It’s hard to believe that Jasmin – the Thai jewellery brand with several stores in Bangkok’s finest malls and hotels – came from humble beginnings. Started by Chaivate Sabmaneeanant almost 50 years ago, the store at the Dusit Thani Hotel was a means for the hardworking man to provide for his family. Chaivate couldn’t predict how successful a jewellery business could grow through word of mouth alone, and absolutely no marketing. Although humble, the brand nonetheless reached new heights when it had the honour of being asked to create the golden pins worn by the kings, queens and leaders of the world that visited the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej during the 60th anniversary celebrations of his accession in 2013.
Pictures taken by Papinvit Attawanich
The Modest Facet collection was the first one the siblings launched together at their Emporium store
With the brand’s growing international reputation, Chaivate’s four children decided they would help their father accelerate his business into a new dawn for Thai jewellery. So it was that he agreed to his three sons and daughter – who, as a team, would help create a strategy that would not only make the jewellery brand more accessible locally and worldwide, but also appeal to the younger generations. The brand that was for many years associated with Bangkok’s elite circles and their families, including royalty, prime ministers and high net worth business owners, has now seen a transformation, and further growth. We sat down with Chaivate’s eldest son and youngest daughter, Panuwat (Gopp) and Sophaphan (Par) Sabmaneeanant to find out more about the jewellery brand that believes in “everyday shining”.
Tell us about Jasmin.
Par: Jasmin is a company my father started, back then it was known as Jasmin Jewelry.
Gopp: Jasmin has been operating for 47 years but the last 3 years saw the company re-branding quite a lot. My father started the business himself, operating from a shop at the Dusit Thani Hotel. After I graduated, I decided we would help our father with his business. My dad did very well with no marketing at all, everything was by word of mouth and we had very loyal, long-term local and international clients.
Par: Our dad never asked us or made us take on the business. We four willingly decided we would come into the business together to continue it and take it in a fresh direction. The idea had never been discussed until that point but when we decided to come together, I remember Gopp saying that because there are four of us, we must make it so that we pull our resources and experience together to achieve at least four times what our father had already.
Gopp: And so we said: let’s do it!
Tell us more about what your dad was doing before you all joined.
Gopp: He was operating his own jewellery brand for more than 30 years serving mostly Thai clients from his jewellery store at The Dusit Thani hotel. He was running a small jewellery factory producing piece by piece, ordered to be custom-made. All his clients came through word of mouth.
Why do you think it did so well?
Gopp: Well, luckily the store was at the Dusit Thani hotel which was very iconic before the time of Bangkok’s department stores, when people would visit 5 star hotel arcades to do their shopping. He focused on only loyal customers and some VIPs sent through by the hotels. His brand grew by word of mouth and it started doing so well that he even got some contracts and orders from overseas clients and factories, but he focused on just taking enough orders that would keep the factory running.
Par: Even without marketing, he managed this. And back then, the customer sometimes had to wait over two years to receive their order.
Gopp: Yes, the waiting list was two years because the business’s capacity was quite limited. He took on enough orders just to feed the factory and keep all the artists and designers with him. He prioritized local orders over overseas orders. When I joined the company 13 years ago I had a huge backlog of international orders I had to clear, one that went back many years.
What are your positions in Jasmin?
Par: I look after the company’s PR and marketing
Gopp: I’m the CEO, and I look after everything from branding and purchasing to product development and more.
Par: Our other two brothers also help with this family company, one takes care of sales and the other takes care of overall operations.
Who have been some of your most famous customers?
Par: We’ve had a lot of VIP clients, a lot of singers, such as Shirley Bassey and Whitney Houston. I personally met Whitney Houston when she came to the Dusit Thani store to buy a diamond ring.
Gopp: We work a lot with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so they often refer us to a lot of overseas VIP customers.
What was the founding vision for Jasmin Jewelry?
Gopp: My father’s founding vision for Jasmin was very basic, he just wanted a business that would provide for his family. He didn’t think too much into it, he just so happened to pick the best possible location for that time, which was 1960s Thailand. First and foremost, he focused on Thai customers, based upon the location, Bangkok. Yet, because The Dusit Thani hotel had a very famous reputation, a lot of opportunities sprung up to reach international customers as well and the company was sending jewellery to customers in cities like London and New York, piece by piece.
The local market gradually expanded and built itself through word of mouth; my father’s biggest customers became Prime Ministers and their families, all the ministers in each of the different ministries and many CEOs of top listed companies as well.
Were you around the jewellery business from a young age?
Gopp: When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in the shop and a lot of VIPs would come in and share their stories. I was privy to knowledge about high-ranking officials. As a young boy I remember sitting around the dinner table and absorbing some very big conversations of the time and being privy to the high-ranking lives of Thailand.
How about you Par?
Gopp: [Laughs] The table was too full for Par!
