In the Diamond Mind: Jack and Dominick Gabriel
A Conversation with Jack and Dominick Gabriel, Owners, Gabriel & Co.By Heidi Garnett, Writer and Co-Founder of Gem X @heidielizabethgarnett |
“Passion. Love.” The slogan of Gabriel & Co. is also the life slogan of its owners, brothers Jack and Dominick Gabriel, it became apparent during our conversation. While not twins, Jack is older and Dominick younger, their similarities are striking. For instance, neither set out to run their father’s, the original Gabriel’s, jewelry business. Jack studied engineering at school and Dominick first interned at a dentist office. However, both were called back to the family business by a passion for the “artistry of jewelry” and a love for family. Both sentiments were strong enough to keep the brothers together through the twists and turns of life, which carried their family from Beirut to Istanbul to finally New York City. It says it all that today, 30 years into working together, their greatest indulgence in life is sharing a cigar together in the sun.
Q: What’s the story of your first diamond?
Dominick: Our father, who founded the original Gabriel, designed a diamond ballerina ring when I was a child. The form of the ballerina was accentuated by bezel set diamonds and her shoulder hugged a large diamond, which was the center of the piece. It was very striking and it made me appreciate good design. I remember looking at the ring and saying, “Wow, what beauty.”
Jack: When I graduated from college at 22 years old, our father put me on a plane with him to Belgium to buy diamonds. There, I picked out and bought my first parcel. The diamonds were small, but when I saw them, I fell in love. I bought them because I loved them.
Q: What excites you most at the moment?
Dominick: After the spring lockdown, during the summer and much of the fall, we could get together with family like normal. That was beautiful. Having a barbecue with the kids playing around the pool. That is a blessing. I look forward to the day we can do it again.
Jack: I have to agree with Dominick. The simple things in life excite me. Meeting a friend for a cup of coffee, sharing a meal with family and hugging the people I care about are the true luxuries of life.
Q: What is your intention for the year ahead?
Dominick: The pandemic lockdown this past spring gave us time to reflect and discuss what we love about our jobs. We love designing beautiful jewelry that celebrates the beautiful moments in life – whether a woman buying something special for herself to mark a first job or a person buying a piece of jewelry for a loved one. What drives us is artisanship and the desire to make beautiful jewelry. That is what we want to communicate to our partners and consumers during 2021.
Jack: My brother is the designer and I’m more focused on the business. I plan to stay our course and continue our digital transformation. While we did not know the pandemic would happen, we were prepared. We had put the technology in place that allowed us to quickly shift to working from home. We were able to support our retail partners with innovative solutions through this time.
Dominick: We are a global company. If a man in Seattle wants to propose with one of our engagement rings and we experience a hurricane here in New York City, he will still get engaged. My brother is an engineer and he has designed a beautiful system, which allows us to enable virtual shopping. Throughout the pandemic, we have used technology to support our retail partners’ sales, create custom jewelry without delays, and process and fulfill orders.
Q: What’s your greatest indulgence?
Dominick: Simple. A nice cigar on the weekend.
Jack: I will join you, my brother, for a cigar. It’s true. Sitting down together, over the weekend in the backyard in the sun, to share a cigar. Also, I love to travel. The Mediterranean is at the top of my list once we can travel safely again.
Q: What diamond destination is at the top of your list?
Dominick: London. I would love to see the British Crown Jewels. I love history and craftsmanship. Last Christmas, right before the pandemic, my wife and I went to Paris. We walked along the Rue de la Paix, the avenue of peace, and it might as well have been 200 years ago. We saw jewelry stores that had been there for many, many years. Despite seeing wars, famines, pandemics and more, these businesses have thrived. That is something I find powerful about history and jewelry.
Jack: I will join you in London, but with a detour to Istanbul. It is a beautiful city with beautiful jewelry. I have not been in some time and I would love to go back.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in jewelry?
Dominick: I began working at our father’s jewelry store when I was in high school. It was there that I began to fall in love with jewelry and the beauty of good design. At the time, I did not think I would work in jewelry. I tried an internship with a dentist and hated it. Then, in college, I studied business and law. It was the 80s, when many businesses were focused on going into companies and breaking them up. I realized I want to build up, not tear down, which brought me back to jewelry. Today, I get to design beautiful jewelry and work with independent retailers to help grow their businesses.
Jack: I was born in Lebanon. When I was a teenager our father found me an apprenticeship at an atelier that created phenomenal jewelry. The first year I learned metalsmithing and the second year I learned stone setting. I had the opportunity to create beautiful jewelry by hand and diamonds always stood out to me. I always felt a piece began to speak when diamonds were set into it.
Jack: In 1983, our family fled the civil war in Lebanon and moved to Istanbul. That year, I was granted a visa to study engineering in the U.S. I moved again and my family joined one year later. When I graduated, I wanted to work with our father, but this time I used my degree to design systems and processes rather than necklaces and rings. Both systems and jewelry are beautiful things. I feel blessed to work in both.
Q: What moment still blows your mind?
Dominick: Every time I go onto Instagram and see a story about two people getting engaged with one of our rings. It’s beautiful. We are fortunate to be artisans of beautiful jewelry, but our consumers are the artisans of these beautiful life moments.
Jack: Every time I look at the stars. I am in awe of the universe and its magnificence. I get a similar feeling when looking at a beautiful piece of jewelry. It is the wonder of creation. Jewelry is the creation of man and the heavens are the creation of God. There is something perfect about both.
Q: What life lesson has been the hardest earned, and taught you the most?
Dominick: My wife was diagnosed with blood cancer six years ago. It happened so fast. I was building the business with my brother and running, running, running. I did not see it coming and it hit me like a load of bricks. It taught me to slow down and enjoy life. It is moments like sharing a cup of coffee with my wife that matter most. Thankfully, my wife is healthy now, but I will never forget that lesson.
Jack: Without getting too religious, I learned to trust God always. I felt close to God as a child, but life pulled me away as I grew older. When I left Lebanon for the United States, I thought America would require different values. Then, I had a period of self-discovery and it took me back to the values of my Father and upbringing. Faith is the foundation and with it my life makes sense. Integrity, it is my North Star.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
Dominick: Surround yourself with good people. Life is never about you, but about others. The pandemic has reminded us what brings joy. Joy is time with friends and family.
Jack: Have faith, take life one day at a time and live with passion. Passion is at the heart Gabriel & Co. During the pandemic, we were worried about the non-profit organizations we support and wanted to help. So, we designed our 91>19 bracelet to raise funds for Jewelers for Children (JFC). The bracelet stands for Psalm 91, which reminds us the Lord is “my refuge and my fortress,” and for this message being greater than Covid-19. It was a project of passion and it was so fulfilling that the campaign raised $91,000.
Dominick: The project brought our team together and made us excited, despite these difficult times. This year, we have created a new piece of jewelry, a pendant, and a new initiative called Stronger Together.
Q: What’s next for diamonds?
Dominick: As you now know, I love history. Thinking about history, natural diamonds have survived and thrived over the centuries and throughout history. Each diamond is unique and there will always be a place in our world for that beauty. I am going to steal a line my brother always says, “Diamonds are beautiful pieces of art.”
Jack: The future is bright. Natural diamonds have intrinsic value and emotional value. The pandemic does not change either. Just like people, diamonds have survived past catastrophes and they will continue to be cherished as some of the natural wonders of the world.