For many foreigners, part of the attraction of China is its mysterious and ancient splendor. But what attracts Chinese people? It was something that Paloma Sanchez, a certified GIA gemologist from Spain, had to learn through first-hand experience. Passionate about gemstones, she opened her first jewelry shop in Beijing in 2008.
"When I first opened with all these real different designs, it was very avant garde, even for Europe. Everybody was like, are you crazy? You're not going to sell anything here. Chinese people do not like that. But the third month, I was already saving money. Not only living out of this little shop, but saving money."
What happened next was above and beyond her expectations. Chinese jewelry shoppers adapted and began favoring what she had to offer. Apart from the designs, they were also attracted to her way of working - Sanchez sources, designs and sells all her work exclusively in her store.
In 2015, she created a new collection that took her to the next level of craftsmanship in China. The collection explored a fusion of elements, a combination of modern designs but using Chinese craftsmanship from the Qing Dynasty. Her brand is now known not just in China, but all over the world, like London, Paris, Montreal and Dubai.
"Then with Dian Cui, Dian Cui is a very very old technique from the Qing Dynasty. So I was using these pieces, combined with my modern designs. It's with very little small feather, kingfisher birds, the feathers are electric blue and there were like only little pieces that are around 300 pieces, I'm buying with modern designs, was husband with very old antique Tibetan pieces, Tibetan cultural and western cultural together, and I think this also has not only helped me understand Chinese culture but also been accepted by Chinese."
Paloma Sanchez not only fused Chinese cultural elements into her work, but also has woven them into her business practices too. As a gemologist, she traveled across China searching for the best quality gemstones - sapphires, opals and everything she needed. She spoke to consumers and Chinese mine owners to keep on top of industry tastes and trends.
2016 has been a relatively slow year for China's gem and jewelry sector, with consumers and designers both going through a period of adjustment.
Shi Hongyue, deputy of the Gem and Jewelry Trade Association of China, says like the economy as a whole, the industry is finding a new normal - turning its back on excessive growth, and focusing on better quality and design, creativity, and cultural significance.
"Gem and jewelry is actually a part of cultural economy. Culture is very important. Without culture, gems are nothing but cold stones. Jewelry designs should be a project. We should inspire and invigorate the designers in this industry."
And maybe that's behind the success of Paloma Sanchez in China - early on she embraced this new normal in the jewelry sector ... uniting beautiful gemstones, with avant-garde designs, infused with cultural meaning.
For CRI, I'm Min Rui.