with the same prices. And Gdańsk has a lot bigger potential. Let's hope it will not let it be wasted, as nobody wants to buy "press", even the most beautiful one and with the Lithuanian certificate.

I might be wrong, but this is how I would put my bets at the bookmaker's.

From Vilnius
Tomasz Mikołajczyk