– Robaird O’Cearbhaill
Hong Kong Correspondent
Catholic Social Teaching “holds that work is dignified and is an intrinsic good, and workers must always be respected and valued.” While at the Hong Kong Jewelry and Gem Fair, O Clarim talked to high-end jewelry makers about their art, craftsmanship, trade, and how much Catholicism meant to them.
Gaetan Pinot, is owner of Schmittgall Groupe, Pacoma Jewelry, largest provider of cultured pearls in France and a substantial diamond jewelry manufacturer in Europe.
Kindly tell me about what you are in the jewelry industry.
The company began in 1926 when pearls were at a peak. Pearls are important especially every time I see a woman wearing them. Let us see. I enjoy the designs even though I must sell them. I enjoy selling my creation to women. In Paris, I am happy when I see someone with one of my pieces. I always note my jewelry; I can always recognise them. They are unique and they stand out. Creation? I am not alone in the office, but I see what I like. Where I go I know, I can feel, and I can smell. For example, the Chinese market, I know what they want and how they think. Shanghai is a very interesting and quite a big city with ten million locals and no white people. I smell the culture (then what they will like).
Tell me more about the art in making your jewelry, the design process.
I have many photos in my office – a photo wall. There, I am given ideas for a new collection. I have worked on 20 collections, 10 pieces each.
Why is being a Catholic important in your life?
It guides my life, my family, and my company. One of my responsibilities is to give money to my staff to help them have a good life.
Tell us about your family – wife and kids.
My wife is a psychologist but we don’t discuss work, but we are (we believe) good parents because the kids are successful. We have four boys, and the eldest is 24. He is an engineer at Ernst and Young, a top international audit accounting firm, and went to the very prestigious Ecole Central. The second, aged 21, is fine in San Diego, California. The 18 year old is training cuisine gastronomique at the Paul Bocuse Institute in Montreal, Canada (Bocuse, French international celebrity three star Michelin chef.) The youngest is 14 and wants to be an engineer, too. They feel good in their shoes and they work or worked hard in school.
Gregoire Garcia is head of sales of Marcel Masson Robbez, largest manufacturer of jewelry in France and European production.
Summarise your business, please.
We are a jewelry manufacturer in a very commercial area – ball jewelry, chains, broaches, rings – the biggest in France and substantial, too, in the European market. Our factory is in Portugal. We have 2,000 workers. Our materials are gold and many more, with moving value every day and moving costs up and down. Our turnover is around 200 million Euros and our competition are Italian manufacturers.
Why are you in jewelry manufacturing? What are your motivations?
I am always positive at work. I am fortunate that I came into this industry, jewelry, by chance. I appreciate what I do at work.
How much has Catholic education formed you?
To check that I have a mother who is a very devoted Catholic, the love of my mother was from the Church. I love being with my family, with a good wife and two kids who are successfully independent.
Rocco Pizzo, son of Leo Lizzo, is from Valenza, Italy. He is senior executive of Leo Lizzo jewelry
Tell me what motivates you to make fine jewelry? Was it just because you were born into your father’s business?
For us, high level jewelry industry is not market and value. Doing good at making jewelry to be happy and satisfied, to see our jewelry pieces, happens so many times. Take diamonds, a main specialty. A diamond has to be underground for a very long time (1-2 more billions of years) and 10,000 kilos mined from earth to get 1 carat, reduced and cut into shape.
Do you only use natural diamonds and not synthetic manufactured ones?
Yes, we only use natural ones.
Why do you do that? The synthetic ones are much less expensive.
Quality. We must keep our brand image, our quality. If we don’t only sell natural diamonds, we lose all that. We sell quality of standard, we reach a standard. So we don’t go by price.I can see Italy from a distance, it has an international presence. Sometimes, there is too much metal in the jewelry, too much cutting, too complex. Italians and others, too, like simplified things. Italians like simple, good things. We like to design and not add complexity,
You are showing me one. The flower gold and diamond earrings are simple but complex in the stones; there are so many diamonds. How many diamonds are here? What is your philosophy behind this piece and materials in the collection, and what is the cost?
I don’t know how many diamonds (obviously dozens). Simple piece but beautiful. Our approach and style are inspired by the appearance of the camellia flower and is 5.54 carats and is 16 carat gold.
Tell me about the business. How much does it cost to manufacture and retail? Where are your shops and sellers?
Our core business is ninety nine per cent manufacturing. We have retail shops in Italy, in Venice, Rome, and Taormina. We go to five jewelry fairs every year.The biggest, number one is in Basel, Switzerland; number two is in Doha, Qatar; and number three is in Valenza, Italy where we are based; and number four are Napoli (Naples, Italy) and Las Vegas.
What is the price range of your products and where are the international markets?
We are high-value jewelry producers. The lowest jewelry pieces are two thousand Euros and the highest we sold was one million Euros. That was to an Arabian Gulf customer. The biggest markets are Europe, Italy and one third of our sales are to the rest of the world, including New York and Las Vegas.
How much has Catholic upbringing and education been important in your life? Any Catholic advice for marriage from unmarried priests and counselors, how does that work?
I don’t want to make you burst into my bubbles for people to see, but I am a spiritual person that is where morals come from. I have a very Catholic mother and from her I had a very Catholic education. I assume she must be in heaven. We keep traditional Church rules like eating fish on Friday. Catholic teaching, you must love. If you don’t agree with the other side, don’t be fundamentalists like the Taliban. A priest or unmarried marriage counselor can give good advice. It’s like a general from a distance with binoculars giving orders from the top of a hill, fresh, sensible advice. Confession makes you happy, so that is why you do that. The Vatican is the last empire facing dramatic challenges in management. Love the pope. Love each other. Love is much more than most people. You only live to be kind.