The Brian Gavin History
Learn about how he works together as a family and where and how he learned everything!
Brian Gavin is known as *Brian the Cutter*. Looking into the history of this fifth generation diamond cutter, I learned that his family originally came from Amsterdam. As a Dutch woman, that of course, intrigued me! When the opportunity was there to do an interview with him, of course I immidiately said; yes!
Brian Gavin is a truly passionate about diamonds. How could he not be! He is the fifth generation of a family of diamond cutters. He comes from South Africa and is the grandson of Esther Alida Aronson and Barend Deutz. The Deutz family was a well known family in the diamond cutter business that back in those days, flourished in Amsterdam. We had the opportunity to have an interview together last week:
Esther: It was a pleasure to discover that you have Dutch ancestors! Although you grew up in South Africa. Can you tell me a little bit about your youth?
Brian Gavin: In addition to being a master diamond cutter, my father was a jazz musician. My mother was a well-known South African artist who has been featured in the Smithsonian Libraries’ Collection. I grew up surrounded by creativity – art, design, music – and it shaped my interest in and passion for design. While most kids play marbles with glass beads, I played glass marbles with rough diamonds. My grandfather was also a master diamond cutter in Amsterdam and that is where the family business began.
Esther: You are a fifth generation diamond cutter. At what age did you become interested in this business and how did you learn to cut?
Brian Gavin: Starting around the time I was five-years old, I would go to the factory with my father during vacation or time-off from school. That was my first real exposure to gemstones. I was always intrigued by the fact that you could take a rock and after time shape it into a magnificent and shiny crystal. Just before I went to university, I began spending time at a different factory where I started an apprenticeship marking and handling rough diamonds. I was in charge of deciding what was going to be cut out of the rock and how it should be cut. Now remember, this was before all of today’s sophisticated machines!. From all of my siblings, I was the one greatly attracted to the manufacturing aspect of the diamond business; I was always intrigued that what started as a rock could, with care and handling, turn into a diamond masterpiece.
Esther: Family businesses are wonderful. From my years in Italy, I have seen for myself that those companies have much more soul, more passion than other companies. But it’s not always easy to work with family either. How would you describe your family business and what is it that you love about it and what are the challenges?
Brian Gavin: We are a family of six including my wife, our four children and myself. Not every member of my family is involved in the business. The beauty of being in a family business is there is more passion and a greater sense of security. It is normal for there to be differences of opinion but that is a normal and healthy aspect of running a business; as long as the business is run correctly and every member of the team has clearly outlined tasks.
Esther: I have heard in Valenza Po, Italy, a town with a famous school and many master goldsmiths, that it seems that (young) people today think that when they finish school, they are already a good cutter, stone setter or goldsmith, but the real artisans say: it only starts when you have finished school. It takes many years of practice to become really good. How do you see this and how did this work for you? How many years did it take to reach the level that you have reached today?
Brian Gavin: Practice makes perfect. Practice making perfect in the diamond business becomes very expensive! We live in an instant gratification society. Nowadays, once people graduate college they may think they are experts, but expertise is something earned over time and comes with learning and failing in real-world situations. Having a degree in something doesn’t necessarily make you an expert. The word journeyman is often used to describe an apprentice because as an apprentice one has to go on a traveler’s journey to feel the highs and the lows. It’s not just about theory it’s about practice because what you know isn’t always the answer; that’s where the world of experience matters. Theory can set us up to handle it but may not necessarily give us what we need to handle it. By the time I was in my late-30s I truly understood not only what was taught to me but also how to apply that knowledge to real-world situations.
Esther: You have achieved a lot of things in life and in your business already. What is the thing that you are most proud of?
Brian Gavin: I don’t think I have really reached the pinnacle; there is a lot of work still to be done and a lot more for the Brian Gavin Diamonds brand to offer. We have had some great milestones; we have built a successful business that is well known in the jewelry industry. I have been able to impact so many people’s lives and that is incredibly fulfilling.
Esther: Can you share with us your dreams for the future. Your personal dreams and those for your company?
Brian Gavin: Watching the business grow organically is exciting because it means people appreciate and identify with what we do as a company and the value we add. What I also find exciting is there are many more opportunities for us as a brand to create different products. I am constantly striving to bring new ideas and new products to our customers.
Esther: What is your vision of the future for the diamond industry? And what is the best advice that you would give to a young student, wanting to enter the diamond industry?
Brian Gavin: At the end of the day, you need to enjoy what you do. The worst thing in life is to do something you don’t enjoy. Enjoy and have a love for what you do, and if you really want to succeed, the fire and passion deep inside you will propel you to success.