In 1960, Laurence Graff opened a shop in Hatton Garden, the hub of London’s old jewellery quarter, beginning a journey that would eventually encompass 55 stores around the world, 600 employees and a family fortune in excess of $4bn (€3.6bn). It’s a success story that’s now maintained by the founder’s son, Francois Graff. We caught up with him at the company’s Bond Street offices.
The Official Ferrari Magazine: Why do diamonds exert such a powerful allure?
Francois Graff: It’s the intangible factor, the thing you can’t really put your finger on. Ferraris have it, because I experience it every time I sit in one. If you asked a hundred different people, you’d get a hundred different reasons why they get that feeling. With our diamonds, people buy them for many different reasons: some wear them, some collect them, some simply want something rare and special.
TOFM: Does your love of Ferrari go beyond simply enjoying the cars?
FG: As a custodian of a global luxury brand, you have to be something of a student not only of your competition, but other important brands. Ferrari is a phenomenal company. Ask an Eskimo to choose the most famous car in the world and, while he may not say Ferrari, it’ll be a red car. He’ll know it’s red and he’ll know what it looks like. To have that sort of brand power is incredible. It’s what we all aspire to.
TOFM: Why is Graff so successful?
FG: We haven’t forgotten the original brand ethos. I know in my heart the true strength of our brand is keeping that original spark alive. Once that’s lost you never get it back. Also, most of our pieces are one-offs. That gives a very special feeling to a client. It’s also something I know a lot of people enjoy about their Ferrari.
TOFM: Can you talk me through the basics of the process?
FG: It’s become extremely innovative. We have scanners that are similar to the MRI machines used in the medical sphere. You can imagine how many variables there are in a rough stone: it has stresses, marks inside, impurities, the permutations are infinite.
TOFM: Presumably there isn’t a finite supply of your core source material.
FG: There isn’t an inexhaustible supply, but there’s certainly a supply. Right now, it’s outstripped by demand, which means prices remain strong, notwithstanding all the turmoil in the world. [pause] China is still growing. I’ve just got back from that region, it’s still an incredible hub of energy.
TOFM: Finally, what sort of a driver are you?
FG: I’m not a speed demon. I don’t want to go round a corner sideways. I get as much pleasure from driving the [250 GT] SWB or the Lusso slowly through the countryside. And the lines on those cars, there is something soul stirring about the late 1950s to early 1960s Ferraris. They got it so right. You can’t look at a car from that period and not be spellbound. In terms of the SWB and the LaFerrari… I was going to say they’re completely different, but actually the emotions that are ignited are just the same. Maybe they’re stretched a little bit more in the LaFerrari…