How a 28-year-old sold his first jewelry design for $25,000 and in 3 years built a list of exclusive clients, including Rihanna

  • At just 28 years old, Emmanuel Tarpin is part of the top of the range jewelryrising stars.
  • 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 along the way.
  • Today, Tarpin’s client list is so exclusive that he only works by private appointment – he’s not sold in stores or online, at least not yet.
  • Tarpin spoke to Business Insider about her career, the future of her brand, her thoughts on jewelry as an investment asset, and how her designs caught Rihanna’s eye.

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

About a quarter of an hour Business Insider called – a bit late, but still the same goal: to find out how this 28-year-old became one of the hottest jewelry designers in the world almost today. on the next day.

Emmanuel Tarpin.Emmanuel Tarpin

“I’ve had a passion for 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 discreet, 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. Thereafter, he began working in the high jewelry workshop Van Cleef & Arpels on the jewelry bench, where he honed his design techniques and craftsmanship.

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

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

A publication shared by Emmanuel Tarpin (@emmanuel_tarpin)

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

“I had an appointment with Christie’s in New York and showed them my first piece of 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 its lot text as “a promising young jewelry designer “. And just like that, Tarpin, then 25, became a rising star.

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

“Everything is unique”

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

“I like to take time with my clients. I want them to see my universe, what I create and where my inspiration comes from,” he said. “I have always traveled a lot with my family and it 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 many pieces per year and says it takes him and his team of jewelers a few months to complete his projects. the life. For the designer, choosing the gemstones is one of the most important parts of his process, and he tries to do it all on his own.

How a 28-year-old sold his first jewelry design for $25,000 and in 3 years built a list of exclusive clients, including Rihanna
Orchidée earrings in white and yellow gold in blue aluminum, with Namibian and paraiba tourmalines and diamonds.Emmanuel Tarpin

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

After designing a jewel 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 creations. “It’s always great to have a really simple dress that will show the beautiful details on the jewelry,” he said.

Instructions like these helped bring even more attention to the young designer, and in January 2019 he received both Fashion Group International’s Rising Star award and Designer of the Year at the 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 world’s richest musician.

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In February, Rihanna stepped out wearing a pair of yellow gold and black aluminum shell earrings by Tarpin, complete with 14-karat diamonds. 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 considered a good investment, alongside other “passion investments” such as wine, whiskey, art, classic cars and even Birkin bags, as items whose 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 requests belong to a very selective and specific subclass: exceptional diamonds and 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 of this to say: consumer tastes are changing and the clarity, color, carat and cut of a piece of jewelry has never been more important.

How a 28-year-old sold his first jewelry design for $25,000 and in 3 years built a list of exclusive clients, including Rihanna
Purple Arum lily flower earrings, matte purple-pink aluminum with yellow gold, red gold, Burmese rubies and pink sapphires.Emmanuel Tarpin

Despite a volatile market, the pandemic has delivered mixed messages – that the jewelry industry is about to take a massive financial hit, but also that when the going gets tough, people who can afford it still 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 much has changed,” he said.

Ultimately, Tarpin said he’s not a fan of viewing jewelry as an asset class, and when asked about its investment value, the young designer balked. For him, it’s art; he views 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. declared. “After the pandemic, maybe people will think differently about how they buy jewelry. Maybe they’ll think more about feelings and buy things they love.”