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Czar Of Black Diamonds
Fawaz Gruosi of de Grisogono
By: Diamond World News Service
Feb 21 2015 6:11PM
Reference: 11204  

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Fawaz Gruosi, president, owner and founder of de Grisogono is one of the world’s most sought-after jewellers and watchmakers. A perfectionist and a risk taker in every right, Gruosi has changed the game of jewellery and watches and is the one who started with the trend of black diamonds. Priyanka Desai brings you his journey.

It’s a little known fact that Fawaz Gruosi is of Lebanese decent. Fawaz El Hajj, as he was known then, was born in Beirut on August 8, 1952 to a Lebanese father and an Italian mother. Unfortunately, his father passed away when he was just eight years old whereupon he moved to Italy. He spent his developmental years in Florence, surrounded by Italian culture and he also took up his mother’s last name so it was only ever foreseeable that he would feel more Italian than Middle Eastern. What was not foreseen then that he would make his mother’s last name, a global brand that commands awe and respect.

Apart from his fame as jeweller and watchmaker, he is also renowned for his celebrity parties. He dresses the part and looks every bit chic and luxe. But, once you meet him the one trait that strikes you is his quiet demenour. He is articulate but with a soft tone. He has the looks of a star with his naturally sleepy eyes. Once you are with him, you know that you are in the company of someone extremely important as his presence commands star struck state of mind.

His brand, de Grisogono is a giant player in the jewellery world, however what is most amazing is the speed at which Gruosi built his brand. The label and the architect behind it are highly renowned quantities after only around twenty years of business. That is indeed a very little amount of time to make a mark in the industry, which has giants like Cartier, which was established in 1847 and Bvlgari in 1884. Although for Gruosi, much of this speedy success can be credited to coloured diamonds, or black ones to be more precise.

While diamonds are obtainable in a wide range of colours the uncommon colour is black. Notwithstanding the fact that, historically, these stones were never really accepted or appreciated, the black diamond gets its dark colour because of deficiencies ascending from graphite inclusions that truly absorb the light. Gruosi imperiled his complete business by purchasing up huge stocks of these stones. It was a stake that paid off generously. Talking about the risk, he shares, “That was the time, when fashion need novelty. Back in 1997 I was reading a book and I came across a beautiful black stone of 190 carats called ‘Black Orlov’. I was fascinated by its colour and I wanted to know more. I was astonished to know it was a diamond that had minute inclusions, which, in professional terms, gives it a jet-black hue and a certain mystery. Apparently they had a moment of popularity in the 1930s but their rarity and the difficulty in cutting them restrained the enthusiasm of the specialists at the time.”

He further added, “I set about visiting diamond mines across the sphere aiming to collecting enough stones to create a collection of jewels unique in the world. The problem was that even when I got enough diamonds, no one wanted to cut them because they are so tricky.”

Any new innovation is criticized and lacks support in the market but Gruosi did not give up. “It was a risky gamble betting on a virtually unknown stone. For three years I got a lot of criticism, they would say I am cheating people because these stones were worth zero. They would say it is just ugly. I was suffering, you have no idea, and it got to the point where I was not even going out in Geneva anymore. But after two years I was sanctified by the competition. Cartier and Chanel started using black diamonds in their collections, too,” he explained.

Gruosi is now a favourite of celebrities and royal families but he didn’t always have it this luxe. When asked about his earlier life and foray into the industry, he takes us down the memory lane, “I started to work in a jewellery shop in Florence at 18 and in fact I was made to clean up at first. I think I was probably the best shop cleaner because I would perform all my duties so quickly and efficiently just so that my friends did not see me in action (laughs). Anyway then I worked my way up and seven years later I was asked to oversee the opening of a new store in London and then I was made store director for four years.”

Talking about his further journey, he says, “When I was 30 years old the Alireza family of Saudi Arabia hired me to become the official representative of Harry Winston in the Kingdom. At that time, Saudi Arabia was the most important market in the world for any jeweller. I thoroughly enjoyed myself during those three years after which I went to Bvlgari where I stayed until the departure of Gianni Bulgari.”

However, originality may get your foot in the door, it is quality that keeps you there and in this respect de Grisogono cannot be questioned. Gruosi is a perfectionist that does not believe in adhering to conventions. While many other jewellers let the prize jewel to take centre stage by staging it a subtle support of courtesy gems, a de Grisogono piece is highly more multifaceted. Creative, bold, extravagant yet flawlessly artistic and wearable, his formations piqued the fancy of both enthusiasts and women who were longing for something truly out-of-the-box.His ingenious style and his passion for perfection led to further advances. The ‘Icy Diamonds’, which are milky diamonds whose moon-like colour and sparkle, an inner veil outwardly softens. Then there were the watches. De Grisogono forayed into watches with many spectacular launches. Gruosi was the first in the watchmaking and jewellery world to have presented, in 2000, ladies’ watches with bracelets made of shagreen or galuchat, a material made from the skin of the rayfish that looks like foamy leather.

The label is known for its famous Grisogono settings and requested to let us know more. To this he answered, “For me I do not care about how much money something will cost me to make, I want it to be perfect in every way. I want it to be a talking piece so when you go out to dinner people will notice. For example, one of de Grisogono's trademarks is the pave technique of embellishment, where small matching stones are set together to form a bejewelled pavement. The stones are packed so tightly the gold or platinum base is barely visible. The effect is of a fluid surface of shimmering stone. This could even include parts of the jewellery that move, such as a chain of a necklace, a technically complex process.”

Though Gruosi commenced de Grisogono with two associates it was not long before he acquired their stakes. Later the Scheufele family, the owners of Chopard and also Gruosi’s in-laws, bought a 49 per cent stake in his company. But since 2007 Fawaz Gruosi acquired that stake too and now he is alone at the helm. The prospect of the brand has never looked better.

The industry today is becoming more and more corporate and is very rare to find someone who truly loves gems, jewels and watch making. But, we were lucky to have a rendezvous with one such individual, Gruosi. When asked to share the secret behind his success, he states, “I love what I do and that helps very much, I mean many of the other jewellers out there are not really jewellers; they are more like merchants of stones. It is sort of crazy how I started with relatively no money. I mean even if someone gave me 10 to 15 million Euros today to try and do it I do not think I could. I do not know how it even happened. What I do know is that I work very, very hard at my job, I took a lot of risks and I believed in myself.”

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