Fawaz Gruosi: The Famed Jeweller Is Back, Stronger Than Ever
The black diamond specialist talks to us about his new brand, his illustrious career and why he’s obsessed with Amber.
By Terence Ruis
To describe Fawaz Gruosi as “irrepressible” would be the understatement of the millennium. The famed jeweller, who grew up in Florence and is of Lebanese descent, cut his teeth as a sales assistant at Torrini, a Florentine jeweller. Not long after, his career bloomed as he joined Harry Winston — first in London, and then in the late 70s, Saudi Arabia — before being spotted by Gianni Bulgari himself.
Noting his talent, Bulgari took Gruosi all over the world to keep a look out for the brand’s VIP clientele. Later on, in 1993, he started de Grisogono, a company where he ceaselessly sought to bring the world new and creative ideas. He parted ways with the company in 2019, but never one to rest on his laurels, Gruosi is now back, more tenacious than ever, with his own eponymous brand and a boutique in glorious Mayfair, London. At 69 — he recently celebrated his birthday in Porto Cervo — his return to the limelight may be a surprise to some, but if you’re familiar with Fawaz Gruosi, you’d know that there’s very little that could hold him down. In fact, he counts famous stars such as Sharon Stone as fans of his work.
Here, we catch up with the icon to learn more about his illustrious career, new brand, and obsession with Amber. Read on for more.
Your career has been quite an incredible adventure. Tell us more about the new London boutique and what your plans are for it.
Indeed, it is an incredible adventure and this is why I want to continue finding new paths to create the jewellery that I love. London is a special place for me, it’s where my family is and it’s also a place where I feel at home. I wanted the London boutique to be close to my heart, this boutique is designed to be a very intimate space and it’s where I can show what I really love.
You championed black diamond before anyone else. And now you have a new-found passion for Amber. Surely, there’s a story behind this.
What I found most beautiful about Amber was the vibrant, warm colour all made possible by nature over the process of millions of years. A dear friend of mine introduced me to this material and I found it incredible: how it can preserve tiny flowers, seeds and insects from the past, it’s like a time capsule. There was something magical here. The Amber Collection is very personal to me, it’s about touch, about the sun, and there is something so special about this mysterious, ancient stone.
You are known for designing spectacular jewellery pieces with trailblazing designs. How would you describe your new collection?
I always do what I love. All my jewellery, it’s always about what I feel and like, and wanting to go further than the rest. I want my jewellery to feel different, but I also wanted it to represent me. I never think about what others are doing, I try to follow what we like at the atelier and I am always amazed by what we can do. Sometimes people will tell me that it is crazy or that a combination of stones will not work, but in the end it always works. I think this collection is exactly about this: doing what I love, what feels beautiful and gives emotion, it’s all very personal.
You have spoken about a “new mood” in jewellery. Can you enlighten us about what you mean by that?
I think what I am trying to express when I talk about a “new mood” in jewellery is that there is a new way of doing things. Things are more private now, more personal. This is something that feels good to me, I am able to feel a deeper connection with my clients and with the jewellery and I think that this is something they understand and appreciate as well.
You grew up in Florence and are of Lebanese descent. How important is the Italian heritage and craftsmanship in your latest collection?
I certainly think it plays an important role in my jewellery design. Many people have described my jewellery as “modern baroque” and this probably comes from my background. I was lucky to grow up in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance where there is a rich art culture.
My first job was working in a small jewellery boutique at the Ponte Vecchio, also known as the “jewellery bridge” since Medieval times after the butchers were replaced by the jewellery shops and then it became an important place for gold & jewellery shopping. The goldsmiths there are true artisans, many of them keep modernizing their traditional jewellery-making techniques so as to create original designs.
This is something I admire and I always remind myself of the importance of craftsmanship in creating my jewellery. Apart from Porto Cervo, Florence plays a big role in the way I imagine my creations. I like to play with colors and materials, as you can see easily from the Amber or Colorissima collections but also with lights, shapes, and proportions. And I think it is all these elements combined and make my design different.
For example, this monochrome ruby bracelet [above] looks simple but we had to overcome many challenges in order to achieve the final design. As you can see, it is all one uniform colour, not to mention these are all unheated rubies which are very rare, matching them in different sizes and cuts is even more difficult. To make sure it presents a harmonized red monotone, we spend extra time blackening all prongs to reduce the contrast between the gold and rubies.
