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Why do Chinese love 24-karat gold jewelry?

Like a diamond ring in the West, the enduring accessory for a Chinese bride is a pair of dragon and phoenix bangles in 24-karat gold, the buttery-yellow version of the precious metal so loved in Asia.

如同西方世界的钻石戒指,对中国新娘来说,最恒久远的饰品就是一对以24K金打造的龙凤手镯,24K金这种黄油色的金属非常受亚洲人钟爱。

But should love not last, she could liquidate her gold jewelry in a highly transparent and efficient manner in ways that diamonds cannot match.

但如果爱不持久,她也可以把她的黄金珠宝透明地、有效地变现,这是钻石做不到的。

"Twenty-four carat gold is considered a form of international currency, because it is accepted around the world," said Kent Wong, managing director of Chow Tai Fook Jewelry in Hong Kong, which introduced the standardization of 999.9 pure gold jewelry in 1984. "Because gold jewelry is sold by weight, customers can sell their gold back to the jeweler, which is common practice in Chinese society."

"24K金是国际货币的一种,因为是全世界通用的,"香港的"周大福"珠宝的总经理黄绍基说,周大福在1984年引进了999.9纯金首饰的标准。"因为黄金是秤重计价,消费者可以将黄金卖给珠宝商,在华人社会中是常见做法。"

Mr. Wong explained that the price of each piece is calculated from the international gold price, based on the gold's weight, plus the store's 2 percent commission and a design fee. "As the daily gold price is displayed conspicuously in the shop, there is a high transparency and clear information," he said.

黄经理解释,每件作品是依照国际黄金价格计算,以黄金的重量计价,再加上设计费和2%佣金。"店内公开标示每日金价,所以过程高度透明化,资讯清楚。"他说。

The fact that such resale is so easy — along with the introduction of popular motifs like Disney's "Frozen" and Hello Kitty and improved filament craftsmanship (similar to Florentine style design), as well as burnishing, lathing and buffing techniques — has buoyed sales to China's rapidly growing middle class, the prized market that retailers around the world hope to capture.

因为黄金变卖容易,而且加入了像是迪士尼的"冰雪奇缘"(Frozen)或是Hello Kitty等受欢迎的图案,还有改良过的细线工艺(跟佛罗伦萨风格设计相似),和打磨、车床加工、抛光的技术,带动了中国迅速兴起的中产阶级的黄金交易量,这是全世界的零售商都想抓住的有"钱途"的市场。

"Wedding jewelry contributes more than 40 percent of our business, but we want to develop innovative jewelry to appeal to young customers," Mr. Wong said. "We work with Korean pop stars such as G-Dragon and Lee Min Ho to launch collections targeting young customers." It is not unusual in one of Chow Tai Fook's more than 300 stores in Hong Kong, mainland China and Southeast Asia to find 24-karat pendants with the likeness of Marvel Comic characters or necklaces featuring plump, smiling pigs, a fertility symbol popular with brides.

"婚饰占我们交易的40%多,但我们想要发展一些创意珠宝来吸引年轻客群,"黄经理说。"我们和韩国明星权志龙(G-Dragon)或李敏镐(Lee Min Ho)合作,发行一些针对年轻顾客的系列。"周大福在全中国、香港和东南亚共有300多间店铺。在店里不难找到漫威漫画主角之类的24K金吊饰;或者是带笑脸的小猪,这是新娘们喜欢的生育的象征。

Previously, the limited design potential of 24-karat gold made it more often a choice for wedding and birthday gifts, rather than personal jewelry. The metal in its pure form is very soft, so soft that it can be easily bent, making intricate designs impossible. So, in the past, jewelers generally concentrated on styles involving auspicious Chinese themes, such as the peach for longevity, flower for prosperity and, of course, the dragon and phoenix for wedded bliss.

以前,许多人选择购买限量款的24K金金饰当作结婚或生日礼物,而不是自用。纯的黄金质地软,可以轻易地弯折,无法做出复杂的设计。所以以往珠宝商主要将重点放在吉利的中国风图案,像是代表长寿的桃子、代表繁荣的花卉、当然还有代表婚礼祝福的龙凤图腾。

In recent years, the development of electro-forming technology to increase the hardness of gold has enabled jewelers such as Chow Tai Fook to set gemstones like rubies, emerald and jadeite in 24-karat pieces, enriching designs and creating much more costly pieces.

