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"At House of Ashish Vijay, diamonds and coloured gemstones will only ever mean stones that carry a storied legacy"

06 march 2023
ashish_vijay_xx.pngAshish Vijay, a Dubai-based investor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and businessman with decades of experience in the precious gemstone and luxury jewellery industry, finance and investments sectors, set up his business in Dubai in the year 2013.

As the Chairman and Founder of the House of Ashish Vijay, under which falls a group of companies including Meraki Gems and Jewellery, Tiara Gems, AV Globale, he built on the legacy of his family’s generation of expertise in precious stones. Ashish Vijay, with his acumen, turned his passion into a globally respected company, sourcing quality stones, inspiring design creativity and holding auctions.

In 2016, he created the Dubai-based investment fund Seiko Financial Services with the aim of investing in an array of businesses from small, grassroots enterprises to globally orientated start-ups as a way to help and mentor the entrepreneurs of the future. Ashish Vijay, whose work is also his passion, curated a unique collection of precious stones including diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, alexandrite etc procured from all over the world during his travels.

In 2022, Ashish Vijay made headlines when he purchased one of the world’s rarest fancy red diamonds, naming it the “Scarlet Chakra”, and showcasing it to a captivated diamond industry.

He has recently been appointed Director for ICA -Dubai Chapter.

Here, in an exclusive interview with Rough&Polished, Ashish Vijay tells his story.

Some excerpts:

Congratulations on becoming the Director of ICA-UAE. From India to Dubai, what is your story?

I always like to say that the House of Ashish Vijay book is about legacy and tradition, but that the chapters I’m writing now are about utilizing new technologies, discovering fresh talent and perspectives, and developing, not only my company, but the Middle Eastern diamond and gemstone industry as a whole.

As far as my journey goes, as a third-generation jeweller and dealer in diamonds and coloured gemstones, I have my grandfather and father to thank for laying the foundations for what House of Ashish Vijay has become today. From their humble yet entrepreneurial beginnings, we have become a world-class Maison which stands for transparency, reliability and trust.

Becoming the Director of ICA UAE is an honour and it’s a role I have taken on with great vigor and enthusiasm. I aim to build upon the excellent work the ICA has already done in making Dubai a global hub for the coloured gemstone and diamond industries. And I’m proud to inject new blood and bring a fresh and energetic approach to the organisation.

I see my appointment as an opportunity to not only serve, but also to give back to the industry for the greater good. Together we can, not only grow the coloured gemstone business in the middle east, but also increase the ICA community, welcoming more members from all corners of the industry.

At the recent ICA Congress, you spoke as the main sponsor. Can you tell us what lead you to become involved this year?

I firmly believe in what the ICA stands for and how it works to promote the UAE coloured gemstone industry on the global stage, and also to bring the local and middle eastern community together. So, for me, it was an honour to be a major part of the event and help make it such a resounding success.

The Congress is always an excellent opportunity to find out what’s happening across the industry, to learn from others’ expertise and initiatives and also promote coloured gemstone culture in Dubai.

It also provided us with the perfect stage to share our exciting auction and tender plans, in which we are leading the industry.

Can you define your diverse businesses, including the precious gemstone and luxury jewellery industry, and finance and investments sectors?

Under the umbrella of my company, Ashish Vijay, I have business interests in both the international financial and real estate sectors.

On the property side, I have a built a strong global portfolio, which includes buying and selling real estate, both commercial and residential.

In the financial market, as an avid investor, I am always interested in finding new businesses, technologies and people to support and invest in.

Some enterprises I have recently become involved with include Women In Tech, an organization that promote girls’ and women’s empowerment around the world, with a focus on education, business, digital inclusion and advocacy.

I am also actively looking at promoting young talent by investing in ideas around coloured gemstone or diamond projects, which give creators’ agency and the chance to make use of the expertise and experience we can offer owing to our 75 years in the business.

From which countries do you source your coloured gemstones and how are they utilized in your business, besides at auction?

For the House of Ashish Vijay, the stone is at the centre of all we create. Over the years we have worked to educate our clients and others in the industry about the importance of quality over provenance.

Our gemstones are sourced from as far afield as Africa, South America, India, Russia and more. Our future collaborations with artisanal miners will see us sourcing from more countries and supporting local businesses at a grassroots level.

But it’s not just about gemstones. We also bring in jade from China, tanzanite from Tanzania as well as minerals, semiprecious stones and precious metals from across the globe.

