Jet-set jeweller: Fawaz Gruosi, founder of De Grisogono

9 September 2015 • Written by Annabel Davidson

Fawaz Gruosi, yacht owner and founder of fine jewellery brand De Grisogono, says his boat is “pure pleasure”, but, finds Annabel Davidson, he loves adorning other owners even more...

There was one particular necklace shown as part of De Grisogono’s most recent high jewellery collection that looked like it should be adorning the neck of a mermaid. Seventy-nine gobstopper-sized milky blue beads of turquoise tumbled from diamond and emerald hoops, like a giant string of polished candy, the pale aqua colour of the turquoise brilliantly offset by the vibrant green emeralds and white diamonds. Turquoise the material has nothing to do with the sea, but its colour is synonymous with bodies of water, and this particular rendition of the stone as a necklace wouldn’t have looked out of place in Poseidon’s world.

Such a piece looks totally at home in one other place, too: in a glass vitrine manned by silent security guards at the Hotel Martinez, during the Cannes Film Festival. It is there that Fawaz Gruosi, De Grisogono’s Lebanese-born founder and designer, holds court each year for several days during the festival, on a vast, white sofa-strewn terrace overlooking the Bay of Cannes – where you might just spot Octopus, Rising Sun and Amadeus - the superyachts of Paul Allen, David Geffen, and Bernard Arnault respectively - dotting the waters, along with those of Saudi Arabia’s princes and sheikhs.

Fawaz Gruosi, founder of De Grisogono. Image courtesy of Toby Webb Photography.

Gruosi describes his own boat as “15 metres of pure pleasure”, but it’s hard to imagine this charmingly slow-speaking, permanently tanned man being anything but happy wherever he is. Endless photos are available of him in the company of extraordinarily beautiful celebrities wearing De Grisogono jewels – supermodels and actresses, all ablaze in his exuberantly colourful jewellery.

Those who know him well say that the happiest he can be is in the company of his beautiful daughters and close friends, the latter of whom often handily come under the same umbrella as the aforementioned women. And while De Grisogono’s annual party at Eden Roc in nearby Cap d’Antibes during the Cannes Festival must be the highest concentration of glamour on the planet at any one time (more on that later), it’s on the terrace of the Martinez that the real action happens.

“I’m sorry, my darling, I have to do something right now but will be back in half an hour,” Gruosi tells me when I arrive on De Grisogono’s Cannes terrace. And that something is what Gruosi does best: charming the extraordinary number of seriously moneyed men and women who buy his creations. (He leaves the selling to the professionals, but handles the charming
all by himself.)

Gruosi is as much a part of the jet-set as his customers, often hanging out with supermodels on yachts. Image courtesy Rex Features.

And if there’s one place to spot Gruosi in his element, it’s here on the terrace. Dotted about are exquisitely dressed Saudi Arabian princesses, gazing at tray after tray of De Grisogono creations through their thick black lashes: Allegra rings (named after one of his daughters) comprised of entangled gold hoops encrusted with white diamonds, pink sapphires, purple amethysts and blue topaz; or a high jewellery ring made from an enormous 28 carat cushion-cut sapphire, surrounded by emeralds and yet more sapphires and set in white gold.

A Russian oligarch and his beautiful wife are sitting in the shade of an enormous white umbrella, sipping Champagne, he trying on a bold Grande Chrono No2 in pink gold and black leather, she considering a bonkers (but brilliant) Crazy Skull watch, fully set with rubies and sporting a sinister diamond smile and a heart-cut diamond nose, not to mention the ruby-and-diamond-encrusted pink gold clasp.

It’s a very international crowd, but Gruosi is at home with all of them, cigarette in hand, white shirt freshly pressed, a sip of chilled vodka for when the Cannes heat gets to him. Many of the clients have just stepped off their yachts, something that is not lost on the jeweller. When asked if he thinks his jewellery is particularly suited to the glamour of boating, he doesn’t hold back. “Of course it is. Many customers are attracted by jewellery while on vacation on their yachts, from the stunning natural colours that attracts them to the beauty of natural stones, or the glamorous life they live aboard.”

De Grisogono's range includes the stunning and challenging, as with the Crazy Skull watch (left) and items that reflect the aquatic world

And while the Martinez is where the selling happens, the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc is where the partying takes place – if partying is even the word for it. As chauffeur-driven cars snake their way up to the venue, expelling hundreds upon hundreds of men and women in the most extraordinary array of couture gowns, custom black tie and more than their fair share of plumped and Botoxed faces, Gruosi greets each and every one of them at the entrance.

There goes the US superyacht-loving model Karlie Kloss, resplendent in De Grisogono jewels, and Antonio Banderas, showing off his new girlfriend to the paparazzi. A trio of motherly Turkish women in very tight sequinned gowns stick together, downing pink Champagne and bitching about so-and-so’s new young wife, or someone’s very daring dress. And then the magic happens. This year, an extraordinary light installation plays out against the façade of the grand hotel, drawing gasps from the crowd, before a stream of models in slinky gowns and an astonishing amount of De Grisogono jewels shimmer down the catwalk.

The guests are teased into the restaurant for the grand dinner past a full band playing old-time music, the bravest (or drunkest) of them stopping for a boogie on the way in, before settling in for a night of serious dining and drinking, then dancing in the nightclub overlooking the bay and the mesmerising lights of the yachts and boats anchored there – many of which will be the venue for the evening’s more serious after-parties.

But not for Gruosi, who will slip back to his hotel for a few hours’ sleep before disappearing back to where his heart really lies, “cruising in the beautiful little secluded bays of Costa Smeralda, one of my favourite places in the Mediterranean”.

Annabel Davidson is the editor of Vanity Fair on Jewellery.

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