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Ring of success

[ 2011-01-14 11:23]     字号 [] [] []  
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The sapphire and diamond engagement ring given by Prince William to his fiancee Kate Middleton in 2010 is unarguably one of the most famous rings in the world. But the ring has also proved to be a ringing success for a Chinese entrepreneur in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. Zhou Mingwang, a 31-year-old high-school dropout turned entrepreneur, was not a fan of the British royal family until he watched the engagement of the couple in November 2010.

More than the buzz about the royal couple, what caught Zhou's fancy were the pictures of the engagement ring, which belonged to the late Princess Diana, the prince's mother.

The original ring is, of course, priceless and irreplaceable. But Zhou realized there was a business opportunity if he could replicate the model.

"The moment I saw the pictures (of the ring), I realized it would be a money-spinner," Zhou says.

But it was not going to be an easy task to translate his idea into reality. Ming Wang, the company set up by Zhou was until then just one of the many jewelry units in Yiwu.

Convinced about his plan, Zhou and his team of designers created a computer-generated image of a replica ring. In his model, Zhou replaced the oval blue sapphire with a zirconium stone and used 14 crystals instead of diamonds.

The clincher of course would be the pricing. Zhou knew he had to make his ring affordable to make a profit. Accordingly, he decided to price his ring at about US$3.

Two days after he posted images of the ring replicas on his company website chinamingwang.cn, Zhou received an order for 10,000 pieces from a British importer for immediate delivery. Soon 10 more orders from other importers followed. The first batch of replica rings were then shipped to buyers in the United Kingdom and Australia, where businessmen are making hay by selling royal souvenirs ahead of the wedding day.

The orders kept coming and Zhou was hailed as a star in Yiwu, a town of fast-thinking entrepreneurs. Zhou, however, feels that such undue publicity is unnecessary, as he does not cater to the domestic market. His worries are not unfounded, as counterfeits have dented many businessmen's fortunes.

"In Yiwu, it is not unusual to make a replica of anything within one day, sometimes based on nothing more than the picture of the original product. This is the game in town," says Zhou, who went to Yiwu five years ago to establish his factory in the world's largest gift and souvenir production base.

Zhou has a team of 30 employees who work throughout the year, while managerial responsibilities are shared by his spouse.

The company clocked a 20 percent growth in annual revenue in 2010, to more than 7 million yuan (US$1.06 million). "We expect a big jump in revenue in 2011, thanks to the prince and princess," says Zhou.

But Zhou is also quick to point out that his company's performance is only slightly better than competitors. There are around 4,000 factories that make accessory products in Yiwu with a combined annual output of 15 billion yuan.

"The only way to make it in this town is to be quicker than your competitors in spotting opportunities and converting them into cash," he says.

Reports from the provincial jewelry association indicated that at least 10 factories, including Zhou's, are making and selling replicas of the famous ring.


1. What has become a huge business opportunity in China?

2. Where are the ring-making factories located?

3. What is Yiwu known for?


1. The sapphire and diamond engagement ring given by Prince William to his fiancee Kate Middleton in 2010.

2. Yiwu, Zhejiang province.

3. It’s the world's largest gift and souvenir production base, with about 4,000 factories making accessory products with a combined annual output of 15 billion yuan.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Ring of success

About the broadcaster:

Ring of success

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.