A perfect example of our dedication to gemstone quality is illustrated by the exceptional ‘The Scarlet Chakra’ round fancy red diamond which made international headlines when AV Globale revealed the stone at an event at DMCC in October 2022. The straight fancy red round brilliant cut 1.01 carat diamond featured no overtones of any other colour, making it incredibly rare among red diamonds.

How much does the jewellery business contribute to the overall AV Group? Do you deal in fine jewellery as well? Do you manufacture your own jewellery? Where do you source your stones from? Are any expansion plans on the horizon?

Fine jewellery is a large and important part within the brand Ashish Vijay. We not only source our own diamonds and coloured gemstones but are involved at every step of the design from concept to execution. With each piece handcrafted, finished and polished in-house, our focus is always on the uniqueness of the gemstone as well as its setting.

We are excited to be introducing clients and the industry to our ‘103 Collection’. Launched on February 14, the limited-edition collection comprises 103 one-of-a-kind high-jewellery pieces, coloured fancy diamonds and precious gemstones, showcasing the skill and design diversity of the Maison.

Among our many plans this year, is our desire to establish collaborations with young jewellery designers, both established and just starting out, as well as students, giving them the chance to design for us, as well as bringing in the glorious traditions of middle eastern influence, design and artisanal skills.

Lab-grown Diamonds (LGDs) are making inroads into the psyche of jewellery consumers... especially Gen Z. Do you think they will eventually opt for coloured lab-grown diamonds (LGDs) in place of coloured gems, more so as the coloured LGD prices may dip with excess production?

Our focus on natural diamonds and coloured gemstones puts us in the unique position of being able to connect our clients with the history and creativity of mother nature.

At House of Ashish Vijay, diamonds and coloured gemstones will only ever mean stones that carry a storied legacy and present the fruits of the earth’s beauty and energy to the client in a way that something grown in a laboratory over a few months cannot.

As one of my esteemed fellow attendees at the recent ICA Congress said so eloquently: “Mother Nature cannot be put in a box.” And for us, a real diamond’s shine will ever fade.

What's your opinion of the current-coloured gems demand globally? What is the situation right now and how do you see things reacting, going forward?

We have seen the demand for coloured gemstones grow not only globally, but also generationally. As well as the issue of greater affordability, younger generations are educating themselves about the spirituality of coloured gemstones, which is something we at House of Ashish Vijay can appreciate.

There is also the undeniable beauty and aestheticism that surrounds coloured gemstones, with aquamarines and garnets proving popular.

Coloured gemstones have shown themselves to be just as timeless as diamonds, for example, with Diana, Princess of Wales’s famous sapphire engagement ring, which passed onto the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton.

We have also seen the likes of Victoria Beckham, Halle Berry and Gwyneth Paltrow wearing coloured gemstones on the red carpet, while Britain’s Princess Eugenie’s engagement ring is a salmon-pink Padparadscha sapphire.

There is a rarity and uniqueness around coloured gemstones, which has also seen many international jewellery houses create collections based solely on them – a trend our Maison is at the forefront of.

Why do you think auctions and tenders are a viable business model with which to sell diamonds and gemstones?

The auction and tender business side of House of Ashish Vijay has been a resounding success and is an area in which we are arguably leading the industry. Taking place under the banner of AV Globale, a completely automated and transparent digital platform curating the industry practices into an innovative auction and tender process.

Our first Collector’s Chest event in September 2022 made a strong impact, receiving a very positive and enthusiastic response from clients and bidders, a success we are building on.

After recent viewings and shows in Israel, Japan, Hong Kong and Dubai, our second Collector’s Chest event is now open, featuring polished diamonds and precious gemstones, with the auction going ahead in March. We will be following with a rough diamond and coloured diamonds tender, as well as an emerald auction in the future.

Auctions and tenders give the client a different and fresh perspective on a jewellery piece, diamond or coloured gemstone and we are happy to be trailblazers as new opportunities present.

Wrapping up, please brief us of any new development plans in your group in terms of business initiatives, changes, expansion and so on…

One of my main focuses this year concerns artisanal mining in Africa, which will involve working with smaller independent enterprises and individuals who use traditional tools and skills to mine precious stones. We’re especially keen to lift up and promote the work done by women around this industry not only on a business level but also on a social, charitable, and community tier. We are also looking into becoming involved with female education in Sri Lanka, where we already have an industry presence.

Aruna Gaitonde, Editor in Chief of the Asian Bureau, Rough&Polished