MILAN — The organizers of Italy’s two leading gold and jewelry trade fairs, Fiera di Vicenza and Arezzo Fiere e Congressi, have formed an alliance to help promote Italian producers on international markets.

Backed by Italy’s Trade and Industry Ministry, the alliance will initially focus on activities like coordinating the Vicenzaoro and Arezzo Oro fair calendars and will facilitate access to Vicenza Fiere’s international shows, including Vicenzaoro Dubai and Vicenzaoro’s pavilion at the JCK in Las Vegas, for Arezzo Oro exhibitors.

The partners will also work to promote each others’ shows to their respective exhibitors as well as develop shared formats and commercial offerings.

If things work as planned, by 2017 the two trade fairs will merge their gold and jewelry activities into a single, powerful “platform,” Matteo Marzotto, chairman of Fiera di Vicenza, said during a presentation here Tuesday.

Gold and jewelry production are important generators of export sales and value added to Italy’s economy. Marzotto said sector revenues reached close to 7 billion euros, or $9.31 billion, in 2014 – the last full year for which figures are available. Exports accounted for some 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, generating a positive trade balance of 2.9 billion euros, or $3.9 billion. In the first nine months of 2015, sales reached 5 billion euros, or $5.5 billion, while exports – including of products in silver and other precious metals – totaled 4.2 billion euros, or $4.6 billion, up 11 percent on the year-earlier period.

Dollar figures were converted from the euro at average exchange for the periods to which they refer.

Some 32,000 people work for the 9,000 or so companies that make up Italy’s gold working and jewelry industry. Together these industries represent the fourth most important contributor to total “made in Italy” fashion and accessories sales, Marzotto explained.

“It is time to demonstrate that there are old walls which can be brought down,” he said, referring to the fact that only a few years ago the idea that Italy’s two leading gold and jewelry trade fairs could work together seemed unthinkable. “The country is changing, the market is changing and we realized we had to act,” Marzotto added, pointing out that in this sector Italy is competing with “giants like China, India and Turkey.”

“When we first presented the idea of merging our two trade fairs to buyers, they said it was natural, something they had long expected,” said Andrea Boldi, chairman of Arezzo Fiere e Congressi, adding that if a country like the U.S. – which is many times larger than Italy – has only one gold trade fair, then he could see no reason why much smaller Italy needs two.

He also pointed out the potential to bring together all the country’s suppliers and producers under one roof as a further strength: “Together we can bring together, like no one else, an entire network of companies – almost all those with fewer than 50 employees – who don’t have much potential to internationalize without trade fairs.”

Merging Vicenzaoro – which can count on the participation of some 1,500 brands – and Arezzo Oro – with its 650 brands – would create a trade fair giant.

In the meantime, Fiera di Vicenza is preparing for the first Vicenzaoro edition of the year, to be held from Friday to Jan. 27. Thanks to funds from Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development, organizers are launching an ambitious buyers’ hospitality program that will pay expenses for some 500 buyers and 60 journalists from around the world, explained Corrado Facco, Fiera di Vicenza managing director. An “important number of buyers are coming from the U.S. and there are also buyers from Africa – a first.”

Facco also gave a brief overview of the industry’s performance for the January to September 2015 period. Overall, global demand for jewelry in gold decreased by some 8 percent on the year-earlier period, on the back of falling demand in key markets like Russia and China, which was overtaken by India as the world’s largest producer and consumer, Facco said. Italy, however, bucked the trend, with overall industry sales increasing by some 4.4 percent in the first nine months of 2014, thanks in large part to increasing exports, changes in the price of gold and the high quality and prices of its products.

Italy’s main export markets remain the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the U.S.

The U.S., Italy, India and Saudi Arabia were the best performing markets in the first nine months of 2015. Japan, the U.K. and Germany were essentially in line with the previous year, while Russia was down 35 percent – heavily impacted by the decline in oil prices – and was the worst performing market, followed by Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt and China.

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