CEO of Gübelin
Raphael Gübelin is the fourth of his lineage to helm the eponymous gem and jewellery atelier. The Gübelin Group is widely regarded to be the world’s foremost authority in coloured gemstones, hence the almost century old Gübelin Gem Lab; providing unbiased certification of the gemstones of any customer or auction house. The most recent Gübelin line, Sparks of Fire, is inspired by inclusions within rubies, emeralds and sapphires that give them a character of their own; in Gübelin’s own words, like fingerprints unique to each owner. In his recent trip to Malaysia, he opened up about the direction he wishes to steer his family’s company towards, his personal vision of what Gübelin should offer the world from mine to market.
Gemology is like art or wine, it’s not easy to understand. You have to have knowledge, and you have to understand the artist to then understand what has been created. In contrast, diamonds are easy to understand, which is why they are so popular.
On gems as jewellery
Today you want to create a look, not stick to a uniform. My wife said this to me, which is why she wears colourful Gübelin jewellery with almost anything, every single day. Sometimes even prototype jewellery, to see how it looks, fits or works. On my side, we try to create something for a customer with meaning. Three gemstones in a particular piece to represent three children, for example.
On jewellery design
We are very classical and traditional when it comes to jewellery design, but we are perfectionists. If we set a gemstone, we have to design the space in such a way that light is able to reflect brilliantly. You need to know these things, alongside other criteria such as comfort level. Details and high craftsmanship, these set us apart.
On the business
We’ve always been more concerned with what is inside, not out. It has been this way since we started out as a watch repair company in 1854. As a jeweller, one of the key things our customers expect is to be able to trust us. Selection of quality gemstones is not to be taken lightly, so we’ve always had to have the gem expertise to inform a customer of what he is buying. And it must be the best. And when you talk of individuality, if a customer requests a custom piece, you can be sure I will never recreate it for anyone else.
On the brand
All of our lines are always going to be inspired by gemstone inclusions, from the inside. Eduard Gübelin laid the stage for this, and I believe this is the way we are going. A luxury brand always need a real story, a true story. This is my family, and this is a part of me.
On joining the family business
Working elsewhere before joining Gübelin was something my parents allowed me to do. I was never forced. I was fascinated by the work that the company does, but I enjoyed numbers so I went first and made sure I was good at that and could bring something back. At the end of the day, I liked having a product in my hand. I always want to be innovative. It helped that I was not educated in the typical way, watchmaker first and then jeweller or gemologist. My perspective, was that of a consumer. How does a consumer appreciate Gübelin products?
On his father
When I talk to my father, who is a jeweller by training, he doesn’t necessarily understand the customer’s point of view. This was a challenge for him, but he also realised that in order for the company to be sustainable, change is inevitable. I was able to be direct with him because I know he will eventually forgive me, you may not be able to do this with a typical boss. At the end you still sit down and have dinner together. I can change things to a point where the next generation has to take over, and if I don’t allow that the company will die. I strongly believe in this. The next generation will bring more changes, most of which I won’t understand but I accept it.