Cover Story: The Cut And Polished Jimmy Mouawad
Young Jimmy Mouawad has much to live up to in the way of family legacy. His great great grandfather David Mouawad—a talented goldsmith, jeweller and watchmaker—put down the roots of what is today a thriving global gem and jewellery enterprise in his native Lebanon in the early 1900s. In turn great grandfather Fayez expanded the business to include the patronage of Saudi royalty and grandfather Robert took the company truly international by setting up headquarters in Switzerland and breaking into the North American and Far Eastern markets.
The fourth generation co-guardians of the business, as they like to refer to themselves, are Jimmy’s father Fred and his uncles Pascal and Alain Mouawad. From head offices in Geneva and Dubai and manufacturing facilities in Bangkok they oversee a brand that has become synonymous with the finest jewellery money can buy. In fact in the last two decades the Mouawad portfolio has included record-setting pieces such as the stellar Mouawad Splendor, which at US$12.8 million was the most expensive pear-shaped diamond of its day, the 1001 Nights clutch purse festooned with US$3.8 million worth of diamonds, the spectacular diamond-encrusted Very Sexy Fantasy Bra created at a cost of US$11 million for lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, and the Mouawad L’Incomparable diamond necklace. In 2013 this piece, which boasted the huge 407-carat flawless L’Incomparable diamond, was said to be the most valuable item of its kind in the world.
Behind The Scenes: What's It Like To Be A Mouawad With Jimmy Mouawad
As early as 1997 Fred, Alain and Pascal were cementing the company’s industry legacy by securing the naming rights to the newly built Gemological Institute of America (GIA) campus at Carlsbad, California. In recognition of their father the brothers chose to call it the Robert Mouawad Campus at GIA. There is a nice symmetry at play here because following high school at College du Leman in Geneva and a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship from Hult International Business School in London and San Francisco, Jimmy Mouawad is pursuing his gemological degree at the very same campus that honours his grandfather.
Not that this august pedigree shows signs of putting the 23-year-old, who was born and raised in Bangkok, under any noticeable pressure. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he exhibited a touch of nervousness about the whole interview process, something that hints at his comparatively tender age and relative newness to such things, but he moves easily from enthusiastic coltishness to a calmer, more considered mien as he warms to his themes. In fact, possessed of a natural confidence that derives from an international upbringing and a culturally diverse education, he is quietly assertive in his opinions but open to being contradicted and quick to smile on such occasions.
It's evident I have some rather big shoes to fill and a duty of care to the family business, but one day I would like to branch out on my own.
— Jimmy Mouawad
That Jimmy is influenced by his father Fred is not in doubt. The most obvious physical trait the young man has inherited is height—like his dad he tops the 6ft mark with inches to spare—but in many more ways he is his father’s son. “Sure, he’s my role model. I call him the serial entrepreneur,” he laughs. “I am constantly amazed at how he keeps on top of everything, not just with the jewellery business but the many other companies in his Synergia Group. He works very hard and is a great example of where perseverance will take you. It’s evident I have some rather big shoes to fill and a duty of care to the family business, but like him one day I would like to branch out on my own. The best way to prepare for that eventuality is to knuckle down, learn from the best people at Mouawad and focus on growing the company.”
The entrepreneurial learning curve for Jimmy actually began back in 2013 when he and Fred attended a Harvard legacy programme designed to help captains of industry pass their businesses on to the next generation. Although he has yet to finish his pandemic-interrupted studies at the GIA, the ambitious and philanthropically-minded young man officially joined the family firm last year and almost immediately proved the adage that the acorn never falls far from the tree by establishing the Mouawad Diamond Impact Fund.
“Basically I wanted to do something worthwhile business-wise but also something that would be beneficial for society. That’s really how the impact fund came about. Sustainability is essential for any organisation and Mouawad has always sought ways to ensure it is embedded in everything we do. The fund brings a new dimension to sustainability by giving back to the people who really matter to our business. Our mission is to create value by bettering the lives of underprivileged communities across the globe—particularly the places from which we source our diamonds—through education and skill development,” Jimmy explains, adding, “I truly believe that just as a diamond’s journey to brilliance is shaped by time and a collaborative process, so human potential can be shaped to illuminate the future.”
Under the auspices of the non-profit diamond impact fund—and in cooperation with the South African State Diamond Trader—to date six craftsmen from South Africa have received training at Mouawad’s Bangkok diamond manufacturing facility. Three have already gone on to secure gem-cutting and polishing positions in the jewellery industry back home. And Jimmy appreciates their abilities, having already dipped his own toe in jewellery design waters with pieces for Mouawad and for charitable sale to raise capital for the diamond impact fund. “I am very passionate about design,” he smiles. “And I am lucky to be able to tap into that through the family business. The world is constantly changing and while I think jewellery should be timeless, I personally like designing riskier pieces and exploring different marketing routes to appeal to a younger audience.”
That Jimmy thinks deeply about the business is manifest in his philosophy on life, which is adapted from the famous four Cs of the diamond world: cut, clarity, colour and carat. “I call it Jimmy’s Four Cs,” he laughs. “Cut is the way in which we shape each facet of our lives at different stages. Colour—no matter your race or socio-economic background, you’re still able to shine as bright as a diamond. Clarity—how you envision yourself, your goals, your work ethic and how clearly you see your path in life. Lastly, carat refers to the weight of purpose in your life and the happiness you bring to yourself and others.”
I'm just getting started in the gemstone and jewellery business and my best is yet to come.
— Jimmy Mouawad
Although one might think this is a young gent who lives and breathes diamonds, Jimmy is very much his own man with diverse interests. A taekwondo black belt and avid scuba diver (who confesses to missing the waters of the Maldives), he is also a foodie and loves traversing the globe to discover different cultures and new cuisines. When asked to pick an alternative career he surprises us by saying, “I’m just getting started in the gemstone and jewellery business and my best is yet to come, but if I had to do something else I’d be a biologist. There’s something about the human anatomy that fascinates me—all those tiny atoms that make up the human form…amazing.”
If the coronavirus pandemic has taught Jimmy anything it is the need for unity. “The priority for us has always been our staff and customers. Early in the year we had to adapt to challenges rapidly and put in place the right measures to protect everyone and minimise risks. But I think what is clear is that we are stronger together. This is exemplified in one of our most iconic pieces, the US$5 million Power of Unity crown made by Mouawad for the 2019 Miss Universe pageant. We have just followed that up with the unveiling of the Power of Authenticity crown for the 2020 Miss Universe Thailand beauty pageant. Featuring an array of precious gems, it speaks of a commitment to keeping perspectives real in these times of uncertainty and encourages optimism for better days ahead.”
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