In the Diamond Mind: Eddie LeVian
A conversation with Eddie LeVian, Chief Executive at Le Vian.By Claire Adler |
Eddie LeVian is Chief Executive of Le Vian, the family-owned jewelry business with provenance all the way back to 1746 when the family was chosen to safeguard a collection of priceless diamonds and jewels for the Shah of Persia through to 1950 when the business relocated to the US where it has since infused the jewelry industry with innovative designs worn by Hollywood royalty including Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga.
Eddie worked his way up the family business, starting as an intern in the stone cutting shop in 1971 before becoming the chief executive in 2000. Eddie passionately shares his motivation for bringing natural diamonds to a broader audience as well as his insights into the future of the diamond world.
Q: What’s the story of your first diamond?
The first piece of jewelry that made a deep impression on me was, in fact, not a diamond but my grandmother’s ruby ring. I never met my grandmother, but my father would show me her ruby ring, describing the unique quality of the stone and how it was a handmade piece – a dying art. It made me realize how jewelry can be a symbol of individuality, a way to capture someone’s essence. The jewelry industry isn’t just about the inherent value of a diamond or gem but about enhancing people’s lives and offering the rare gift of holding onto something precious from someone who is no longer with us. That’s what drives me every day.
My first diamond was a pinky diamond ring that I wore in my twenties. I instinctively used it as my engagement ring when I decided to propose to my wife Miranda while she was being serenaded in an Italian restaurant one night. Interestingly, Miranda also gave me a diamond engagement ring.
Q: What excites you most at the moment?
We have recently launched our largest ever high jewelry collection, which harnesses the skills of New York’s top craftspeople and celebrates jewels with natural color diamonds – our Sunny Yellow Diamonds and Chocolate, Nude and Vanilla Diamonds, as well as many other color gemstones. One of the highlights is The Mikaela bracelet with 18 carats of Sunny Yellow Diamonds. Each item in this collection has been given a special name, which is a first for us and the collection is already proving to be compelling for our collectors. I’m thrilled to continue our journey with an enduring commitment to remain at the peak of creativity always, and this collection really embodies that.
Q: What is your intention for the year ahead?
Now more than ever, both my own and Le Vian’s priorities have focused even more on philanthropy and diversity, which have always been a core value of our family business. We appreciate the power and beauty of coming together. We are planning to expand our efforts to support those in need through our extensive philanthropy. We focus on three areas of giving – medical charities including sponsoring students of medicine, supporting diamond-producing communities and communities and individuals in need in New York, where our headquarters are located. The Rafa Foundation, which we set up in 2018 in memory of our beloved nephew, Rafael, who tragically passed from cancer, has already expanded to support local community building, including assistance with rent and guidance counseling.
On the jewelry front, we are extending our certified natural color diamond collection called Sunny Yellow Diamonds®, which are all, of course, responsibly mined and 10,000 times rarer than white diamonds. Some of the pieces included are solitaires and eternity bands with matching necklaces and earrings, specially designed for everyday wear but still with intricate, handcrafted settings.
Q: What’s your greatest indulgence?
My greatest indulgence is spending time with family. From our 92-year-old mom and our two-year-old granddaughter, family love is the core of who we are. All the siblings and their spouses have dinner every Tuesday night with mum, and every other weekend all the children and grandchildren are treated to an elaborate breakfast in my wife Miranda’s garden.
Q: What diamond destination is at the top of your list?
I am fascinated by the diversity and remoteness of diamond mines. I would love to visit De Beers’ mines in Botswana, which I expect would be a natural wonder of the world.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in jewelry?
My family history: I was born into a centuries-old tradition of guarding jewels. My family has always felt it had a mission to save the world’s most exquisite gems and diamonds by making them into beautiful jewelry. When I was a child, my father would take my brother and me along to diamond mines around the world and taught us to identify the quality and value of diamonds. I then worked in his cutting factory when I was a teenager and learnt how to bring out the inner beauty of gems in the rough. When my father passed away, my siblings and I pledged to build on the reputation of our family and change the world of jewelry, choosing rare gems and diamonds and crafting them into pieces that were both unique and accessible. We did this when we found the brown diamonds in the Argyle mine in Australia, the superior qualities of which we trademarked as Chocolate Diamonds in 2000 and have been making into beautiful jewelry ever since, attracting over five million collectors in that time. These jewels have become part not only of our family legacy but that of our collectors too, who now own timeless heirlooms which are increasing in rarity.
Q: What moment still blows your mind?
There have been a couple of moments that remain unforgettable for me. In 2019, we held an event at the Tower of London, opening an exhibition of the British Crown Jewels to Le Vian guests, some of whom had flown over specially from the US. On that magical evening, we showcased our own collections in a vibrant fashion show, in the same venue as the Koh-i-Noor diamond. My family has a special link with the Koh-i-Noor diamond–In 1746, the Shah of Persia chose members of the LeVian family, my ancestors, to guard the royal jewels, including the world-famous Koh-I-Noor diamond. Standing in the Tower of London, showing our guests that legendary stone and our own collections was an incredible full-circle moment that reassured me of the value and strength of our family legacy and the timelessness of the business we have created together.
On another note, seeing how our jewelry brought joy to those suffering during the pandemic was also astounding for me. We weren’t sure if we should continue advertising and posting on social media when Covid hit, but so many of our collectors communicated to us how our jewelry brought them some much-needed happiness and escapism – posting comments and messages on social media and directly messaging our team members. One of our most watched shows on Le Vian TV at the height of the pandemic was devoted to thanking nurses, and this was one of my most emotional Le Vian moments. We were able to bring a fun, warm environment amid those difficult days of being quarantined at home. I must thank our incredible team, who we were able to keep employed throughout the pandemic and provide with new skills and training.
Q: What life lesson has been the hardest earned, and taught you the most?
Life is short: don’t take it for granted. Live every day as if it is your last, not with risky behaviour but by imagining what you would want your life’s legacy to be if you knew your time was limited. After going through near-death experiences in my childhood and losing my sister at the age of nine and my nephew at 36 after a 25-year valiant battle with Crohn’s disease and cancer, our family has an appreciation of how precious life is and this has taught us to try to make it as meaningful as possible and to give back.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to marry Miranda earlier so that I could spend more of my twenties with the love of my life.
Q: What’s next for diamonds?
Buying habits have changed dramatically. With a growing middle-class across the globe, the demand for diamonds has substantially increased, yet supply is dwindling, with some major mines closing. Some laboratory-grown diamonds have gone some way to mimic the qualities of natural diamonds, although their claim to green properties is undermined by the high amounts of energy required in production. At its core, our brand is defined by how authentic and genuine we are: we only use natural diamonds, even as availability of them becomes rarer. It won’t be easy, but the challenge is exciting. In response to the shift in online buying behaviours, we are constantly developing our existing omnichannel strategy, which helps our collectors feel comfortable interacting with the brand in-store, at a trunk show, online, or on social media. These digital methods are the future of consumption.