The main jewellery center in Africa must be Johannesburg. With thousands of jewellery shops around South Africa the choices may seem enormous. But once you start looking you will see that the industry is fairly small – most of the jewellery being imported and the rest made by a dwindling pool of goldsmiths who ply their trade in South Africa.
Competition is stiff – imported jewellery is cheaper than locally made gold jewellery as labour in South Africa has it;s challenges. This is unfortunate as we produce a large portion of the worlds gold. Local South Africans have a distorted idea that imported means quality – while this may be true for a number of items it is unfair to paint the whole picture with one brush. South African goldsmiths are highly trained and are able to manufacture almost any handmade design. The challenge of course comes with mass produced jewellery – which most of the imported jewellery is. We cannot compete with the Chinese on labour price – and we cannot compete with Europe on mass production equipment. But we can be “South Arican jewellery designers“!
It would see that South African jewellers have a problem developing their own style – it is often easier to copy styles that come in from overseas – the reason this happens is that a “make what sells” mentality seems to be the norm. Local retailers seem to balk at stocking original local jewellery design – thinking for some reason that European is better. Pity – South African jewellers have a lot to offer - maybe not on the mass produced side – but certainly with handmade original designs!