Human health is a state of mind as well as a bodily issue. Good health is impossible without a good frame of mind and some confidence in the future, and our family and a rewarding occupation give us that. Raphael Gubelin, director of the Gubelin Jewelry Company, has both. The precious stones he works with give him energy and inspiration, and his family – all of whom work in the same company – is the foundation for building something unique and exciting.
The Gubelin brand is more than 160 years old. How does it feel to be a part of history?
– I am proud of it, proud to continue the history as head of Gubelin. When I look back, I am humbled, because being part of a tradition is not something you take for granted. For me, it is very important. And of course, I am thankful to the generations of my family who managed the company wisely, leading it in the right direction. What we have now is thanks to them.
I am a novice in the field, and even ten years ago was not sure if I would go into the family business. I grew up among jewelry; my mother, who worked as gemologist in Gubelin, passed on her love for stones to me. But I had completely different plans! After I passed my professional exams in banking, I moved to the USA to continue my studies there. However, in 2007, my father said, «It is time for you to come home. If you don’t want to, you just tell me, it is your choice». A sense of duty is good and right but, in his opinion, is not enough to make you commit to Gubelin. However, he persuaded me and I made the decision quickly, because this was a chance for us (me and my wife). And now I can say with confidence that we made the right choice!
– Is there a conflict between tradition and innovation in your work?
– I cannot see a conflict – on the contrary. Any company need a foundation to be able to grow further. Nevertheless, innovations are also important to any growth. When my father gave me control over Gubelin Group, he said, «Preserve our traditions». This is what I am doing, but I am also adding innovations where necessary. This includes upgrades to all our boutiques, and the move to Asia; there, we have been represented for three years already by our Gubelin Jewellery brand, the gemological lab Gubelin Gem Lab, and the Gubelin Academy, and by the promotion of our umbrella brand Deeply Inspired.
– It must be hard to work in a joint business with your relatives.
– I think it is easy. Besides, this is what my father wanted, and what I wanted myself when I agreed to head the company. Now if I encounter any problems, I go to him; his support is very important to me.
I think the main thing about our work is our financial independence. I don’t have to report to shareholders all the time. Changes in a family business do not require constant changes in management, thus guaranteeing its unity. Look at our newidea, Deeply Inspired. We will need significant time before clients take us up on it. We have this time, and we can afford to wait, so I don’t see any disadvantages in running a family business, other than the fact that my name is instantly associated with the company.
– No wonder, considering that the Gubelin Company is known globally. How do you pick different functions?
– I am the CEO; my sister is a board member. Her job is to respond promptly to different situations, but she supports me with her ideas and proposals. Ultimately, I think it is not that important who takes this or that position. Gubelin’s secret weapon is to offer the right product at the right time and in the right place.
– What is the right product? What is «right» about Gubelin?
– Quality plays a great role at all levels of the company. Whether we are talking about boutique promotions, the creation of jewelry, or a new academy, all need to be of the best quality. This rule never changes with time, although we are, of course, adapting the strategy to changing market conditions. Nevertheless, we strive to remain the best in all of our areas of expertise, whether it is an atelier under the brand of Gubelin Jewellery, where we create masterpieces with uniquely colored stones, or our gemological lab where we check stones of all origins for important clients (including large auction houses, such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s). And recently we started the Academy, where we share our knowledge of gemology.
Today’s rules for determining a stone’s quality is largely a legacy from my grandfather, Eduard Gubelin, who once proved that inclusions are not a defect in a stone, not a sign of low quality. On the contrary, like a fingerprint, they are a reflection of its unique character, helping us to discover its origins. At that time, 100 years ago, this was a revelation! Thanks to his work, his knowledge, and his dozens of publications, we advanced far ahead in the field of stone expertize. Inclusions by Eduard Gubelin continues to inspire the authors at Gubelin Jewellery. The exciting inner worlds of colored stones are the foundations of our designs.
You also always need the right attitude to your client. It is a priority if you want them to come back to you.
– What criteria do you use to choose stones yourself?
– People usually take the stones that echo their personality. I think this is the right approach: if there is no attraction, you need to find something different. I, personally, am interested in ruby, sapphire, and emerald. I wear pins with rubies by Gubelin Jewellery. ruby is thought to be the king of color stones, symbolizing passion, the power of the Sun and of Love, and this is very much in line with our brand.
– Your jewelry collection is called Mystical Garden. Is this a reference to the magical powers of stones helping you in your work?
– In a way. There are many fascinating stories about gems and diamonds, and many people believe they have healing powers. These are the stories we tell at the Gubelin Academy on level 1. There are also historical facts: for example, the story of the Burmese people giving the Queen of England more than 200 rubies, each supposedly protecting from some sickness. The Queen had these stones made into a crown for herself.
– What is your personal recipe for good health and inspiration?
– As I said, we are inspired by gems. They also inspired my grandfather Eduard Gubelin in his research, and he expressed it in a poem: «Emerald gardens lure us to walk them in eternity and admire the fantastic, ever changing rich patterns of their evergreen crowns». We took his texts, then we built a stage like a theater, and put actors on it, our jewelry. Mystical Garden was inspired by green stones. Blue ones were the inspiration for the Deep Sea collection, red stones for the Glowing Fire. Each episode of this play was constructed based on the texts of Eduard Gubelin, creating a bridge from this century to the past, across the history of the Gubelin Company.
is the CEO of the Gubelin Group. Born in 1977, he graduated from the Alpinum lycee in Zuoz and continued his studies of banking in Zurich. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business and finance, he was hired as scientific research department coordinator to the Biomedical Research Institute of pharmaceutical company Novartis. In June 2007, he joined the family business as business developer. In 2011, Rafael took over the management of the family business. He is currently a Member of the Company Board under his father. He is married, with three children.