IFA Paris helped me to go through with my idea, which was to appraise the in-estimable!
A former gemologist and young jewellery designer, Stéphane Boghossian, a graduate of the MBA Luxury Brand Management from IFA Paris, created his company, ExJewel in 2018, a digital jewellery inventory management platform that enhances the expertise of the most precious materials. Objectives: to evaluate, recycle and reuse jewellery left in boxes and drawers by individuals and professionals alike. Investors are following the adventure closely as well.
M. T.: You’re not a novice when it comes to jewellery. Your family has been in the jewelry business from father to son for generations. The New York Times devoted a full page to your family odyssey in 2016! Would you mind recounting it in a few words?
The Boghossians, beginning of the 20th century.
Stéphane Boghossian: The story of my family began before the Armenian genocide. My great-great-grandfather, Oanès – we’re talking about the first generation of Boghossians – began his career as a jeweller in Mardin, a small town that was once in Armenia and is now in Turkey. In the midst of the genocide, all Armenians had to flee and migrate to neighbouring countries. The Boghossians then settled and opened jewellery shops in Syria, Lebanon and all over the Middle East. My family has been in the jewelry business for a long time as I am the sixth generation!
M. T. : Your father’s role seems to have been of capital importance. In a way, you are following in his footsteps, but in an innovative way, isn’t that right?
Stéphane Boghossian: Exactly. My father, Gerard took over the business from his father, Laurent. He started creating collections but because of the civil war in Lebanon, he had to move to Belgium, to Antwerp. He changed his approach and started buying stones and diamonds in the diamond hub of Antwerp, to resell them in the Middle East. At first, to follow his steps I worked in various companies, in the luxury and jewellery industry. You know, there are several well-known names in fine jewellery in the world today, including our family. The notoriety of the Boghossians gave me the opportunity to talk to some of the top people in the industry. With my brother Patrick, we were quickly faced with a choice: to keep up the momentum or to innovate? We preferred to innovate. That’s how I decided to create my company, ExJewel.
M.T.: Your company is ExJewel, a digital expertise solution. How did you actually develop it?
Stéphane Boghossian: I decided to take the lead and innovate within an industry that is basically very unclear. Originally, my goal was to redesign and improve the condition of old jewellery. I started with family jewellery, with the jewellery of friends and relatives. I soon realized that I had difficulty assessing the initial value of each piece of jewellery and therefore estimate the added value of my own work. I then had the idea to develop an algorithm that was at first quite simple. Then we gathered an enormous amount of data – around a million. Later, using artificial intelligence, we developed the core of the algorithm system with the rest of the team. Our CTO, Yasmina Schoueri, manages it all brilliantly together with Tony Sang our Product Manager.
We realized that if we wanted to estimate a piece of jewellery at a jeweller A in Place Vendôme, at a jeweller B in Zimbabwe or at a jeweller C in Hong Kong, there was no reliable estimate. All the appraisals were very different because the criteria were not uniform. We then strengthened our pricing algorithm by deciding to select six estimation criteria, among two hundred and fifty criteria existing in theory: materials, precious stones, precious metals, design – floral motif, art deco design, art nouveau, etc. -, the details and the manufacturing location.
M.T.: Did you face serious obstacles, great difficulties?
Stéphane Boghossian: Yes, for example, when we were also interested in antique jewellery, which is harder to value. We then asked ourselves how could we evaluate immaterial feelings? We were also interested in the price margin of the brands, that is to say the luxury value of each brand and each piece of jewellery. Our goal was to assess the inestimable. We developed new criteria to achieve this and ExJewel now integrates dozens of complex data sources and calculates online in real time the value of any antique jewellery belonging to a professional or an individual. In February, we launched our platform and started in B2B – but ExJewel also targets B2C. The idea is to have customers download the application to their mobile, take pictures of a particular piece of jewellery and quickly get the estimate and price of the piece of jewellery as well as all its features.
Our goal is indeed to become the Shazam of jewellery! It is not easy because the industry is very competitive. Jewellers and brands generally fear our platform because it brings transparency to a niche sector that is in theory obscure. Except that we also want to work with the major luxury and jewellery groups with the idea of contributing together to the development of a responsible ecosystem within the industry.
M.T. : While you were working on this project, what did your studies at IFA Paris and your MBA Luxury Brand Management bring you?
Stéphane Boghossian: Basically, I was just a jewelry designer and gemmologist. When I joined IFA Paris, I learned a lot. I stepped into marketing and understood the industry’s business. My studies at IFA Paris were all the more valuable as I built the research and business framework that was necessary for my project. IFA Paris helped me get to the bottom of this idea, estimate what is invaluable! My research in this field also confirmed my doubts about the jewellery industry: namely that 92% of the jewellery in the world is not used. We produce eighteen times more precious stones and materials than we need. IFA Paris permitted me to write a detailed thesis on this subject.
I was able to complete my research and thus create ExJewel, which can also be used as a platform to improve transparency in the sector and to bring together conscious and eco-responsible consumers who are willing to buy and reuse precious stones and other materials.
M.T.: What is the current status of your development?
Stéphane Boghossian: In order to develop ExJewel and our brand with all the partners, we finalised a successful crowdfunding strategy on the KissKissBankBank platform at the end of 2019-early 2020. This is a new step as we have reached one hundred percent of the desired amount, i.e. 16,000 euros, and we have been continuing since our fundraising. This is enough to help finance the improvement of the basic product, the aim of which is to confirm an estimate!
To learn more on the program pursued by Stéphane: MBA in Luxury Brand Management