The Royal Jewellers S03 ep1 : De Grisogono [Geneva]

Interview with Fawaz Gruosi, De Grisogono

Fawaz Gruosi,Born in 1952, Gruosi spent his childhood in Florence with his mother. Driven by the necessity to work but also by his interest in art, he left school at 18 and trained to become a sales assistant with a renowned Florentine jeweler. Seven years later, Gruosi, then still a consultant to the firm, oversaw the opening its store in London and became a director four years later. He was only 30 when the Alizera family, Harry Winston's official agent, noticed him and proposed that he become its representative in Saudi Arabia. The young entrepreneur did not hesitate to take up this new challenge. After three years in that country, he returned to Europe where he was immediately contacted by the Bulgari company. Gianni Bulgari, a mythical name in the world of jewellery, created a new post for him. He hired him in Bulgari Precious Trading and accorded him his complete trust. Fawaz thus became the first person in the group to have access to all the new designer jewellery collections which he would be responsible for selling worldwide, with the exception of the Bulgari boutiques of which at that time there were only eight! A fantastic field of opportunity thus opened up before Fawaz, which would also enable him to fill up his address book through numerous contacts. This provided a unique experience, but destiny would for the first time take a new turn. Gianni Bulgari left the family company. Having lost his role model, Fawaz then decided to start out on his own. That was in 1993. Without any specific strategy in mind, he founded de GRISOGONO and very quickly his original and extraordinary creativity ensured that each jewel he fashioned immediately aroused passions. This almost immediate success would give him strength and self-confidence. In 1996, driven by the constant need to be ahead of trends, Gruosi created a black diamond collection. In 2000, he presented his first watch, Instrumento N°Uno. De Grisogono now has 17 original and exclusive watch collections.


At the beginning of my career I was in London, I was young, I was 23 – 24, I was managing Director of
Harry Winston as I told you, and I was in my office in the basement with a t.v. controlling what was
going on in the shop. I see two ladies all in black so automatically I thought they were Arabs. One of
the sales guys comes down, and he says “listen these two ladies in the shop have chosen a few things,
but they want us to go to the hotel to show it to the husband’. Because I was bored I said, “ I am
going”. I take the jewellery and put some here and some here and some here some there, and I take a
taxi and I go to the hotel. I had the room number so I did not ask the Concierge, I go straight to the
room, knock on the door, I get in. It is a huge suite, huge I did not see the rest of the suite, just the
living room it was from there to there. I see this little short guy with a small moustache very shy – it
was an Arab in my opinion, he looked Arab. Anyway I said your wife came to the shop she chose some
pieces and asked me to come and show it to you. Show Me. Suppose these are the pieces, I take one
from my pocket and he said how much and I am inventing numbers now o.k. I don’t remember but it
was expensive stuff. I said 50,000 pounds – o.k. – how much 100,000 pounds – ok – how much 60,000
pounds – ok so to make a long story short – I had bought 6 or 7 pieces and mean while I am thinking, is
he an Arab? The mentality, discussing price, discounts … something strange here and while I am
thinking this, “he asks how much is the total” so I was young, it had never happened to me something
like this I start to sweat a bit, so I take the calculator I made a mistake 16times, so finally the figure
appeared which I never imagined that I would say $2million pounds and he said o.k.. I took a ring for
man it was a beautiful Cashmere Sapphire around 25 carats – amazing – very expensive. By the way I
have something for a man, would you like to see it ? He said “yes, show me” I take it out of my pocket,
puts it on perfect size he said “how much” and then I was really scared because it was really big money
and I said the price and he said “ok how much does t make all together?” I was thinking this is a crook,
it is impossible, so he gives me his cheque book and asks me to write the figure – he did not even
know how to write – so I take the cheque book and I see his name from here to there. His not a Saudi,
he is not a Kuwait, he is not a…… I start to write, my heart is pumping, I was sweating, and thinking he
is a crook, he is a crook, and he signs. So I say excuse me sir I am sure you are a business man and you
will understand me, I don’t know you, you don’t know me it is a lot of money I have first to verify the
cheque and then I will give you the goods. “No problems”. I put the cheque in my pocket…. “Shall I give
you a receipt?” “No no no…” I packed everything put them in my pockets – thinking no receipts this is
something really fishy – I run without taxi or anything, the bank was about 350 meters away I ran like a
maniac, it was a Lloyds bank, and I went to the cashier and I said I want to put this in my account. He
looked at me, he called the manager – I knew there was something wrong – the manager comes and
says, please come in my office, I was sweating, and he said what I can do for you. I replied, I would
like to put this into my account, but I think there is a problem. He said, no there is no problem at all,
what is your account number? I said excuse me but it is a real one, it is all o.k……. Yeah! But I asked
“Who is he?” He replies, “the Sultan of Brunei” and I said what is Brunei. I was 23 at the time, now we
all know what is Brunei, he said “don’t worry he is the richest man in the world, next time he comes to
you give him the shop there is no problem”. He gives me the receipt I go back like hell, I do the stairs,
not even the elevator, the stairs were faster I go to the door, there were two body guards, I ask to see
the Sultan, but they said no no no you cannot get in… Yeah we know give us the jewellery so I said, I
don’t know you I don’t know who you are so they called the chief of security who was a Cornel from
the English Army. I give him the receipt, and I said I would like to apologise t his highness – he said,
you can send him a telex there is no problem – there were no faxes at the time, I return to the shop,
biggest sale of my life, very proud, I did not realize that I made a big mess and what can I do now to
excuse myself. I sent him a basket the size of this table of all sorts of fruits with a small letter I do
apologise, in future any time, call me contact me whatever. Never saw him in my life anymore. I sent
millions of telexes I went to Brunei myself .
I have to say there is another colleague whose name you mentioned before, - I learned one thing, in
life before you do anything you need to be informed! – and he was very well informed and that is why
this guy, thanks in part to Brunei he is where he is.

