Heritage – Very few people are as familiar with the market as Werner Fritsch: with more than 45 years of experience, the general manager of W. Constantin Wild & Co. looks back on the changes in the world of gemstones. In this interview, he explains what it is that has actually changed.
GEM JOURNAL: Herr Fritsch, just recently you celebrated your 45-year jubilee at W. Constantin Wild & Co. What do you think is the most significant difference between your work now and your work as it was when you first started?
Werner Fritsch: The technological developments, definitely. When I started here we were still communicating by telegram. Today, the contact we have with our customers and business partners is unimaginable without e-mail, smart phones etc. But a lot has also happened in terms of the way gemstones are processed. Back then, everything was done by hand in the cutting-shop. Today, my colleagues programme state-of-the-art CNC machines to put the finishing touches to some of our products. Having said that, with some very special stones nothing can possibly beat traditional craftsmanship.
GJ: Apart from this change in the world of work, how has the status of gemstones changed in the luxury goods sector?
WF: ‘Onwards and upwards’ might be a fair description. Business is no longer just a thing that happens between ourselves and individual jewellers. Meanwhile it’s truer to say that there are large corporate groups serving increasing demand in a market that is becoming ever larger and ever more international.
GJ: Talking of international: Idar-Oberstein has been, and continues to be, one of the major gemstone centres. Does the world continue to look to Idar-Oberstein, in spite of the fact that the market is changing, when it’s a question of the newest trends?
WF: Fashion and colour trends have changed markedly, that’s for sure. People are becoming more and more individualistic. But there are regional preferences. For example, whilst Central Europeans go for refined understatement and classical cuts, Asians tend to invest in ostentatious, extravagant stones. Of course Idar-Oberstein continues to be important for the industry. More than ever, a feeling for global trends forms part of our work. Yet when all’s said and done, the object of desire is the same now as it was back then: a rare, sparkling, exclusive gemstone.