Video: How black diamonds elevated and ruined the beloved jewelry brand of Russian oligarchs: de Grisogono
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 13:10
He was called "the king of black diamonds", he introduced the millionaires of Saudi Arabia to European jewelry, introduced the fashion for luxurious jewelry watches that drove the friends of Russian oligarchs crazy … Fawaz Gruosi, the son of a truck driver from Beirut, reached unattainable heights - a successful businessman who became a renowned jeweler … But 2020 turned out to be a fatal year for his enterprise. The reason was a political scandal in distant Angola and a rare black diamond.
Fawaz Gruosi was born in 1952 in Beirut, but spent his childhood in Florence, a city imbued with the spirit of art. In his youth, he dropped out of school to work as a sales assistant at a nearby jewelry store. And not at all because he was so attracted to jewelry - Fawaz simply got married against the will of his parents, they refused to support him, and the young man was forced to feed his family. In the boutique, however, the courteous Gruosi was appreciated, and a couple of years later he was appointed manager of the London branch of the company. And then the ambitious young man was noticed by Harry Winston - and for four years he represented their interests in Saudi Arabia, communicating with the richest people in the Middle East.
Then he was invited to work by Gianni Bulgari himself. Under Gruosi, the company made a real leap, the number of boutiques increased several times. But once the glamorous life, deals and champagne with the rich bored Fawaza Gruosi. He decided that it was time to go on a free voyage … He founded de Grisogono with three more partners - the name was suggested by one of them, recalling his mother's maiden name. But the partnership did not work out, and Fawaz Gruosi was left alone. He was forty years old when he created his first jewelry. While picking up stones, Gruosi came across a photograph of the Orlov black diamond. The mystical color and shimmer of the stone fascinated him. He devoted all his life to promoting jewelry brands, saw all the latest jewelry collections, but no one in his memory used black diamonds. So it was a chance!
Gruosi bought the first batch of black diamonds - incredibly cheap. No one believed that these strange stones could be liked by anyone. However, his first independent collection - only three pieces of jewelry - did not even appear in the window. It was bought by the master's friends. And already the next batch of diamonds was much larger than the first …
Thanks to Fawaz Gruosi, the value of black diamonds has skyrocketed twenty times. Now it will not be possible to buy a batch of these stones in South Africa "cheaply" - diamonds of this shade have become unattainable for many young jewelry brands. He decorated watches, clothes, "toys for adults" and even mobile phones with black diamonds. An Ericsson phone encrusted with precious stones has become a symbol of the 90s - luxury, bordering on bad taste.
Gruosi, having vast experience of work, decided not to follow trends, but to create them. He stated that the only rule of the de Grisogono brand would be creative freedom. No framework, no “target audience research”, no stifling “good taste”. In the years when kitsch and ostentatious wealth ruled the design world, de Grisogono became a cult brand with its bold, innovative approaches. The Moscow oligarchs and their companions especially appreciated the jewelry watches from Gruosi. But not only - secular lionesses, Hollywood stars and young rebels could not resist the dark charm of black diamonds. Naomi Campbell, Natalie Portman, Bella Hadid. Kim Kardashian, Irina Shayk, Cara Delevingne - this is an incomplete list of de Grisogono clients.
Gruosi created up to five hundred unique pieces of jewelry a year - unprecedented productivity for a jeweler. His youthful rebellious marriage did not last long. Today Fawaz Gruosi is married to one of the most influential women in the jewelry world, Vice President of Chopard Caroline Scheufele. Chopard has supported de Grisogono many times during crises … but in 2020, the "kings of black diamonds" still could not stay afloat.
Not so long ago, a real crime drama broke out around de Grisogono, the result of which was the bankruptcy of the enterprise. For two decades, Fawaz Gruosi was the sole owner of the company's shares. However, in 2012, he made an extremely strange deal - he sold a controlling stake … to the daughter of the President of Angola, Isabel dos Santos. The fortune of a woman and her husband is billions of dollars. At first, there were no significant changes for the jewelry house, everything went on as usual, stars appeared on the red carpet wearing a necklace with black diamonds, new collections of jewelry watches came out …
In 2017, the first scandal occurred. At Christie's Geneva auction for thirty-three million dollars, a luxurious necklace with a magnificent 163 carat black diamond went under the hammer. During the auction, gemologist Yanni Melas went on a hunger strike. He stated that the proceeds from the sale of Art of de Grisogono should go to the construction of a children's hospital in Angola, and not to the pocket of dos Santos. Isabelle said that this is a political attack on her personally. But this story did not pass without leaving a trace and caused a wave of public outrage.
In 2020, it turned out that the jewelry house was indeed involved in a major financial scandal. De Grisogono received funding through shell companies around the world, and Ms Isabel dos Santos and her husband are guilty of money laundering. Their assets were frozen by the Angolan government. The brand's reputation was destroyed and things went badly. A series of litigations eventually led to the bankruptcy of the company. First, the owners tried to sell de Grisogono, then bankruptcy proceedings were launched. But that's not all - Gruosi himself said that he had nothing to do with the brand for over a year … This is how the story of the "kings of black diamonds" de Grisogono ends - but, of course, not Fawaz Gruosi himself, who is still able to surprise the jewelry world.