Par: Actually I wasn’t always involved in the family business. After I graduated from Chulalongkorn University I was actually the marketing officer for Mister Donut of the CRG group for 2 years before studying at Boston University. When I was working at Mister Donut, I was working 5 days a week and I didn’t get to see my family much at all. I eventually felt like one day I would regret not being able to spend time with my family so that’s why today I unified my work life with my family life, just so I can spend more time with them. And because I also love jewellery.
When I was in Boston, I actually had the chance to work in a jewellery store and this made me realise that one day I would enjoy being in the jewellery business too. For me, it’s not about jewellery. It’s about art. Jewellery is art and it has a life of its own. Something that allows you to be more confident in yourself. The powers of jewellery are manifold.
What is your favourite store location and why?
Gopp: I’d have to say our flagship store at Emporium, the one that opened around 3 years ago. It has a lot of sentimental value because it was the first store my siblings and I built together after we re-branded Jasmin with the idea of making Jasmin younger.
Par: For me it’s also Emporium, because we built and launched it together. When we were looking for a location, this one really ticked all the boxes in terms of actual location, the fact that it was on the correct floor of Emporium, the size, the credibility of the mall itself and the spending power of the customers it attracts.
Gopp: It was actually incredibly difficult to get this spot, we found out that there was a waiting list of over 10 years. But we got some good references, and that was that.
Par: It was so strange. We signed the contract on the Monday and we were meant to be open and ready for business by the Friday. We had 3 days to prepare the shop and put the Jasmin name on it, it was quite tough, but we did it.
Gopp: Yes, we opened the store in October 2015, roughly 3 years ago. I think we ruffled some feathers but it was definitely worth it.The Dusit Thani store also has a special place in my heart because it’s the one that my father opened.
What’s your favourite collection from Jasmin?
Gopp: The first collection we launched at Emporium, The Modest Facet collection. We really put a lot of thought into this collection and we built it from the belief of what we thought Jasmin should be.
Par: We tried to communicate who we are as Jasmin: we are sincere and we are not pretentious or hard-selling.
Gopp: A lot of brands will act like diamonds are so rare and expensive, but actually diamonds are quite common in this day and age. A piece of diamond jewellery is the same price as an iPhone, so it’s not as unattainable as some brands will have you believe.
Par: We are sincere, and we present our jewellery as what it truly is. We don’t boast.
Gopp: The first collection was really built on the belief that everything has its own value, nothing more, nothing less. We prefer modesty over ostentation. The Modest Facet collection is born from that. When people think about diamonds, they often talk about the brilliance of the diamond, the face, or the crown or pavilion of the diamond, but no one ever mentions the girdle.
Par: We decided to focus on the part of the diamond that most tend to overlook, even though it is still of utmost importance. The girdle is actually quite important because it is the delicate space between the top and the bottom and if it’s cut wrong, it changes the entire face of the diamond. So, we used the girdle as inspiration to develop the designs of our first ever collection. We highlighted the girdle, i.e. the facet no one ever spoke about, that in itself, is humble and thus worthy of praise. We also inserted the girdle into Jasmin’s monogram.
Please tell us about Jasmin’s latest collection.
Gopp: Actually, this collection will be launched at Siam Takashiyama department store at the new Iconsiam. There we’ll be launching a new concept store which will be more affordable and easier to access. So, we’ve created a new collection exclusively for the department store that will only be available there and we tried to think of something that was in line with the Japanese heritage.
We call this The Kukicha collection. When we were thinking about what one associates with Japan, green tea came to mind. But what is the part of green tea that one often overlooks? It’s the stem.
Par: You see, people often think that the flavour comes from the tea leaves, but actually, it comes from the stem. So, we decided to base it on a type of green tea that uses only the stem and this is known as Kukicha tea, hence The Kukicha collection.
Gopp: We played a lot with minimalism too, integrating the oval shape of the stem into the jewellery designs and we also introduced pearls. We used Akoya Japanese pearls as we think this is symbolic of Japan.
Last but not least, what is your favourite jewellery piece ever created by Jasmin?
Par: My favourite one is not a diamond piece, but a precious stone. The actual piece was already sold. It’s funny because the customer it was sold to knew how much I loved this piece, so they actually called me before buying it just to make sure I was okay with it! [Laughs]
It’s a rare blue sapphire ring with an emerald cut. I love it because it had such life to it. I could feel the precious stone smiling at me. This piece smiled at me. Another one that smiled at me were these Burmese blue sapphire earrings that are unheated. The earrings are currently being sold at Emporium and lovers of the sapphire should defintely go and take a look.
For more information on Jasmin, one of Thailand’s finest treasures when it comes to jewellery ateliers, visit www.jasmin-jewelry.com or visit any one of the stores in person at The Emporium, Dusit Thani Bangkok until the end of 2018 or Anantara Siam Hotel or the most recently opened store at Iconsiam.