De Grisigono ring

An important family at the time, were Ambassador for the United State in Saudi Arabia and they were Harry
Winston’s agents. I was 30 years old. I was in the richest country in the world at that time with the
biggest name in the world at the time and they asked me to renew the contract but I decided not to
sign because I had almost lost contact with reality – talking of millions of dollars, private jets and etc

Bulgari made me a proposition after Saudi Arabia to be in charge of their VIP’s around the world. I
had a beautiful experience for 7 years then for political reasons Gianni Bulgari had to leave the
company and I left too, and then Mr. Francesco Trapani came in.

After these two big names it was difficult to go to work for anyone else. I was trading in ???? right and
left as a joke, and I was not happy with it, that is why I convinced these two partners to come with me
to join to open the Silicon ??? shop. My life changed, all with Black diamonds.

Once I was successful with Black diamonds I realised that the market was fed up seeing the usual
things, Bond Street, Madison Avenue, Place Vendome the market needed, absolutely needed
something new.

De Grisigono necklace Salma Hayek

Then I start to black the gold – you see it is so easy to keep following the trends. There are no risks, if
you don’t sell today you will sell after tomorrow.

I did not have money and I stated this company with 16,000 Swiss Francs which is today which is what
about 11,000 euros. If I reached this pint, first of all it is thanks to the black diamonds, because if there
were no black diamonds I would not be sitting here with you – it was the launch of everything, but the
difference was that I never thought about money.

When I create I don’t think about how much it is going to cost to do it, I don’t care, I don’t care I just
want something that is unusual, different and from the manufacturing point of view perfection. I work
out of love of this business

Day by day I follow my instincts and coming to creation I never sit down at my desk with a pen – the
maximum I can do is to have a piece of paper in the pocket and when I …. You see, I see this flowers,
so I just have a flash of inspiration – I don’t take a note, I go to the office, I call the designer and tell
them to do this, that and that. After a week I will come back from travelling and I check it out I will do
some changes or I throw it out because it is a bad idea – that is how I function. In 18 years I think we
have done some 25,000 designs, we use maybe, maybe 15%.

De Grisigono necklace earrings Naomi Campbell

We are probably the only couple with two different brands in the same business and we are living
together and not married for 26 years. We collaborated at the beginning I designed a few things one of
them is the collection – I don’t know If you know it – Icecube the we realised that we were
embarrassing our customers, embarrassing the press, embarrassing our friends, why? Suppose we
were going to a dinner and someone was making me a compliment – of course we love each other –
but it is human nature and vise a versa. The client who knows both the brands, and we are both there
he wants to buy one thing; he is embarrassed to ask from who shall I buy. There is a journalist wants
to interview you because he already organized it three months back – so socially speaking it was
embarrassing, so we decided to split up when we were working. We used to do a lot of exhibitions
together a lot of half and half – this confused people . We see each other at home, we vacation
together, we go out with friends but when it comes to business we try to separate things to the point
that there were a lot of rumours that we were divorcing because they would see me always alone and
seeing her always alone.

De Grisigono ring starfish

The jewellery business’s attitude has totally changed… the mentality. When I was younger you would
host cocktail parties, dinners no one was making glamour until about 7 years ago more or less. All
these lets say “historical brands” it was unthinkable to see a star or model to do promotion, now every
single brand the likes of George Clooney, Hertzigova, Jesus Christ or whatever, that is something that
no one realised, but we changed that too.