Intent on carving his own path, Gus Hashem never intended to take over his father Simon’s diamond business.
A brief stint on eBay changed his mind, and now the former financial analyst is preparing his own sons to take on international giants like Tiffany & Co.
Gus Hashem’s online, custom engagement ring retailer Diamond Emporium is a far cry from the jewellery manufacturer that began as Hashem Fine Jewellery in Beirut.
Simon Hashem moved the business to Australia with his family in the 1980s and spent almost two decades making jewellery for retailers and a handful of private clients from a shop in Belfield.
When the time came for Simon to retire in 2004, Gus was working as a trainee analyst at wealth management start-up Fat Prophets.
Gus agreed to help sell some of his father’s excess stock on eBay as the business wound down, but soon came up with a better plan.
“The idea of sitting in a retail store didn’t really appeal to me,” the younger Hashem told Business Insider.
“While I was on holidays, I noticed a trend in the US where people were selling engagement rings purely online.
“We did some decent sales through eBay – one item sold for $7000 or $8000. [Dad] didn’t understand how it all worked, but he could see that we were getting results.”
Gus rebranded the business in 2006, and launched the Diamond Emporium website in 2010. Acknowledging that trust is crucial to selling high-end goods online, Hashem said he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a premium look and feel.
The business now does 35% of its sales online, generating under $10 million in online revenue a year.
It also operates on a far smaller margin than it did last decade.
The younger Hashem said online jewellers had made pricing more transparent, with margins ranging from 5-10% on diamonds and slightly more on settings, down from 50% and up in Simon’s day.
“We’re going through a transitional period right now where people are getting more comfortable with online purchases,” Gus said.
“I don’t have a concrete plan on when we will purely be an online service … It may be more likely in 5-6 years time, when a new generation of customers come in.”
Diamond Emporium currently operates as a bricks-and-clicks business, where customers can choose to pick up their jewellery or visit consultants in an appointment-only office in the Sydney CBD.
Looking forward, Gus Hashem hopes to expand internationally, although he notes that the business may need to raise capital to do so.
“Tiffany’s will always have its client base but there’s no doubt at all that there’s a lot of business being taken off them,” he said.
“I’m hoping that in a few generations, we’ll be an international brand that everyone will know.
“We can only do our part and sow the seeds for future generations; I’ve got two boys who I’m already prepping to take over.”
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