By  on December 13, 2004

NEW YORK — Despite De Grisogono’s 10 years in business and 11 stores worldwide, founder Fawaz Gruosi feels as enthusiastic as a first-timer about opening his first U.S. boutique this week in Manhattan.

“I was excited for my first, second and third store, and then I got used to it,” Gruosi admitted, “but for me, New York is like the first store 10 years ago. I love this city.”

The Geneva jeweler treated itself to a 3,000-square-foot boutique, which is scheduled to open its doors at 824 Madison Avenue today.

Much like De Grisogono’s other freestanding stores in locales such as Geneva, Paris, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Moscow, the store was designed to be a welcoming and comfortable environment. Interior features include pale yellow walls, black and gold fixtures, antique furniture and paintings on the wall.

“The decoration is very Florentine, it’s very cozy,” said Gruosi, who grew up in Florence and trained there with a local jeweler before going to work for Harry Winston and Bulgari. He added that he prefers a warmer environment to some of the starker spaces that designers tend to use on Madison Avenue.

It’s a suitable setting, so to speak, for the dazzling pieces. Gruosi is best known for using black diamonds and icy white diamonds and has them tightly set with dazzling effect. He also likes to mix black diamonds with coral or turquoise, and often combines them with colored shagreen for earrings, chokers and cuff bracelets.

At the store, the jewelry retails from around $2,400 for 18-karat yellow gold Allegra rings, to pieces going for millions depending on the cut and clarity of the stones. On average, though, the range is between $30,000 and $200,000.

In 2002, De Grisogono sold a 49 percent stake to Chopard to help the company’s growth (Gruosi is married to Caroline Scheufele, whose family owns Chopard). Since then, it has restructured its organization and focused on building a global wholesale network. In the U.S., the collection is available at stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, London Jewelers and West Time.

Gruosi would not disclose sales projections for the New York boutique, but said that U.S. sales have increased by 400 percent in the past year. He expects De Grisogono to have a turnover of about $61 million, or 70 million Swiss francs, in 2004.As for future growth, Gruosi said: “I don’t want 100 shops. I want to have 20 so that we can keep calling the company exclusive.

“If we are successful in New York, the next store will be Miami,” he said, adding with a laugh, “so I have an excuse to go and get a suntan.”

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