[Editor’s Note: Mr Gruosi is the first jeweller in the industry doing this and since then, other jewellery brands follow in doing their high jewellery collection.]
To achieve this proportion and volume, it requires a certain weight of gold. On the other hand, the rubies will have to be cut slightly larger than those commonly used. The big challenge is to get the right shape & volume which shows these wavy lines of gemstone with a kind of layering effect. It not only formed a voluptuous look but the complex hybrid shape also allows the rubies to reflect lights at different angles and created a dynamic sparkling effect.
It’s something that is difficult to express with a sketch but it is something you can feel when you are making the jewel. The biggest challenge is to finish it with a flawless stone setting. When you touch it, you can feel the smoothness all the way around. To snow-set rubies on all these little wavy mountains is not easy and to get these slightly different shapes of baguette-cut rubies invisibly set along these wavy lines is even more difficult. It took 10 months of works & countless wax sculptures done in our Geneva atelier to perfect this piece.
Who are the clients of Fawaz Gruosi, what interest or passions do these ladies have all have in common?
I never try to create for a specific kind of client or woman. I create what I find beautiful and allow those who like my designs to come and follow me. You may tell from our first brand visual campaign, which showed how I wanted to stage anonymous muses, veiled in shadow, to enable the women’s imagination to wander in this dream-like universe. Adorned with sumptuous creations, in assertive and voluntary attitudes, sometimes informal and sometimes glamorous, these women are in the image of my creations, they are resolutely modern, audacious and confident.
How important is Asia in the development of the Fawaz Gruosi brand? How distinct are the requests and taste of your Asian clientele compared to the West?
Asia is always on my business map, and it has always been important for me. I still remember my first trip to Hong Kong, which is already close to 30 or 40 years ago. I remember the air, the smells, the colour, the culture and the way people dress and their style of wearing jewellery which is different than in Europe. It has inspired me a lot every time I visited. In the past, I had designed a watch (Be Eight) with a case shaped like a gourd which was inspired by the lucky number 8 in Chinese culture.
Now, I have also discovered that Amber means “Tiger’s Tears” or “Courage of the Tiger” in Chinese culture, and this is something which I find very interesting. I feel that for my Asian clients it is very important to have a personal approach to jewellery, my Asian clients look for unique pieces with exceptional craftsmanship and details that cannot be found anywhere. I had business in Asia for more than 20 years and many of those clients have now turned into close friends. I look forward to being able to travel to Asia again to present my jewels and would love to organise private meetings in Asia or invite clients to London once travelling is possible again.
When people talk about “luxury” to you, how do you describe it and how does it relate to you and your work?
I think luxury can mean many things, it’s always different for everybody. For me, and especially now with the situation in the world, it means taking the time to enjoy things. Taking the time to appreciate small things, like having an espresso al fresco and enjoying the sun, or enjoying the luxury of spending time with family or even going outside of your home.
Luxury is really about enjoying the details, in my work and in my jewellery, I want the client to appreciate these details. Everything we do is made to perfection, from the ideas to the setting and the choice of stones we make sure that all the details are there. Sometimes we forget to notice the details, but with the jewels in our collection, we always remember.
You used to travel across all continents to meet clients and suppliers in all major capital cities. This is obviously not possible for the time being. What has the Covid-19 pandemic taught you?
It has been very difficult, and I know that I am not the only one who has felt this way. I think we have had to adapt, we have had to prioritise what is most important: family, health, safety. The Covid-19 crisis has shown me that no matter what, there are some values that are the most important. With clients and suppliers I think that this has helped us become closer and understand each other. Of course, I can’t wait to be able to travel again and I am looking forward to coming back to human contact. Jewellery has always been about the personal element.
Why did you make London your current home, what drew you to settle in the British capital?
Well, I have been living here for the past few years. My family is here, my daughters and my grandchildren and I am happy that I get to spend time with them. London is also a very different city and I always find something new here. If it’s a bar or restaurant or if it’s discovering nature again in one of London’s parks while walking my dog, it is always a city which will show me something new. It’s a special city.
If you were to name one mentor who has greatly influenced you in your path and career, who would that be?
For more information about Fawaz Gruosi, click here.