Watch: We Interview The Founder Of De Grisogono

BY Harper's Bazaar Arabia / Dec 13 2017 / 20:25 PM

De Grisogono is the jewellery of choice for women who see life in colour. Press play to watch founder Fawaz Gruosi discuss the enduring appeal of gems

What’s her name?” asks Bodour Al Hilali, the 37-year-old founder of Dubai’s Belle Femme beauty salon business, as Fawaz Gruosi, the maestro-like jeweller behind de Grisogono, fastens a Dhs1.6 million necklace set with white and black diamonds around her neck. “I didn’t give her a name yet,” the 65-year-old admits thoughtfully.

Because in Fawaz’s world – and indeed in avid jewellery collector Bodour’s too – jewellery is most definitely female. “For me, a piece of jewellery is a woman,” Fawaz declares, explaining that he takes time to bestow a fitting moniker on a finished piece. “I have to give a name that goes with my mentality and my taste,” he smiles. Just occasionally, life imitates art, and now his three-month-old granddaughter shares a name with one of de Grisogono’s most celebrated collections, India. “It was the first time I saw emerald mixed with turquoise and that combination was so refreshing and pretty,” recalls Bodour of the ‘India’ collection, which also blends pink opals with diamonds set in rose gold in tribute to traditional mala flower garlands.

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

White and pink gold necklace with white diamonds and rubies, Dhs5,000,000; white and pink gold earrings with white diamonds and rubies, Dhs1,500,000, both de Grisogono. Top, Dhs1,640, Alice + Olivia


It was when Bodour started her salon business at the age of 19, establishing financial independence a few years later, that she truly began to appreciate the lure of fine jewellery, although she admits that she did not become a connoisseur over night. “When I was 22, I was able to afford to buy something nice for my mother for the first time,” she recalls. “So, I called up a friend who knew a good jeweller in Lebanon, and I bought her a ring, a teardrop diamond. I was so excited and I gave her the piece and she looks at it and she’s like, ‘How much did you spend on this?’ and I said, ‘$20,000’. She said, ‘You got ripped off. I hope you learned a lesson. This is an H. This has no clarity.’ I had no idea about clarity,” Bodour laughs. “Since then, I’ve been on it with her. She’s taught me really well. She’s helped me grow my jewellery collection, although we have a sharing-is-caring kind of deal too,” she winks. Now that she is building her own collection of jewellery and watches, Bodour is conscious of choosing designs that will span the generations. “You want to wear a piece and think, this is timeless, this is something I can give my daughter and she can wear it forever,” she says.

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

White gold earrings with emeralds and white diamonds, Dhs1,300,000, de Grisogono. Jacket, Dhs8,250, Dolce & Gabbana

It is Fawaz’s love of exuberant colour and opulence that prompted him to begin his own jewellery business, de Grisogono, in Geneva in 1993. At the time, the jewellery industry was dominated by sleek platinum and white diamonds, an anathema to the half-Lebanese, half-Italian jeweller’s innate love for colour. “People were telling me, ‘Are you crazy? What are you doing with this bold stuff?’” he recalls on debuting his signature extravagant designs. “And for the first two years I was miserable, depressed, because people were not understanding this style.” It is a style that mixes semi-precious with precious stones in abandon, spanning a rainbow of colours. Yet, ironically, it was his foray into the world of black diamonds in 1996 that made de Grisogono’s name, earning Fawaz the sobriquet, King of Black Diamonds.

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

Earrings with amethysts, emeralds and red sapphires, Dhs326,000; ring with one amethyst, red tourmalines, fuchsia sapphires and tsavorits, Dhs559,000, both de Grisogono. Top, Dhs1,270, Vince


“Everybody was laughing at me and saying it was ugly, the black diamonds, that I was cheating people because black diamonds are not worth money. Some people said it was bad luck.” He channelled his conviction of the beauty of the stone into a book, which serendipitously came out just as two major brands introduced black diamonds into their collections, and from that point onwards the fortunes of de Grisogono and its founder were in the ascendant. “Who said black diamonds were bad luck? They were very good luck for me,” he quips, “If I didn’t use back diamonds I might not be here.”

One questions whether that is actually the case, as Fawaz’s natural joie de vivre and ability to bring people together in celebration of life, beats as steadily at the heart of de Grisogono as do those inky stones. The jewellery marque’s annual party that he hosts during Cannes film festival is a riot of celebutantes from all walks of life – supermodels mingle with Hollywood heavyweights, and captains of industry with tech whizzkids. Having spent three years from the age of 30 working for Harry Winston in Saudi Arabia, followed by a stint with Bulgari in Europe, before branching out on his own, Fawaz has friends and clients – the two are interchangeable – across the globe. “I like to entertain people,” smiles the man who persuaded Sophia Loren to preside over the opening of his inaugural boutique in 1993. “Up until eight years ago I knew each client individually,” he asserts, admitting somewhat despondently, “now, it’s more difficult.”

In tandem with the rise of black diamonds and the reach of Fawaz’s little black book, the third string to de Grisogono’s bow, and arguably
the completion of the triumvirate contributing to its success, was a thawing of women’s attitudes to wearing jewellery after the aesthetic austerity of the 1990s. Initially, women would tell Fawaz, “‘I love it, but it’s too big. I don’t like to show off.’ So how come they dress to show off?” he wondered. “Slowly, slowly they started to buy it and love it. In the Middle East they appreciated it immediately, in Europe it took some time.”

