That Suriyon Sriorathaikul, managing director of Thailand’s leading high jewellery manufacturer Beauty Gems, would do anything other than join the family business established by his parents in 1964 was never in doubt. Born into the sparkling world of precious stones, he admits to being entranced by jewellery at a young age. “I think from the time I was three I knew what I wanted to do.”
Groomed to appreciate the beauty of jewels, Suriyon received a practical early education in the subject. He often found himself in his mother’s walk-in safe when she was cleaning and sorting an array of precious gems. “Whenever any stones fell on the floor, which wasn’t often, my task was to help my mother pick them up,” he laughs. “She would give me money for each stone I retrieved: 50 baht for a semi-precious stone, 100 baht for a ruby and so on. She would tell me something about each stone as I handed it back. In this way I quickly learned to identify the various gems and the different types of cut and I gained a rudimentary understanding of their respective values.”
Suriyon graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in business but given his interest in all things gemstone, his next move saw him enrol at the Gemological Institute of America in California. Once qualified as a certified gemologist, he came home and joined the family business at the age of 22.
Since its foundation 54 years ago, Beauty Gems has developed from a modest enterprise to become a respected business associated with traditionally refined and meticulous Thai craftsmanship. “We have expanded significantly since then and our revenue has increased tenfold since I joined the company. I maintain a very active role in terms of designing jewellery for our own Beauty Gems brand and overseeing the lines we create for our export customers around the world, of which there are almost a hundred,” says Suriyon. “I think we are very lucky to have a resurgent jewellery industry as a key contributor to our economy. Last year it brought in over US$12 billion in revenue, ranking it third in exports behind the electronic goods and automotive industries.”
The vibrancy of the local and global jewellery industries in recent years has enabled Beauty Gems to expand operations in its core business to 10 jewellery workshops and four retail outlets employing around 3,000 people. The family firm has also diversified to include subsidiary concerns such as golf courses, an asset insurance company and a community mall. “In fact, the group currently comprises 48 individual businesses but we all chip in to make it manageable,” the executive explains.
The Sriorathaikul clan work well as a team, each with their own role and set of responsibilities within the organisation. So while Suriyon oversees the finance, marketing and design functions at Beauty Gems, his brother Surasit looks after the group as a whole in his position as president, while their father Pornsit remains an active group chairman at the age of 70. “My mother, on the other hand, who has always had an unerring eye for beautiful design, has retired now,” says her 45-year-old son. He adds, “I love waking up in the mornings and going to work. This is a beautiful business and I am fortunate enough to be a part of it. What I love about what I do is being able to create beauty that eventually becomes a part of someone’s memory, a significant moment in their lives, be it an engagement, a marriage or a birthday anniversary.”
Suriyon has also ventured into some of his own projects, including the launch of multi-brand beauty store Beauty 24 with friends. With so much success, it is easy to become engulfed in the life of moneymaking but the managing director highlights the importance of doing business the right way. “For me success means nothing if you lack morals and transparency,” he says. Suriyon’s role models in life include His Majesty the late King Bhumibol for his unwavering adherence to ethics and his integrity and hard work, and his own parents, without whom he says neither the company nor he would be where they are today.
In addition to being a successful businessman, Suriyon is also a proud father. He and his Indonesian-born wife Mega have two sons, one soon to turn 18 and the other already 20. The executive admits he sometimes struggles to balance time between work and family. “We can’t have it all,” he laughs. Considering Beauty Gems is a family enterprise, can we expect his children to join the firm as he did? “It would be nice because a fresh and younger take on things helps to keep the company current,” he says. “It would be a pity if they didn’t show an interest after what has been established but I wouldn’t force them to carry on the family legacy. It’s up to them what they wish to do in life.”
On another note, Suriyon and Mega are known for hosting some of the city’s most luxurious and glamorous parties. But behind the glitz and glam of the high jewellery industry and the whirl of elite society is a man who cares deeply about giving back to society. An issue that became close to his heart was the absence of laws and structures to prevent the sexual exploitation of children in Thailand. This resulted in Suriyon becoming involved with the establishment of the Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation with Sven Philip-Sorensen, an adviser to His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden. The foundation seeks to assess, combat and prevent all forms of child abuse and to protect victims of child labour, trafficking, sexual abuse and commercial sex exploitation.
“Back then there were very few laws to combat particularly the sexual exploitation of children in Thailand, which made child trafficking very easy,” Suriyon explains. However, through the foundation’s advocacy things have changed—to the point where today the country has a raft of legislation in place to fight scourges such as paedophilia and child pornography. “It was something I had to do. I mean, there I was with young children. How was I meant to look them in the face if I didn’t help in some way? These issues often seem remote when in fact they are very close but hidden from plain sight. And even when a law is passed, it needs to be enacted and effectively implemented. I make it my mission to help raise awareness on this issue whenever I can.”
In what little spare time he can engineer for himself, Suriyon likes to relax by swimming, reading books and watching movies. He confesses to a particular fondness for modelling for photo shoots. “I fly all the time for business reasons but I also like to travel to different places for photo shoots. I find it fun and relaxing,” he laughs. And which destinations are still on his bucket list? “Oh, so many. I want to visit Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Alaska, Bora Bora…and I want to explore the Great Barrier Reef. These are all beautiful places and you can never have too much beauty in your life.”
Photography: Jakrapong Chumneankul
Styling: Sachon Kunajiramedt
Hair & Make-Up: Tiyanon Kamtawai|
Location: Bangkok Marriott, The Surawongse