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From pocket money to diamond dealer

Monita Rajpal, right, with Fawaz Gruosi at "Diamonds in the Snow."


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Art of Life
De Grisogono

GSTAAD, Switzerland (CNN) -- "Diamonds in the Snow" is a lavish party thrown by exclusive jewelers de Grisogono at the Swiss skiing resort of Gstaad to launch their latest collection.

Art of Life's Monita Rajpal got the chance to spend the day at the home of the company's founder and driving force Fawaz Gruosi and asked him about work, family and his passion for diamonds.

Monita Rajpal: Thank you so much for allowing us into your home. We've seen your workshop and the store. Can you believe how much you've done or do you still think there are things to do?

Fawaz Gruosi: Both. Every morning I wake up I can't believe that I achieved the little I did. When I was a kid I didn't know what to do. I stopped studying and the first job I found was in a jewelry shop in Florence and I took it for pocket money. I was 18. I'm 53 now and I've been told I'm the luckiest person in the world. I do a job which I don't feel is a job.

MR: In terms of the success you've had, how do you think that's helped you live the life that many only dream about?

FG: I always had a dream when I was working for other companies without ever thinking that I was going to go out on my own. I never thought I'd have this success. This happened to my company in the year 2000 -- in the 50s or 60s it was much easier. To reach this point without having capital, a notion of production ... the only thing I can say is I put so much love in this business and I stopped living. I couldn't see my wife or my kids because I was so involved. It was a passion like a drug.

I never thought commercially. I never thought about how much money it cost me to make something. A lot of jewelers think of business, but it's harder to sell more unusual things in that way. There was a niche that the market. Nobody was doing what you could call haute couture.

MR: How has your personal life changed in the sense you can acquire all the things you want?

FG: I don't do anything special in my life except working. Somebody ask me who are your clients and I don't know what to answer anymore. That's a change. Until two or three years ago, my clients were my friends. Now we have so many shops around the world. But the principle of creativity to do something different is my credo. It's like making a painting.

MR: How do you want your children to look at you?

FG: Honestly, I don't know because I had kids when I was very young. I was probably not being a very good father myself. When I grew up, I started to be a better father. I was too hard and I made mistake and it's too late to change these things. I would love them to do what I do, but in other ways I don't want them to do it because I just work. I want them to have also other interests.

MR: Speaking of other interests, you do have other interests. You say you just work, but you have a plane collection, you have cars. Tell us about the other things that bring you joy in life.

FG: I have a few cars because they look good. I'm not interested in the motors. Wine: I'm not a collector but I buy wine to drink with my wife. My real hobby is painting but then again I'm not losing time because I know every single antique dealer in Florence; they are more or less my friends and know exactly what I like and what I don't like. They know what I can afford.

MR: Do you believe success has changed you in any way?

FG: No, because I have too many people around me, so I think I'd better have my feet on the ground. I never change because of that. It's nice to always have the same friends. I have two or three good friends who work with me, so I see them in that way at least once in a while when I can. They're still the same friends as 20 or 30 years ago. In my business I can't stay home more than five or six days a month so I regret not seeing my friends too often. That's the only negative point.

MR: How do you maintain that wide-eyed idealism we all have when we start out in a business that can be very cutthroat?

FG: Well, I do believe in what I'm doing and that drives me. At the end of the day, I'm just a small company surrounded by huge companies. In the trade everybody knows this little company. There's always a little niche so I would refuse to prostitute myself. I know it's hard to believe, but I'm not working for money.

MR: Do you think it's easy to say that you're not working for money when you have a lot of it?

FG: I don't. All my money is in the company. If you go into my personal, private account, there's not much. We have nine shops that opened in 12 years. We have four shops in franchising. We have quite a big stock in the company. We're still in the process of growing and we need to keep growing for at least another seven to 10 years. And to grow you need milk and in this case the milk is cash.

MR: What about the partnership you have with your wife (Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele -- heir to rival jewelry business Chopard) -- in terms of your life, but also what that means for your business?

FG: I've been with my wife since I was 21 and a half. When we met I was working with one company and she was working for another company. We grow up together in the sense of living together and I was trying to give my input and she was suggesting things. She was criticizing in the beginning but she was my biggest supporter. She pushed me to go ahead with it and then her company grew and grew and today a newspaper in France said, "How can these enemies sleep together?" Sometimes people think we do the same business, but we are two different companies. There's space for everybody. If you love the other person, there's always a way to do things. She is my best friend. In terms of criticizing, your friend or your clients, they will never tell you the truth. My wife does and I do exactly the same thing for her. It's fantastic to be together because we know what we are talking about and when one is down, the other is behind them.

MR: You are looking to expand into the Japanese market and you have a new store opening in 2007. What do you see in the future for de Grisogono?

FG: Growing just a little bit, as I said earlier. The maximum of stores between the ones we own and the franchises will not be more than in 20 major cities. I don't want to produce industrially to start with. Secondly, the meaning of looks is not the quantity. It's the opposite. I wouldn't like it if people could find my products everywhere. If you go to our shops already now, if you go to Geneva or New York, you will not find the same pieces. I keep it very exclusive in that way.

MR: Your mother wanted you to go out and make some pocket money when you were younger, do you think she'd be proud of you now?

FG: Yes, I think she would. I wish she was alive, it would be fantastic if she was here to see that.

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