Emmanuel Tarpin on Building Jewelry Brand, Wowing Rihanna: Interview

  • At just 28 years old, Emmanuel Tarpin is one of the rising stars of fine jewelry.
  • Tarpin has amassed an elite list of clients over the past five years, winning Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award and Designer of the Year at the 2019 Town and Country Jewelry Awards.
  • Today, Tarpin’s client list is so exclusive that it only works by private appointment – it isn’t sold in stores or online, at least not yet.
  • Tarpin spoke to Business Insider about his career, the future of his brand, his thoughts on jewelry as an investment asset, and how his designs caught Rihanna’s attention.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

The sun was still shining as evening settled in Paris. It was 6 p.m., and jewelry designer Emmanuel Tarpin was in his apartment, finishing his day.

Around a quarter of an hour, Business Insider called – a little late, but the goal still the same: to find out how this 28-year-old became one of the world’s most fashionable jewelry designers almost overnight. the following day.

Emmanuel Tarpin

Emmanuel Tarpin.

Emmanuel Tarpin

“I’ve been passionate about jewelry since I was a kid,” he told Business Insider. “We always talk about the passion and the creation of the fashion designer, but the jeweler these days always has to be low-key, and I think that’s a shame.”

Tarpin graduated in 2014 from the Haute École d’Arts Appliqués in Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied jewelry design. Subsequently, he started working in the Van Cleef & Arpels high jewelry workshop on the jewelry bench, where he refined his design techniques and craftsmanship.

But after three years he was ready to try something new.

“It was frustrating making jewelry that didn’t have my own designs,” he said. “I wanted to start something that was mine, and I wanted to grow, try new things, try my own designs and create my own brand.”

A post shared by Emmanuel Tarpin (@emmanuel_tarpin)

So, in 2017, he launched his eponymous jewelry line and flew to New York. No one there knew his name, but he was determined to show the best players in the jewelry industry that he could play their game.

“I made an appointment with Christie’s in New York and showed them my first jewelry design, and they absolutely loved it,” he said. “Immediately they put it up for auction.”

This design – Tarpin’s first pair of earrings – sold that year at Christie’s for $ 25,000, with the auction house describing him in their post-lot text as “a young jewelry designer. promising”. And just like that, the then 25-year-old Tarpin became a rising star.

Today, the jeweler has built up such an exclusive clientele that he only works by private appointment. It doesn’t sell in stores or online, and doesn’t even have its own gallery, at least for now.

“Everything is one of a kind”

Like most millennial entrepreneurs, running an intimate, authentic brand is important to Tarpin.

“I like taking time with my clients. I want them to see my world, what I create and where my inspiration comes from,” he said. “I have always traveled a lot with my family and this has always inspired me. I also love nature. I grew up in Annecy [in southeastern France], with an atmosphere of nature. ”

Tarpin doesn’t make a lot of pieces a year and says it takes him and his jewelry team a few months to bring his projects to life. For the creator, collecting gemstones is one of the most important parts of his process, and he tries to do it on his own.

Emmanuel Tarpin

Orchid earrings in white and yellow gold in blue aluminum, with tourmalines from Namibia and Paraiba and diamonds.

Emmanuel Tarpin

“I like white diamonds, but I also use a lot of colored stones like emeralds, sapphires and even fine stones – not precious – but even like tourmaline,” he said. “Everything is one of a kind.”

After designing a piece of jewelry and meeting a client, he then carefully teaches her how to wear her new accessory: with simple clothes that will help draw attention to her designs. “It’s always great to have a very simple dress that will allow you to see the beautiful details on the jewelry,” he said.

Instructions like these helped draw even more attention to the young designer, and in January 2019 he received both the Rising Star Award from Fashion Group International and Designer of the Year at Town and Country Jewelry. Awards.

Later that month, Rihanna’s stylist called. The singer adored a pair of her earrings. “And that’s how it all started – in a pretty simple way,” he said of his work with the richest musician in the world.

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri)

Last February, Rihanna stepped out with a pair of black aluminum and yellow gold shell earrings from Tarpin, and 14k diamond earrings. She was on her way to Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s exclusive Oscars after-party at Chateau Marmont, wearing an Alexandre Vauthier leopard-print mini dress.

Jewelry can be a smart investment – but perhaps more importantly, it’s art

Fine jewelry has long been viewed as a good investment, alongside other “passion investments” such as wine, whiskey, art, classic cars and even Birkin bags, as items of great value. generally increases over time.

But as Kate Beioley of the Financial Times writes, jewelry can be a difficult asset class to tap into.

Like first-rate art, most claims follow a very selective and specific subclass: diamonds and exceptional gemstones. And in recent years, the jewelry market has not been the most stable. Artnet reported that in 2019, global jewelry sales increased from $ 1.8 billion to $ 1.15 billion. All that to say: consumer tastes change and the clarity, color, carat and cut of a piece of jewelry has never been more important.

Emmanuel Tarpin

Arum violet fleur-de-lys earrings, purple-pink mat aluminum with yellow gold, red gold, Burmese rubies and pink sapphires.

Emmanuel Tarpin

Despite a volatile market, the pandemic has sent mixed messages – that the jewelry industry is about to take a huge financial hit, but also that when the going gets tough, people who can afford it always buy jewelry. diamonds.

Luxury retailers Moda Operandi and Olivela both told Business Insider they saw an increase in jewelry sales during the height of the pandemic, and even Tarpin reports that the pandemic hasn’t hit his business too hard.

“For what I create for my clients, nothing has changed much,” he said.

Ultimately, Tarpin said he was not a supporter of viewing jewelry as an asset class, and when asked about its investment value, the young designer abstained. For him, it is art; he sees jewelry as a “sculpture you can wear”.

“Of course there is the idea of ​​investment, but I don’t really think about it when I create a piece. Jewelry is something very intimate, very personal,” he said. “After the pandemic, maybe people will think differently about the way they buy jewelry. Maybe they’ll actually think more about feelings and buy things they like.”


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