Pearls of wisdom from K.S. SZE

Pearls of wisdom from K.S. SZE

Style Magazine, 80s

At age seventy, K.S. Sze looks back on a long struggle in the jewellery business and forward to the realization of yet more dreams.

Pearls of wisdom from K.S. SZE

The essence of youth is the belief that there is meaning and ultimate purpose to our long and taxing struggle through life. Those men who can in the autumn of their days look back and see a significant list of achievements and at the same time, look forward to fruitful days ahead, certainly provide living proof that youthful optimism is not an illusion.

K.S. Sze is one such unique figure. He is a loner, one of those determined men who had a dream and realized this dream.

His father died when Sze was only twelve. Leaving his home city near the Great West Lake in Hangchow for Shanghai, Sze followed an uncle as a jeweller's apprentice. During those adolescent years, Sze devoted himself to watching and learning everything about the trade. He explained that his home of Hangchow was the original producer of lake pearls and that the centre of all jewellery activity in those days was in Shanghai. It was almost as if Fate had planned for Sze to be in his business.

While still in his early 20s, Sze had already moved on to becoming a broker in raw stones and uncut gems. Ten years later, he opened his own shop.

He specialized in the purchase of merchandise while his partner attended to the shop and internal routine. Even in the days when travel was hardly the convenient, excessively speedy thing it is today, Sze was making frequent buying trips to the northeastern cities of China and travelling abroad, especially to countries in South East Asia. After the Communist takeover in 1949, Sze evacuated to Hong Kong with his wife and children, unafraid of having to start from scratch again. His partner, on the other hand, was reluctant to give up the old lifestyle and the fruit of their many years of toil. So while his partner gambled on the China of the past, Sze embraced a new beginning in the British Colony of Hong Kong.

Upon arriving here, he set up his business utilizing one counter in a department store. From there, he conducted both the retail operation and wholesale export of lake pearls to Indonesia. The Communists were selling Hangchow lake pearls by the pound during those first few years of their rule. And Sze took full advantage of this extraordinary deal.

In the meantime, he had opened up a two-storey shop in Central Building. There his business grew and his reputation for high quality merchandise and fair prices developed.

When the Mandarin Hotel opened in 1963, it offered one of its seven original shop spaces to K.S. Sze. Actually, Sze was the only jeweller selected among the numerous establishments to operate a business in the hotel arcade. He believes the Mandarin made its choice only after thorough investigation of his background and reputation, so as to protect the hotel's own good name.

Sze responded to the honour. He opened up a K.S. Sze and Sons in the Mandarin before anyone could know whether the retail business would develop into that area. He took a chance and made it work his way.

Two years after the Mandarin shop opened, Sze with consideration for his own age and the increasingly competitive nature of the jewellery business, closed down the Central Building branch. Since then, he has devoted his time and energies to his shop in the Mandarin.

Though he views gems and precious stones as an investment, he also caters to current trends in the market. The latest trend is jewellery accessories, inexpensive items which women buy to match their clothes or to co-ordinate with certain fashions and looks. Perhaps because he has been in the business for over 50 years and seen every range of design in jewellery, he prefers rare gems set in the classic style. His shop, though, has a sizeable collection of both, beautiful intricate items for all times and fun pieces for the season.

An idealist at heart, he attempted in the Sixties to set a one-price policy in his shop. Rather than jacking up the fair price, and then giving the customer a certain discount as is the practice all over Hong Kong, Sze eliminated price haggling by valuing each item at its real worth. For nine months he experimented with this policy against the advice of his employees and customers. He was convinced he could implement honest business practice in the jewellery trade as well.

He argued against the problem of pricing jewellery. You simply compare pieces of the same gem for quality and size.

How would it be different from pricing goods in a boutique or a supermarket? However, response did not meet expectations and Sze had to give up his ideas. He feels this is one of his greatest disappointments but hopes to try it again some time in the future.

At 70, Sze still makes yearly buying trips to Europe and the United States and now represents Harry Winston, the world-renowned New York jewellers, as a buying agent.

Apart from his success as a businessman, Sze has a reputation for trustworthiness and experience here and abroad. His three children, who live in the States, are also doing very well on their own right. He is a firm appreciator of sports, rising at 5:30 each morning to play golf and taking a daily swim after work each afternoon - regardless of weather.

And for his mind and soul, he is an ardent Buddhist, devoting time and concentration to daily meditation. The religion helps him achieve peace of mind, calming his easily excitable and aggressive nature. He denied that his belief in Buddhism conflicted with his role as a businessman: "As a Buddhist, I cannot lie, but as a businessman, I don't want to lie. There's no conflict."

K.S. Sze certainly has accomplished much to be proud of in his lifetime. But he still wants his to be the best jewellery shop in Hong Kong and he still prays that one of his children will return to build and develop what he has begun. With the help of Buddhism, he understands and accepts that certain wishes are realistic and others just dreams.

So he continues, mellowed by age and life but still spirited and determined. Appropriately, he quotes regularly a traditional Chinese saying: "Life only begins at 70".







店內一 切的事務由他的夥伴主理,而他則專責購貨,雖然當時的交通沒有今日方便快捷,但他仍然經常到中國東北各人城市買貨物,甚至前往海外,甚至是東南亞一帶的國家。











可是,反應却不如理想,施賡巽不得以要放棄這個意念。他覺得這是他最大的失意之一 ,但希望將來有機會再作嘗試。

在他的七十高齡,施賡巽仍然每年親自前往歐洲和美國各地購貨,而現今更成了舉世知名之紐約珠寶商哈利溫史敦(Hang Winston)的購貨代理商。