Henri Barguidjian: Jewel In The Crown
by sarah khan
|Diamond necklace with 45-carat aquamarine|
When you’re born into the sixth generation of a family of jewelers, do you ever consider another career? “No,” says Graff USA president and CEO Henri Barguirdjian with a laugh. “I was born into it and it’s been my life ever since. It was absolutely fascinating, and it became like a virus.”
That virus led Barguirdjian to positions at Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels before Laurence Graff lured him away to head Graff’s new US operations. “It’s been really fun to have the opportunity to build the business from scratch,” he says. “At the beginning I worked out of my study, then we had a small office and here we are nine years later with six stores across the country, employing 100 people.”
But these successes aren’t enough for Barguirdjian, who has high expectations for Graff’s future. Plans include solidifying and maintaining the brand’s existing interests and expanding to the West Coast. Barguirdjian also expects Graff’s recently launched line of watches to bring in new business, a belief shared by the company’s Bal Harbour boutique manager, Susan Pullin. “The watch collection consists of models in various metals and complications,” she says. “From a very simple yet elegant dial of the Graffstar to an all-diamond Graffsuperstar, there is certainly a piece to suit every taste. Every collector will have to have one.”
Pullin also says that this city is the ideal environment for the splendid jewels. “Miami is all about warm weather and a tropical colorful environment,” says Pullin. “Chandelier earrings in diamond and other colorful precious stones are unmistakably Graff—and our clients love them.”
Graff is also committed to philanthropic endeavors, particularly through its FACET (For Africa’s Children Every Time) initiative. Since the vast majority of the company’s diamonds come from Africa, Graff felt it should give back to the continent. And remarkably, the recession hasn’t slowed progress. “I’m very happy to report that we have reached numbers that I never thought we would this year,” says Barguirdjian. “The only business that has been able to sustain growth is the very high end, because the very affluent American consumer realizes that diamonds are a rare commodity and they retain value, even in hard times.”
While celebrities have long donned Graff gems for galas, photo shoots and red-carpet walks—everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Victoria Beckham has been adorned in the jewels, and Melania Trump’s eye-popping 12-carat engagement ring is a Graff stunner—Barguirdjian doesn’t sell and tell. “If clients would like to tell the whole world they’re buying Graff jewelry, I’m very happy to hear that, but I respect their privacy,” he says. “I never talk about my clients; that’s the golden rule of a good jeweler.”
His family must be proud.
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.