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

White gold necklace with white and black diamonds, Dhs1,600,000; white gold earrings with white and black diamonds, Dhs2,600,000, both de Grisogono. Dress, Dhs9,300, Alexander McQueen.


Jewellery also underwent a shift from being an after-dark accoutrement to an everyday luxury. “It’s another world these days,” says Fawaz, “today you can wear diamonds with a pair of jeans. Women work and they wear jewellery and it looks very normal. Before it was almost terrible to wear jewellery during the day.”
Bodour Al Hilali – an avowed de Grisogono collector – inherited her love of jewellery from her Iraqi mother Yasmin Al Khalidy, who moved to the UAE in 1976.


“I’m the only child to a mother who is extremely passionate about jewellery. Since I was young, she would drag me and my father to jewellery stores all the time.”
The Ahmed Seddiqi boutiques in Dubai’s Wafi mall were a constant haunt for Yasmin and a somewhat reluctant teenaged Bodour.


“At the end of the day, I want to share that bond with her. She’s seven now so it’s going to take a while,” she laughs. Bodour, whose beauty business has grown to four salons, a home service and a hair creators academy, as well as two Saladicious eateries, represents a new generation of women who buy jewellery independently and intelligently. “We definitely don’t need the man or the parents,” she says.

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

White gold earrings with white diamonds, Dhs2,700,000, de Grisogono. Top, Dhs2,700, Tory Burch at Bloomingdale’s

“I mean obviously, there are occasions where your husband feels like he needs to step up, like an anniversary or something to show some sentimental value in the relationship, and maybe parents too. But women are so independent these days. Working women, women who own their own businesses – we don’t need someone to buy us jewellery and I’m actually starting to enjoy treating myself even more.”


Bodour and Fawaz share a similar core motivation when choosing or creating jewellery: passion. “From the small items to the most important one, there is love,” Fawaz says of de Grisogono’s oeuvre. “I never cared what it cost – I can’t say I was a big businessman – just what I have in my heart and my mind and my soul. I see other brands where you can feel they are not really giving a damn for the object itself, they just like to maximise the profit. This will never happen with me. I believe we are doing art, we are doing haute couture.” This almost primal instinct extends to Fawaz’s method for selecting gems. “When I see a stone, in a fraction of a second I see if she’s a medium or if she’s not good or if she’s something amazing,” he explains. “When I’m buying, I’m buying by feeling. I have an emotional feeling with the stone. I’m not even asking the price.”

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

White gold necklace with rubies, white diamonds and emeralds, Dhs3,000,000; white gold earrings with rubies, white diamonds and emeralds, Dhs2,300,000, both de Grisogono. Blazer, Dhs2,780, Alice + Olivia

Bodour agrees. “Whatever I buy it’s a love affair,” she smiles. “There’s a love connection immediately. You don’t say, ‘Oh I like it, I’ll buy it,’ like with a bag or a shoe. With jewellery, it’s a bond. From that moment you are starting a memory.”

That said, jewellery, and particularly high jewellery, is increasingly valued as an investment vehicle and Fawaz recognises that his customers now have far more insight into the potential value of a piece beyond its aesthetic appeal. “Of course they are buying for the beauty but they are also buying for the quality of the stone,” he says. “There are clients of mine who bought things 10 years ago and today that piece is worth at least double.”

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi shows his unique high jewellery necklace in white gold with white and black diamonds, Dhs1,600,000. Bodour Al Hilali wears: Ventaglio earrings with white and black diamonds, Dhs231,420; Ventaglio ring with black and white diamonds, Dhs124,260, both de Grisogono. Dress, Dhs2,750, Jonathan Simkhai at Bloomingdale’s - Dubai

Investment aside, it is essentially the de Grisogono spirit that keeps clients, such as Bodour, returning time and again for Fawaz’s colourful creations. “It’s his design and creativity when it comes to mixing colour together,” Bodour enthuses, “Rubies and diamonds and emeralds… I’m a sucker when it comes to emeralds,” she sighs.

“The green has always been around me. In my family green colour is good luck,” smiles Fawaz, who lived in Lebanon until he was six, when the passing of his father saw the family move back to his mother’s native Italy. “Colour gives you life, colour gives you happiness. If you see my mobile phone, I have maybe 500 pictures of the sky. Of nature, I have even more. I see life in colour.”

De Grisogono is the jeweller of choice for women who see life in colour. Its founder  Fawaz Gruosi discusses the enduring appeal of gems, with avid jewellery collector  Bodour Al Hilali

De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi shows his unique high jewellery necklace in white gold with white and black diamonds, Dhs1,600,000. Bodour Al Hilali wears: Ventaglio earrings with white and black diamonds, Dhs231,420; Ventaglio ring with black and white diamonds, Dhs124,260, both de Grisogono. Dress, Dhs2,750, Jonathan Simkhai at Bloomingdale’s - Dubai

His only regret is that he can’t wear his beloved creations himself. “I love jewellery. I wish I was a woman. In my next life I hope I will be a woman. My husband will be bankrupt,” he laughs.

Equally, beauty entrepreneur Bodour would adore to walk in Fawaz’s shoes. “I wish I was in his world,” she smiles, “but I’m happy in my world. I love bringing beauty and pampering to women.”

In the end, both answer a very human desire for aesthetic elevation. As Bodour concludes, “We prep the women for Fawaz to put the diamonds on them.”


Prices approximate. Photography: David Wang at MMG artist. Fashion director: Anna Castan. Model: Julia at MMG models. Make-up: Katharina at MMG artists. Hair: Diego Miranda at MMG artists. Fashion assistant: B Sulakshana