Fifth-generation jeweler Igal Dahan was considered the #1 sapphire salesperson in the world when he sold precious gemstones to many of the world’s best jewel houses including Van Cleef & Arpels, Graff Diamonds and Chaumet. But he wanted to be a designer instead. Igal tells Kivo Daily what happened next.
You are the fifth generation of your family to take up the business. Precious gemstones are clearly in your blood. What’s it like growing up in a family of jewelers?
I have always been proud to say that I am a fifth-generation jeweler. I am grateful to have come from a strong family of jewelers. There were always constant discussions about stones, designing grand pieces, and the latest trends in the jewelry world. When I was young, I remember the days when my father would often share his latest concept with my mother when he came home from work. I was immediately attracted to the beauty of his pieces and it wasn’t long before I’d be eagerly waiting for him to come home with another design.
When did you know that you would continue your family tradition in business?
Everyone is born with different capacity and talent. If you use it, you will not live with regret. When I was very young I realized that designing jewelry was in my heart and soul. I was lucky to have realized this at a young age and to never live with the regret of not pursing what I truly loved to do. I was able to capture the essence of a family tradition and realize that it was my path to pursue as well. This made the pleasure of looking ahead even greater.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned from your family?
The most valuable lesson that I have learned is recognizing that your mistakes don’t make you inferior. That’s how you become stronger and better. Your past mistakes teach you how to be better. It’s important to learn from everyone.
At one point you were the #1 sapphire salesperson in the world but switched gears to become a designer. What happened?
My love for jewelry design, in particular, grew very strong throughout my life, but since my education and start was in the buying and selling of precious stones (diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds) that’s where my focus was. I was living in Paris, France, and selling precious stones to the biggest jewelry brands in the world (Van Cleef & Arpels, Graff Diamonds, Chaumet, etc.)
I rose to the top of my career very quickly at a young age. I was doing extremely well and living a very nice life, but I couldn’t shake my desire to design. I had so many concepts and ideas in my mind that I wanted to bring to life. I spoke with my father about my passion and we decided as a family to make the move from Paris to Bangkok, Thailand. In Thailand, my father knew the right connections to open a jewelry factory, so we could work together to bring my ideas and inspirations to life.
The first piece that we designed together was The Interchangeable Ring. The piece was one-of-a-kind and something the fine jewelry world had never seen before. My father and I designed a system where you could change the center (semi-precious or precious) stone to the color you desired. This ring became a huge success and IGAL DAHAN Jewelry was born.
You have a lot of celebrity friends and celebs who have worn your pieces. Is there a stand-out moment or incident that took place that involves your pieces?
There have been quite a few celebrities who have worn my pieces including The Hilton Sisters, Elton John, Matt Damon, and Kim Kardashian. One day, I even gifted a piece of jewelry to Ali Landry, the ex-wife of Mario Lopez, and her new boyfriend who used it to propose on the spot. They’re still married today.
But the best moments that particularly stand out for me are the precious gifts that are given between families. In those moments, pieces of jewelry often taken on a deeper meaning, create a deeper bond between people and sometimes begin what can become an heirloom family tradition. These are the occasions that will always be engraved in my heart and mind.
Aside from your own pieces, has there been a piece of jewelry that had a profound effect on you and shaped the way that you look at things?
My inspiration has never come from another jewelry design. I love jewelry, so of course, I can appreciate a nice design or magnificent precious stones, but my inspiration always comes from other beauty on this earth. I can be inspired by a work of art, a gorgeous sunset, a smile from my beautiful wife or simply by opening my eyes to the beauty that surrounds me.
Tell us about your latest collection, The Winder of Love.
My newest collection is called The Winder of Love. I decided on this name because of the winder of a watch. Instead of winding your watch, you are winding your love. This collection is a luxurious play on form and materiality. With elegant screws and gears adorned by precious metals and gems, each style in the collection is named after one of The Twelve Horai, daughters of Khronos and goddesses of the hours of the day, who guide the path of the sun as it journeys across the sky.
What are the three most important lessons that you’ve learned in business?
The three most important lessons that I have learned in business are:
If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. If you continue to make easy moves and decisions for everything in life, you will never be challenged. Look at taking on business challenges as adventures, something new and exciting to discover, and they will seem less frightening.
If you want to change your business, you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Stepping outside your comfort zone in business opens your eyes to new possibilities that you may have not seen before. Sometimes being uncomfortable will lead you to think differently and bring you to a better understanding of the task at hand. If you always choose to stay comfortable you become lazy and fall into monotonous patterns. Getting into the mindset of allowing yourself to be uncomfortable at times will add vitality to your business.
Success might not be fast, but with time and effort, it will be worth it in the end. I chose a job that I really love because I didn’t want to feel like I had to work another day in my life. It took a while for me to get to this point. There were long days that turned into sleepless nights, lifestyle changes that I had to make adjustments for in order to keep the company afloat, and countless revisions in the design process. After many years I am happy to say that everything is running smoothly and I wake up each day excited to go to work.
What inspires you?
I take my inspiration from four different aspects of life. The secret of design is that, first, you must have the vision. Second, you have to establish in your mind the way you can create it. Third, you bring it to the world. Fourth, you ask for the blessings.
What would you tell young entrepreneurs who are thinking about getting into the precious-gemstone business?
I would tell young entrepreneurs who are getting into the precious -gemstone business to remember that, once they start to acquire capital, they should always save stones when they can because the value of stones will always increase.
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