15 Questions with Gemstones Dealer and Jewelry Designer Simon Dussart

Simon-Dussart-from-Asialounges-in-Jaume-Labro-Mokume-Gane-interview

Founder of AsiaLounges, Simon Dussart has been consistently supplying the most exigent clientele with some great gemstones and jewelry designs for several years.

Also has been contributing into the gemstone and jewelry enthusiasts through his blog “A Gem Dealer’s Journal” offering the readers a unique approach to the gemstones and jewelry sector.

Jaume Labro was fortunate enough to share some time with Simon Dussart and ask a few questions. The result was the learning of some wonderful insights, thanks to knowledge and expertise in the field of the man behind AsiaLounges and now we want to share that evening with our readers.

Can you tell us more about yourself?

First of all I would like to thank you, Jaume, for the opportunity that this interview represents. I was born in the northern part of France in a town called Calais. By the age of 14 I moved with my parents to Barcelona, Spain where I lived until the end of my studies. In the meantime, I lived in Uxbridge, UK as well as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, China.

I studied business and management as well as international relations and stumbled upon my carrier in the gem trade by pure coincidence as what I really wanted was to find a job in Asia. I have been dreaming of Japan for as long as I can remember and, eventually, was recruited for a fashion jewelry company, here, in Bangkok. I worked there for a couple of years prior to heading back to Shenzhen and Hong Kong where I really fell in love with what I do today.

There, working with some of the finest craftsmen the jewelry world has seen, I learned my trade. I learned how to hold a tweezer and a loupe. Learned that all sapphires aren’t blue and made my first encounter with what I like to call Capital Gemstones (a 5 ct unheated Kashmir sapphire if memory serves). It is also there that I have learned the arcane of jewelry making with people that have been trained and have worked for decades for prestigious brands such as Cartier or Van Cleef and Arpels to name only them. It truly was an eye opener!

How did you start in the gemstones and jewelry business?

As I said earlier, I really started when I was in China working for a French company that produced for quite a few well known brands in Europe. The company owners, as well as their chief jeweller, have been trained by the best craftsmen of Place Vendome and, learning from people such as them was truly a gift to me. Most of what I know today, jewelry wise, I learned from them. They kinda gave me the gem and jewelry virus right there and then. That was about 8 years ago and not a day goes by without me being grateful to them for putting me on this path.

Eventually, I came back to Bangkok and, with the support of a few friends here, I learned gem dealing and started my company: AsiaLounges.

Have been trained by the best craftsmen of Place Vendome and, learning from people such as them was truly a gift to me. Click To Tweet

Did you have any mentors and if YES, do you think that having a mentor is better than traditional, theoretical knowledge?

I entered the trade thanks to my mentors. They taught me most of what I know today. I have learned the gems by seeing thousands, if not more, carats of the vast majority of gems I’m trading today. Now, does that mean that I would recommend anyone to be following in my footsteps? No!

A gemological degree gives you a very serious head start in the trade and, all in all, sooner or later, you’ll need to go through the knowledge that these gemological books have to offer if you are planning on being successful. That said, if you can get both mentors and formal knowledge then all the better.

When I started in the trade, I just couldn’t afford a gemological degree and so I made do with what I had: a good head and guts. But I really wouldn’t say that that is the smart way to go about it either. It’s important to highlight that it worked for me because of where I am located. It worked out because I’m in the World Gem Capital, Bangkok, but had I been in Paris, I doubt I could have done it quite as easily.

When did you start AsiaLounges and what is the core of your company?

AsiaLounges exists under its current form for about 5 years or so. In the beginning, I wanted to deal exclusively in rubies and sapphires, unheated and clean 3 carats and above. I believed, and still do, that there is no place for second place and that, in a market of luxury only the best can survive. Therefore, making a name as a dealer of two of the most famous gems the trade has to offer appeared to be a way to achieve that. Today, I’m a bit more diverse in my gem choices. I deal a lot with tourmalines, spinels, aquas, garnets and a few others on top of the ruby and sapphires.

The bespoke jewelry front started later. The reason behind that was: that I originally wanted to create a brand that would allow me to have collections available at all time to passing customers willing to indulge in top gems without breaking the bank. The problem with that is that it requires relatively large capitals that I did not have. Eventually, I realized that most people can be interested in gems yet don’t necessarily know what to do with them. That’s when I realized that my solution was to make a canvas for my gems, to make bespoke jewelry. This started about 4 years ago.

What makes Asia Lounges different from others?

I think the easy way to find that out is to look at what Loungers think about us (that’s how we address our clientele and readership) rather than listening to me as I’ll obviously be biased. 🙂 We are proud of the gems we offer and are set on providing the best of the best in terms of both gems and jewelry regardless of the budget.

