17 May 2018

GemGenève: a recipe for success

If ever you dreamed of a first-rate jewelry fair with a friendly, even family atmosphere on a human scale, GemGenève is the one.

 

Its founders Ronny Totah and Thomas Faerber were determined from the outset that GemGenève would be the antithesis of “Baselworld”, the jewelry show where they have exhibited every year since the 1970s. They wanted no truck with gigantism and its problems for small-scale exhibitors, overwhelmed by juggernaut companies and ever-vaster stands.

 

Founders of the first water

Ronny Totah and Thomas Faeber, assisted by their respective daughters Nadège and Ida, brought 147 exhibitors together in under nine months. Both are experienced Geneva-based dealers. Thomas Faerber also has branches in New York, Antwerp and Hong Kong, and has sold historic stones and pieces including Empress Marie-Louise’s emerald set (bought by the Musée du Louvre). Ronny Totah, Vice President of the Association Suisse des Négociants en Pierres Précieuses (Swiss association of precious stone dealers), is one of the Place Vendôme’s accredited stone suppliers. A considerable connoisseur in Kashmir sapphires, he has had dealings with the very rarest, including the largest known to date: a specimen of 65 carats.

 

Wide variety of exhibitors

Antique and vintage jewelry dealers rubbed shoulders with jewelers, well-known and more cloistered designers, historians, gemology laboratories and even Geneva’s rare book specialist Bernard Letu. All generations were represented, from the 90-year-old fine pearl dealer Paul Fischer to French designer Emmanuel Tarpin, a mere 25. The unobtrusive Robert Procop presented a preview of his second collection in collaboration with Angelina Jolie, and the Italian jeweler Fabio Salini his carbon fiber pieces. Showcases and safes were bursting with Golconda diamonds, over-the-top emerald and diamond sets, pieces by Suzanne Belperron, David Webb, René Lalique, Sterlé and more. Truly bedazzling…

 

Top-drawer visitors

Among the 4,300 visitors, half of whom were international, I came across heritage directors from major companies seeking the one piece missing from their archives, and creative directors nosing out the latest trends. I hailed Mr Arikawa, a leading collector I met a few months ago in Tokyo. The mysterious JAR, long-time friend of Thomas Faerber, and the Indian jeweler Viren Bhagat also made the trip, while representatives of top Asian trade fairs made a return journey to test the waters. Ronny Totah and Thomas Faeber couldn’t have hoped for more!

 

Where did all the palpable enthusiasm and good humor come from?

Exhibitors and visitors alike were relaxed, smiling and approachable. Even JAR seemed happy to be there, taking his time moving from one artist to another. The show brought together a community of devoted professionals well-versed in discretion. All or nearly all of them were accommodated under the same sign:  no big companies grabbing the limelight with stands decked out by a star designer. No red carpet or celebrities either. And not a selfie in sight.

The first GemGenève fulfilled its promises. It remains to be seen if its founders will have the wisdom to resist the siren call of success, and the lure of “bigger, bolder, better”.

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