Chow Deuk Sang and Aurora Chow
York Lo: Chow Deuk Sang and Aurora Chow
When it comes to prominent HK jewelers with the surname Chow, the first two that comes to most people’s mind are Chow Tai Fook and Chow Sang Sang, which also happens to be the top two chains by the number of stores. From the 1940s to the 1960s, there were two other firms in HK with the surname Chow which were key players in the HK jewelry business – Chow Deuk Sang and Aurora Chow. While the founders of Chow Tai Fook and Chow Sang Sang are Cantonese, the founders of Chow Deuk Sang and Aurora Chow hailed from Chiuchow and Shanghai respectively and both firms have more of an international footprint despite of their smaller local presence.
Chow Deuk Sang Jeweler/Chow’s Jewelry (周琢珊珠寶行)
Left: A set of vintage spoons from Chow Deuk Sang (Worthpoint); Right: article about the expansion of Chow Deuk Sang in 1952 (WKYP, 1952-4-29)
Chow Deuk Sang, which also went by Chow’s Jewelry, was founded by Yam-suen Chow (周欽宣, hereafter refer to as “Y.S. Chow”), a native of Chaoyang in Chiuchow and eldest of four brothers. He grew up in a farming family and left for Thailand at the age of 21 where he first started out as a servant. He soon joined the jewelry trade and with his savings founded Chow Deuk Sang Jeweler in Bangkok in 1925. (六十年來海外潮州人物志, 1974) The business prospered and was expanded to other locations such as Saigon in Vietnam (opened in 1931) where it was one of the leading jewelers.
In 1932, Y.S. Chow opened Chow Deuk Sang in Hong Kong. By the late 1940s, Chow Deuk Sang was already located at 34 Hankow Road in Tsim Sha Tsui although it could have been there even earlier. Chow Chow-tak was listed as manager. (Business Directory of HK, Macao and Canton, 1949)
In 1952, Chow Deuk Sang added watches to its offering by establishing a watch department. In the 1960s, Chow’s Jewelry was also the exclusive distributor in HK of S. Samran bronzeware from Thailand, which was founded in 1921 by Samran Poonsawad. A guidebook listed that a 167-piece Samran set for twelve cost US$130 while a 89 piece set for six costed US$75. (Orient-Hawaii, 1962)
With his profits from jewelry, Y.S. Chow like many of his peers expanded into real estate and incorporated Chow’s Investment Co Ltd in 1958 with HK$1.2 million in capital. The firm developed its location at 34 Hankow Road in Tsim Sha Tsui into Chow’s Building while also developed residential buildings at 286 Prince Edward Road and 225 Prince Edward Road.
Outside of business, Y.S. Chow was active in community affairs in Hong Kong and was involved with several charitable organizations. He served as director of the HK & Kowloon Chiu Chow Public Association (潮州公會, founded in 1948) and when the Association started its School (primary to secondary and night school) in 1957, Chow donated towards its construction and when the School reached 4000 students and in need of expansion within a decade, Chow donated an additional HK$20000 – half of which towards scholarships and the other half towards the construction of a pagoda in honor of his mother Madam Siu. (WKYP, 1968-10-30) He was the deputy supervisor of Chow’s Clansmen Association (周氏宗親總會) and donated HK$10000 towards scholarships at the Association’s School in 1968. (WKYP, 1968-9-20). He was a director of the Taoist temple Yuen Yuen Institute in Tsuen Wan and was one of the lead sponsors of new roads leading up to the Institute through Lo Wai village in 1971. (WKYP, 1971-4-12)
Wedding picture of K.T. Chow and Lin Yat-yu in 1953 (WKYP, 1953-5-30)
Chow Yam-suen was succeeded at Chow Jewelry by his sons Chow Kwok-tat (周國達) and Chow Kwok-keung (周國強). In 1953, Chow Kwok-tat married Lin Yat-yu (連逸如), the daughter of Chiuchow tycoon Lin Ying-yin (連英賢, d. 1971), the proprietor of Kwong Tak Loong (光德隆), liquor distributor and exclusive agent of Texaco kerosene on HK island. The wedding banquet at Tai Tung restaurant was attended by the leaders of the local Chiuchow community such as Ngan Shing-kwan of CMB and Ma Chak-man of HK Swatow Commercial Bank and fellow Chow clansmen such as Chow Yau and rice magnate Chow Leung-sing. (WKYP, 1953-5-30)
Chow’s Jewelry/Chow Deuk Sang did not appear to have ever incorporated and a listing of the firm on HKTDC website lists Chow Kwok-keung and a residential address in Homantin as contact. The firm is listed as importing jewelry from Thailand in addition to Germany and Italy although its sales is in the US$500,000-999,000 range and employs less than 5 employees.
Sources (other than those cited above):
Aurora Chow & Co (震旦行)
Picture and article about debris falling from Aurora Chow’s office at 49 Queen’s Road Central in 1956 (WKYP, 1956-7-29)
Aurora Chow & Co was founded in HK in 1949 by Aurora Chow Hok-tan (周學旦). Born in Shanghai in 1917 and a native of Nantung in Kiangsu province (江蘇南通), Aurora Chow went to Ta Tung University (大同大學) in Shanghai. The 1941 Who’s Who in Shanghai listed him as the Chinese manager for the Shanghai branch of the Indian trading firm of Utoomal & Assudamal Co (奧都文洋行), which was founded in HK in 1927 and had branches in Shanghai, Canton and Yokohama. The original location of Aurora Chow & Co in HK was on the 2nd floor of a 3-story wood building at 49 Queen’s Road Central across the street from the China Emporium (current Lane Crawford House) and in 1956, debris during renovation at the site hit a pedestrian as described by the article above.
Aurora Chow (left) and K.C. Cheung before their trip to New York to participate in the World’s Fair (WKYP, 1964-3-13)
In 1964-65, Aurora Chow was an exhibitor at the Hong Kong Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair which ran from April to October in both of those years. The Aurora Chow booth, which required total investments of HK$1 million and HK$240,000 in decoration costs alone, displayed jade (the main selling product) and variety of other gems, ivory, silverware and sculptures. K.C. Cheung (張家駿), a staff member of Aurora Chow, stayed in the US for two years to handle the booth while Chow himself stayed for two months. In addition to jewelry, Aurora Chow was also involved in exports of garments at the time, particularly to the West German market.
In 1963, Aurora Chow incorporated Hongkong Jade & Gem Lapidary Ltd (香港玉石研磨工廠), which operated out of the ground floor of 98 Wharf Road in North Point. The firm was later dissolved in 1995.
By 1969, Aurora Chow was operating out of the P&O Building at 23-27 Des Voeux Road Central and had branches in Taipei and Tokyo (Amano Building of the Kanda district in Tokyo). (Universal Chinese Overseas Directory, 1969). In addition to Taiwan, Japan and the US, other directories indicated that Aurora Chow also did business in markets such as Burma and Iran.
Left: Aurora Chow gift sack from the Hong Kong Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65 (World’s Fair Community); Right: Aurora Chow sterling silver salt and pepper set (Pinterest)
By 1988, Aurora Chow was operating out of Aik San Industrial Building on Westlands Road in Quarry Bay. (Business Directory of Hong Kong)
Outside of his business, Aurora Chow served as director of the Kiangsu-Chekiang Residents Association and was a member of the Lions Club, HK General Chamber of Commerce, Kowloon Chamber of Commerce, CMA. (HK Album, 1967) He and his wife Alice Ou has at least one daughter, Anna Chow, who married William Roettger in North Carolina in 1966.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 27th March 2020.
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