I think, one of the main differences between us and our competition is the fact that we take the time to talk to our customers. We take time to tell them the difference between gemstones and in-fine, take the time to make them understand that the most expensive gems aren’t always the best choice. We do that one on one or in groups as well as through our blogging section with the interviews and articles.

When cutting, re-cutting, your gems, do you sacrifice weight in order to gain beauty? If yes, why?

That perhaps is one of the main differences with the majority of jewelers out there. We make sure that, unless it has been agreed upon in advance for budget purposes or tastes, all gems we provide are cut to maximize beauty at the expense of carat weight. We will always prefer a smaller rather than an average or lower, bigger gem. Therefore, we do our very best to systematically deliver the best the gem world has to offer. On that I keep a compliment in mind that was once addressed to me by a prominent Bangkok gem merchant: “You specialize in impossible stones Simon”.  It may sound bizarre said like that but coming from him, that was a beautiful compliment.

 

Speaking about jewelry, tell us more about the creative and manufacturing process behind AsiaLounges jewelry?

We systematically start from the gems. To us, starting from the design is a heresy. We can always adapt the metal and shape of a piece of jewelry but not always can we find a gem that fits an existing model of jewelry.

If you push me, I’d even say that we start from the color. More often than not, people come to us asking for a ruby ring without understanding what it means in terms of price and most importantly without necessarily knowing that it is not the only red gem available. So, our real start is here, by asking what color are people looking for. From there, we provide a first selection in order to see where we stand and whether it makes more sense to go with one gem variety rather than another.

We start from the Color. More often than not, people come to us asking for a ruby without understanding that it is not the only red gem Click To Tweet

Once we have explained what gems are available, we define a budget and explain, if need be, where we may or may not need to be a bit more flexible. Origin is traditionally the first one, clarity and treatment if need be but I personally prefer to recommend a smaller gem than a treated/ included one.

Once the gem is secured, we start working on the design. At that point we propose a series of draft designs that the client can choose from and or ask to modify at will in order to fully customize the piece of jewelry.

Once the design is agreed upon, we work on a CAD (computer assisted design) or hand carved wax, depending on the complexity of the item, in order to assess the final weight and price of the finished piece of jewelry.

Once that last step has been confirmed and agreed upon, we launch the production and 5 weeks later we are ready to deliver a beautiful piece of jewelry. Some people prefer to pick it up from our offices while others prefer us to bring it over to their desired location.

We can always adapt the metal and shape of a piece of jewelry but not always can we find a gem that fits an existing model of jewelry. Click To Tweet
Earrings Creative Process
Earrings Creative Process

 

What would you change in the gemstones field if it were up to you?

Communication! I believe that one of the biggest weaknesses of our industry is that we have remained relatively hidden for too long. While it is understandable for security reasons, the world we live in today demands that the general public understands who we are and what we do. To give you an example of that need, I am always amused at the fact that when I introduce myself as a gem dealer the majority of people look at me as if I were some kind of bizarre animal or asking if we’re really all half Han Solo and half Indiana Jones… While you can indeed find both character types in the industry they are far from being the majority… Most of us are just your average, everyday Joe…

All in all, people demand to understand what they buy. Which is normal and I personally would demand the same should I find myself in their position. Yet, in a bizarre way, it would appear that our industry is, generally speaking, believing that it can continue on while keeping the general public in the dark. That is why I interview people of the trade or organize gem and jewelry discovery dinners whenever possible. It is capital that we, as an industry, stop fighting among ourselves about color types and other needless and highly subjective things and instead start to educate our real audience about the gem world lest we wish others, like journalists and politicians to do it for us. But that, we may not end up liking it…

We see Pigeon blood Burmese Ruby, Jedi Spinel, Paraiba, etc.  Are you looking for “pedigree” or just evaluating each stone for its own beauty independently of its origin?

Aquamarine-santa-maria-blue

Personally, I find traditional color types quite gory and fairly inefficient when it comes to actually convey a color to a client. So, to answer your question, origin and color type have little to no incidence on my choices. If I like a gem, a color and that it fits my requirements (I.E. being at the very least top eye clean and untreated) then chances are that I’ll buy it.

I personally much rather speak about colors in laymen terms. That is why I usually use fruit colors when describing the color of a gem to a client, using terms that speak to them. If you think about it, if you put 10 gem people in a room in front of 5 rubies, you will not get them to agree on what is pigeon blood for no one really knows what it is supposed to be. Some say it’s the eye of the pigeon other say it’s the actual blood… Now, ask them which one is strawberry color, my guess is you’ll end up with more of an agreement.

Do you think many people buy reports for what is written there, instead of the gems for their own beauty?

