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27 may 2019

pavel_sokolov_xx.pngThe ‘Gemstones by SOKOLOV’ brand has been popular for over 25 years. The aim of this company is to supply any kind of gem studs to the Russian market including the unique ones except diamonds of any cut. The product range by the Sokolov Company is very wide and the company a leader in the Russian jewelry market.

The Sokolov Company made its difficult way searching for an optimal business model. They encountered many challenges on this way: they set up their own cutting and polishing operation, started their advertising unit and creative a photo and design studio. Earlier, much attention was paid to the company’s website (www.gemstone.ru), but at present, they focus mainly at the work in the interactive social media.

The headquarters of the company is in St. Petersburg, their office and showroom have been operating in Moscow since 2005, and their office and a store were opened in Kostroma in 2008.

Pavel Sokolov, the CEO and founder of the company, tells the R&P about how challenging it is to be an entrepreneur in the jewelry business.

You are among few professional mineralogists who came to the jewelry production from the scientific sphere. How did it happened?

I am a member in good standing of the Russian mineralogical society and over twenty years, I have done academic work and has been a lecturer at the chair of mineralogy at the geological faculty of the St. Petersburg State University. In 1988, my friends and I set up a daughter company at the Centre of the Experimental Research, Studies and Social Initiatives under the USSR Academy of Sciences. Later on, this company was transformed into a Sokolov Company. Since 1994, we have been working in the jewelry business only.

excl_27052019_1.pngDid you always get the craving for beauty?

From childhood: I have been polishing stones since school days – at the Club of the Young Geologists under the Palace of the Pioneers loсated in the Anichkov Palace. I developed a liking for mineralogy and working the stone by hands – agate, green malachite … . The Club of the Young Geologists was set up back in 1948. After graduating the University, I had been training there for eight years. There was a stone cutting circle – it is still functioning and I help it with great pleasure and provide stones for the circle. In the mid-60s, the meetings of the young geologists used to be held and I took part in the first two meetings. Since then, eight world meetings of the young geologists have been held, the all-Russia skills competitions are held regularly, where the young geologists from the Ural region win half of the prizes.

At present, the Gemstones by Sokolov Company buys, cuts and polishes and sells the calibrated and exclusive studs made of natural emeralds, sapphires, rubies and all other jewelry stones, as well as of the south sea pearls and fresh-water ones of various hues, and also agate cameos. The company sells and buys rough natural gems to be polished and synthetic rough stones – malachite, turquoise, corals, and lapis lazuli.

The firm has 30 employees and 5 of them are professional gemologists. We have 5 cutters who have been in cutting and polishing all their lives and they deal with the unique stones only. They are rare professionals to do this job. In Russia, there are not enough cutters and polishers on the whole: there are about 300 thousand gemstone cutters in India, several tens of thousands in China, and in Russia, one can hardly find half a thousand cutters and polishers, at best. I do not take into account diamond cutters and polishers – in this sector, specific and peculiar features are required.

There is a remarkable thing. In Russia, there are 3 colour gemstone cutting and polishing centres: in the Great Urals region (from Ekaterinburg to Chelyabinsk), in Moscow and St. Petersburg. A very strong school of cutters and polishers is in Kiev (the Ukraine). In all the centres, the cutters are mainly men, and in St. Petersburg only, the women cutters prevail. This is a historically established situation.

Ten years ago, my children and their partners set up a full-cycle jewelry manufacturing company - MOUSSON ATELIER – from designing to packaging.

The GEMSTONES by Sokolov provides the MOUSSON ATELIER Company with the jewelry studs of any complexity.

What are the major ‘challenges’ in your business?

It was always difficult at the customs – many companies find customs to be a sensitive point, the customs clearance could have been a little bit easier. The world economic crisis also brings new challenges all the time. So, all this keeps us busy.  

excl_27052019_4.pngYou take part in JUNWEX – do you think this to be useful?

I think our participation in the JUNWEX events is rather beneficial. I believe it is important to the business to show our new collections to the buyers and colleagues, and also to see what other companies do, and to talk to our colleagues.

By the way, the name of our company originated at one of the JUNWEX. Once I was mulling over the name of our company and asked Valeriy Budny, who answered in less than no time “Nothing to think about. Gemstones by Sokolov”. And so it happened.

Please tell us about your stone collection.

Well, the gemstones have accumulated since my school and student days. But it was not a collection – those were just souvenir stones. Quite recently, my dream has come true. Now, I have a unique collection of Kazakhstan landscape stones (many thanks to Felix Ibragimov).

And what is your favourite gem?

Now, probably, it is spinel.

Do you give jewelry to your wife and daughter as your presents?

I make presents to all the women of our big family, of course, more often - to my wife.

What are your plans for the future?

I connect my plans for the future with the MOUSSON ATELIER Company.

As for me personally, I travel a lot all over the world. Four years ago, my friends from Montreal arranged a gemological tour to Myanmar (Burma). Now, I often go there and to Vietnam to the jewelry spinel and corundum deposits. Here, I am back to geology - but after gaining some jewelry business experience. A group of specialists from the St. Petersburg State University works together with me. And we have already discovered new peculiarities of forming these deposits that were not known earlier.

In 2007, our company joined the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA) that unites the world’s leaders in mining, stone working and gemstone trading. For the last 6 years, I am a member of the ICA board of directors.

excl_27052019_3.pngPlease tell us about this Association – what is its line of activities, how does it operate?

The Association has been existing since 1980s. Its philosophy is the ‘business at a speed of thought’, as Bill Gates said. I joined this Association in 2007 and some time ago, I was its Ambassador in Russia. The Association consists of about 700 members from 48 countries. If I need, for example, anything from Uruguay, where I do not know anybody, I would address the Director or Ambassador in Uruguay or an ICA member in this country, call him and tell what I need – and I know for sure that this person - whom I do not know personally - would try to help me immediately. He would either do it himself or find me a partner.

Probably, one should love stones very much to connect all the life with them?

I like the stones very much, practically all of them. Each stone has its own beauty. Both cut and uncut crystals, sapphires, spinel stones – one can find something wonderful in every stone.

And what is the wonder in a diamond?

This is an incredibly beautiful stone that I worship.

A cut and polished diamond has a rather attractive feature, ‘diamond sparkling’, thanks to a high optical characteristic - a dispersion of refractive index - that is 0.044. Actually, that of a demantoid is even higher and makes 0.057. There exist another diamond analogue - sphene - a rare yellow and green stone featuring a dispersion of refractive index of 0.051 …

As a rule, every jewelry piece is studded with a diamond. There are two reasons: first, one may use any coloured gem in a jewelry piece, but if it has no diamond, its price is lower. Second, diamonds make jewelry look more beautiful. When you look at a diamond in a cloudy weather, it looks just like a glass. But in certain light with many spotlight sources there will be a kaleidoscope of colours.

Galina Semyonova, Rough&Polished