近年来,由于电铸技术,黄金的硬度增加了,周大福等珠宝商便将红宝石、翡翠或玉等宝石镶在24K金的饰品上,丰富了设计感,也做出了更多高价商品。

Gold prices now are hovering around $1,090 per troy ounce, the lowest price so far this year. In general, prices have been declining since a peak almost two years ago. (Like a currency exchange, there is a selling price and a buying price.)

目前金价为每金衡盎司1090美元左右,目前为止为今年最低。大体上来说,自近两年前的高峰之后,金价逐渐走低(就跟货币兑换一样,金价也有买出卖出的价格)。

In Hong Kong, gold is traded in tael, or a little more than 1.2 troy ounces. A pair of bangles, each using a tael of gold and created in a dragon and phoenix motif from a simple mold but with a hand-finished design would be priced at around 25,415 Hong Kong dollars ($3,280), which includes the store's 2 percent commission and a 690-dollar design fee.

在香港,金价以"两"计价,比1.2金衡盎司多一点。一对有着简单龙凤图案的手镯,每只都用了一两黄金制作,加上手工设计的图案,差不多要2.5415万港币(约合3280美元),包括该店的2%佣金与690美元的设计费。

A customer who decided to sell that jewelry back to the store on the same day, as gold prices fluctuate, would walk out with about 20,490 dollars.

若顾客想在同一天将那对手镯卖给店家,依金价波动,差不多会拿到2.049万港币。

"Our customers won't need to bring their receipt back, as our maker's mark is clearly stamped on each piece," said Hung Lam, a salesman at Chow Sang Sang, another popular gold trader.

"我们的客户不用带收据,因为我们每一件作品都清楚刻有制作者的印章,"Hung Lam,热门金饰品牌"周生生"的一名销售员表示。

Mr. Wong acknowledges that 24-karat gold jewelry appeals almost exclusively to Chinese customers.

黄先生表示,24K金的珠宝几乎都是华人顾客。

"We do have some non-Chinese customers, but their appetite for gold jewelry is not comparable to Chinese," he said, adding that the Chinese also prefer their gold to have a saturated, almost gaudy gold tone.

"我们也有一些非华人的顾客,但他们远不及华人顾客那样喜欢黄金饰品,"他说。他同时补充道,华人喜欢色泽饱和、几乎有些艳丽的黄金。

"With technology these days, we are able to change the color of 24-karat gold to a rose tint, but Chinese want their gold to look exactly like a gold bar, because this is what it looked like for hundreds of years," he said. "This style appeals to Chinese because it's part of our heritage, whereas for foreigners, they don't have the same sense of historical reference."

"随着现今的科技发展,我们能够将24K金的颜色改成带有一点玫瑰色调,但是华人希望他们的金子跟金条一模一样的颜色,因为几百年以来,金条就是这颜色,"他说。"这种风格非常吸引华人,因为这是我们传统的一部分,但对外国人来说,他们没有这种历史的情感。"

Chow Tai Fook has a gold crafting plant in Shunde, a city in Guangdong Province, with six artists producing designs rendered by 3,000 craftsmen working with simple tools such as torches, small chisels and picks.

周大福在广东顺德有一家金饰工艺厂,6名设计师负责设计,交由3000名工匠,然后他们用手电筒、小凿子和十字镐等简单的工具工作。

Zhang Zhi Rong, or Master Zhang as he is known, is one of the company's artists who can both design and make his own jewelry.

人称"张大师"的张志荣(音)是周大福的设计师之一,他既能设计珠宝,也能制作他自己的首饰。

Holding a bangle with a buffed surface, Mr. Zhang used a thin black marker to draw a design of dragons and phoenix onto the surface before beginning to carve into the gold. He also frequently works with gold wires, which he twists and bends into intricate designs, often with a floral pattern.

张大师拿着一个抛光后的手镯,在雕刻之前,先用一支细的黑色签字笔在黄金表面画出龙凤的图案。他也常使用黄金细线,用细线折出复杂的样式,通常是花卉图案。

"We have some commissions and people want special pieces, especially as birthday gifts to elderly relatives," Mr. Zhang said. "The older generation prefers gold over any kind of precious stones, as the color is considered auspicious and it brings them good luck."

"我们有时会收到委托,制作特别的商品,尤其是给长辈的生日礼物。"张大师表示,"跟其他珍贵宝石比起来,老一辈的人更喜欢黄金,因为黄金色泽很吉利,会带来好运。"

Source: New York Times

2016-09-23

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