From the first 100 years into the next, one family works well together
Family businesses that are both long-lasting and successful have managed to beat stiff odds. At the top of the list of hurdles is generational transition. Forty percent of family businesses are passed down to the second generation and only 12% to the third. Family businesses at the hands of the fourth generation are a rarity at 3%. With over 100 years of experience in the jewellery industry, the Boghossian family is one such rarity and in the article that follows, Albert Boghossian, CEO of Bogh-Art, tells Swiss Style what has kept his family’s business going – and being successful.
A family affair
“My grandfather started Boghossian when he left Turkey and settled in the Middle East,” says Boghossian. “From then on, through my father and his three brothers, as well as me and my brother, the business developed and grew.”
During the 1970s, Jean and Albert Boghossian left the Middle East because of the civil war in Lebanon and opened an office in Antwerp, the diamond-cutting capital of the world. Initially, they worked as diamond dealers but when they opened their offices in Geneva in the early 1980s, they expanded into jewellery.
Initially, Albert Boghossian and his brother Jean worked behind the scenes and made pieces for other jewellers. Very quickly, however, they started connecting with collectors who would come directly to them and ask for tailor-made jewellery. It was only in 2008, though, after almost three decades in Geneva, that Boghossian debuted Bogh-Art, the family’s foray into retail. Albert describes Bogh-Art as the “Art of Boghossian”. He takes pride in the brand’s innovative designs, master craftsmanship and technical prowess. But more than anything, he is pleased with how it has remained a family business.
“My two nephews, Roberto and Ralph, have joined us, as has my sister-in-law Nazanine Sabbag. Even my wife Mojgan is getting involved! It really is a family enterprise,” he says with pride. “There is a real history of jewellery-making in the Boghossian family.”
A novel approach to jewellery
The family has put all their energy in Bogh-Art and are working hard to ensure their jewellery is different to, and stands out from, what is usually made in the industry.
“We want to make our jewellery unconventional,” says Boghossian, who, like his jewellery, has a flair for the dramatic.
And unconventional Bogh-Art most certainly is. Boghossian likes to contrast materials. Albert Boghossian also likes to be daring with his choice of colours and uses colours that, at first, might appear to clash, such as pink and brown, and green and purple, but that, ultimately, work very well together.
“We’re really a company that excels in contrast. We’re trying to shake the norms of the jewellery industry. But in everything we do,” he says, pausing for a moment, “there is harmony.”
Refusing to compromise
“This piece,” Boghossian says, proudly displaying a pendant, “is green opal with an emerald inlay. The back is mother-of-pearl. We could have chosen to go the simpler route and put gold on the back. Nobody but the person who buys it will know that it’s mother-of-pearl rather than gold but that’s what we want. We want to be associated with delicate pieces, refined pieces, unique pieces. We refuse to compromise.”
Given this attitude toward their jewellery, it comes as no surprise that the Boghossians have perfected the intricate art of inlaying, which is when a stone is delicately carved and set into another. In one of their collections, “Reveal”, the jewellers carved hard, solid-coloured stones like black jade, pink opal and chaorite and fit transparent precious stones such as heliodore, morganite and amethysts in them.
Boghossian says that although the technique has been around for many centuries and has been traced back to ancient India, it is not often used because it is complicated and very difficult to do.
It was Boghossian’s nephew, Ralph, who initially recognized the art form’s potential. He hoped that contrasting the old technique with modern designs would aid in developing a line of jewellery that would set Bogh-Art apart from other well-known and somewhat more conventional jewellery houses.
“We’ve perfected the technique because we want to establish Bogh-Art as something different, something audacious,” Boghossian says. “We want to establish Bogh-Art as a daring company with daring designs.”
Even more than this, though, adopting the technique was a way to bring the younger Boghossians into the business and allow them to make their own impact on it. But Boghossian insists they would have got involved one way or another.
“It’s in our blood,” he says passionately. “I had always seen my grandfather and my father and his three brothers working together. And even in our extended family, my grandfather had nine children and everyone got involved in the jewellery business in some way or another. There really is a history of jewellery in the Boghossian family.”
Into the second century
Whether their reputation for high-quality jewellery precedes them, or whether it is their innovative designs, either way, in less than two years Bogh-Art has become an established jewellery brand the world over, but particularly in the Middle East and Asia.
“People there know fashion and they know jewellery. Their eyes have been trained to look for quality goods and for goods that are daring and out-of-the-ordinary,” Boghossian explains, adding that often his clients find themselves bored by traditional jewellery, which is why they come to him.
With their success has come the opportunity to expand their business. With two boutiques in Geneva, one in rue du Rhone and the other in the Grand Hotel Kempinksi, the Boghossians hope to add another within the year.
“Nothing’s been confirmed yet,” Boghossian says smiling, “but we’re hoping to open a jewel-box boutique in London by the end of the year.”
With prospects like that and a century-old family business running stronger than ever, one can’t help but think Albert Boghossian has not only mastered the “Art of Boghossian”, but also, quite possibly, the art of life.
Article by Alinka Brutsch