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PARIS — For the past 60 years, Gilbert Albert has been crafting one-off jewelry pieces in his discreet Swiss atelier, nearly unnoticed by the press and known only to industry insiders.
This story first appeared in the April 22, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That is, until December, when the 85-year-old Geneva native opened a lavish three-story unit at 43 West 57th Street in New York.
Now, undeterred by the slow economy or the recent string of diamond heists on both sides of the Atlantic, Albert has inaugurated his first Paris boutique on the ritzy Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré smack in front of the presidential palace — with a little help from a friend, the Canadian-Iranian investor Majid Pishyar.
“It is an excellent place for us in terms of security,” said Pishyar, whose holding company 32Group snapped up the Gilbert Albert brand in 2010. “I have known [Albert] for 30 years, and all this time I was wondering why people don’t know about him.”
The roles in the business are well assigned. “He is an artist, he just wants to create,” Pishyar said. “My mission is to let other people know about him. This is a challenge, especially these days, but I always swim on the opposite side of the river, and it always [works]. I want to do it fast, because I’ve done my homework.”
Pishyar plans to open three more Gilbert Albert stores later this year — in London, Monaco and Cannes, France.
“The time is right; I have to keep his name alive,” said Pishyar about the jeweler, who has scooped up 10 Diamonds International Awards over his career, and is particularly appreciated for his unique use of materials, which combine precious stones with more exotic ingredients such as meteorites and fossils.
To ensure the brand’s longevity, Gilbert Albert’s successor is already waiting in the wings — it’s Pishyar’s daughter Mojdeh, who was trained by Albert.
Although the investor would not divulge sales figures, Pishyar said he was upbeat about the brand’s financial future. “Even in this moment, as the economy is down and we are in expansion [mode], we are doing great,” said the chairman of 32Group.
The Gilbert Albert brand currently comprises two lines: a couture collection with one-off items retailing for up to $5.5 million, and a line of rings, earrings and pendants with interchangeable stones from $3,000 apiece. “It’s a business model I’ve been creating,” said Pishyar. “This gives a chance to a younger generation to experience the [brand].”