RAVING ABOUT RONALD ABRAM!
Have you ever visited the Hong Kong jewelry shows? If so, you will know it’s spread between two exhibition centers, with a 25 minute train ride between the two, jointly covering over 150,000 square meters! That’s over 37 acres! To say the show is exhausting, is an understatement, so when Bebe (AKA Champagnegem) told me she had set up an appointment for us to visit an offsite
jeweler during one of our very first trips to Hong Kong, I was less than thrilled, because all I like doing at the end of the day in Hong Kong is having a hot shower in my hotel room, and enjoying room service in my hotel robe! That is… until she mentioned the name of the jeweler… Ronald Abram! I had long admired this Hong Kong based jeweler, and to have the opportunity to view their exceptional jewels was not to be missed, no matter how exhausted I may have been! I was energized at the mere thought of visiting their salon in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and once we arrived there, I was in jewellery lovers heaven.
Surrounded by some of the worlds most beautiful high jewellery, what caught my attention first was the wide range of rare gems. Burma rubies, Kashmir sapphire, Colombian emeralds, and rare fancy colored diamonds all glistening in their cases in a elegant and stylish boutique. We ended up spending hours there, trying on item after item, giddy with delight at what we were seeing. Ever since then, I’ve seen the jewelry house grow and flourish, with new generations bringing new ideas to the brand. It is therefore with great pleasure that I share this interview with Ronald Abram and his son Jonathan, better known as JJ.
TDG: Tell us about the background to Ronald Abram – when was it started and the circumstances?
RA: Rare jewels are in my blood. My father, Simon Abram was a very well-respected gem dealer with offices internationally and he had a heavy influence on me. I started working for the family business in New York and later in Europe before moving to Asia in 1974. Those years spent mastering the trade served me well when I eventually opened my own salon in 1987 in the legendary Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong.
TDG: Some incredible rare stones have passed through your hands…. what’s the most memorable for you?
RA: My father lived between Bombay and Bangkok in the 1960s and 1970s and was known as the ‘King of Burmese Rubies. When the Burmese government held its first ruby auction in the 1960s, my father was the most active buyer at that time. During the auction, he acquired a 10 carat unheated super-gem Burmese Ruby that was considered one of the finest in the world. A fine unheated Burmese ruby of that size and quality is the rarest of all gemstones – nothing comes close to its uniqueness. Almost immediately, my brother sold it over the phone, sight unseen. It was then resold a short time later and then again through one of the European houses to the most important Italian collector at the time. In those days, I was a very young man, but I distinctly remember when the stone arrived at our New York office. Its colour struck me to the core – it was so vivid. The beauty of that stone has remained with me ever since.
TDG: Describe the Ronald Abram woman? What’s she like?
RA: A few years ago, there was a prominent
woman in Hong Kong who was looking for an important diamond. She came to visit us with a friend and tried on a 30 plus carat ring. Her friend commented, “don't you think that it is too large for you?” I jumped in and replied, “it's not the size of the stone, it's the size of your character.” Needless to say, the lady acquired the diamond ring. That story is indicative of a Ronald Abram client who is discerning and wears her jewels with confidence.
TDG: Lately, I’ve seen more men’s jewellery showcased on your media platforms. What’s the response been like?
We have always loved creating gentlemen’s jewellery and have some exciting new collections in the pipeline. Looking back, some of our most important stones were actually set into gentlemen’s rings. Recently, there’s been a resurgence in interest in men’s jewellery especially in diamond rings. That’s been driven largely by male celebrities and fashion icons. In fact, we just had someone come in recently and request a yellow diamond ring inspired by Pharrell Williams.
TDG: What’s your opinion on natural versus lab grown diamonds?
JJ: There will always be a place for sustainably sourced, natural diamonds but what’s exciting about lab grown diamonds is the creativity factor. It’s very difficult for the jewellery industry to really experiment with design. That’s because stones, metal and manufacturing are all cost prohibitive. But as lab grown diamonds become cheaper to produce, I think we’ll see a lot more design risk being taken and that’s a win for everyone. The other plus is that a saturated lab grown market will give high jewellery wearers added confidence to wear their own pieces as diamonds will be everywhere, natural and lab grown. What better advertisement for our industry.
TDG: How do you see the luxury market performing now considering the pandemic and changes to consumer buying patterns?
JJ: In the past, the performance of the luxury market has been largely dependent on physical access to goods, as touch and feel have been an important part of the acquisition process. Since Covid, we’ve seen how social media and new technologies have helped change that. Today, people are comfortable making luxury purchases online. The shopping experience has been gently heading in that direction, but Covid has really accelerated this.
Thank you Ronald and JJ for your insightful responses - I look forward to returning to the Ronald Abam boutique when I am next In Hong Kong, and sharing your incredible jewels with my followers. Hong Kong readers and visitors - visit the boutique in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. And for the rest of us… be sure to visit Ronald Abram here and enjoy their latest creations!