I think both sides can be found. You have people who buy a gem because of what the gemological report says about it and then you have an increasing number of people, or so I’d like to think, that use the reports for what they are meant to be: to confirm that the gem is treated or not and indeed is the gem variety that was advertised.

Either way, Gem testing labs are an absolute necessity in the trade and we need them as much as they need us. What people make of their services is their choice really. As far as I’m concerned, I only read the part telling me whether it is the gem type I want, whether it is synthetic or natural and whether the gem is treated or not. The rest is of little to no relevance to me as I don’t go around advertising origin and color type when I wear a piece of jewelry. Then again, you could argue that I seldom deal in investment type gems which requires the origin to be disclosed…

What brought you to Bangkok other than being a source of gemstones?

Well, Bangkok is the world Color Gem Capital so… it’s kind of essential to my trade. Add up to that the fact that Thailand has one of the longest history in terms of jewelry making (to my knowledge) and you have a great hub for my profession. Last but not least, on the professional side, the gem crowd here is super diverse, so you can always find a cool terrace to chat about gems and jewelry with people from all horizons and all parts of the trade.

On a less business kind of consideration, it’s a great city to live in. A bit chaotic perhaps but I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so fun to live here. Add up to that it is one buzzy foodie town and you’ll find a happy me living here!

I saw on my previous trip to Bangkok, a very nice young group of people in the same field, sharing the same passion and knowledge, helping each other, etc. How important is for you this environment in your daily live?

It’s paramount! I like to work in a Guild type way. Nerd alert, I love role playing and that defines a big part of the way I work today. What I mean by guild way to work is that, the group you are referring to, generally knows that one cannot be good at everything. Therefore, we split the load and each invest in his / her pole of competence. Our seniors, or “Senpais”(Japanese term to refer to seniors) if you prefer, tend to have a more vertical approach to management while our generation, the infamous Gen X and Gen Y tend to have a more horizontal approach to management. I think it’s a generational thing, nothing funky, but I wouldn’t have been able to create AsiaLounges as you know it today without said crowd and ambiance, add up to that, that it is a buzzy foodie town.

 

Basically, Bangkok is where you are based, but as a brand with wonderful gemstones and jewelry Europe and US seems to be the logical destiny to show them. How people could be able to see them? Do you make any private gatherings?

I’ll admit that I stupidly thought at first that I was aiming my goods exclusively to the west. Turns out that I have a growing audience in Japan and Taiwan and I’m loving it. Asia and Asian people in general have a much deeper understanding and connection to the world of colored gems through their history and culture. It is therefore logical to me to try and service the local crowd as well with our products.

Now, to answer to the where can we see our products question, I tour Europe three or four times per year where I’m glad to meet people and chat about gems and jewelry. Yes the prime idea is to sell my treasures but, at the end of the day I’m more than happy to share a cool and relaxed chat about gems and jewelry in a nice ambiance without any kind of strings attached. As I was saying earlier, I like to take the time to explain who we are, what we do and what are gemstones. That requires time and most of all, it requires for people to know that they can ask questions without feeling like they have to buy something in return.

So, people can meet me up in Paris, Barcelona, Zurich or London and chat for a while or stop by our office in Bangkok at any given moment. We are easy to find and my mobile phone number is all over the place, so I’m really easy to reach. One just needs to Google: AsiaLounges and they’ll know where we are and what we are up to lately thanks to Google My Business 😉

Asia and Asian people in general have a much deeper understanding and connection to the world of colored gems through their history and culture. Click To Tweet

I saw that you are using Lotus Gemology reports? Other than their unparalleled knowledge and reputation, what do you think make them to stand apart from other labs? (NOTE: Here at Jaume Labro, definitely is our preferred laboratory if a report is required).

First thing first, it may be of interest for people to know that my girlfriend is Billie Hughes from the Lotus Gemology. That said, that’s not why I work with them. As you said yourself in the question, they have unparalleled knowledge of ruby, sapphire and spinels, an impressive business ethic and a sense of aesthetics that is nowhere else to be found. All that placed together makes for very sexy gemological reports, a cool and a serious family run boutique gem lab.

geomological field trip of Simon Dussart from Asialounges

 To finalize this interview, I would like you to give us all your details (website, social media links, email, etc.) to make sure our readers can follow you and also your blog.

Thanks again for the interview Jaume, as I mentioned earlier we’re easy to find as we are literally everywhere (laugh). The details are as follow

From Jaume Labro, we want to thank Simon Dussart for spending part of his precious time with us, sharing his insights about AsiaLounges and the world of gems and jewelry. Hope, our readers enjoyed as we did!

We will be here soon with new interviews and articles talking about jewelry, gemstones and diamonds.

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