Bringing people together:
not just in business, but as a community
Chris Zoettl Jr., CEO of Designer Diamonds and Event Organizer of the Young Diamantaires group.
The New Generation is a WDC News Update series that tells the stories of up-and-coming diamond industry leaders, examining the role that they see for themselves, in the business and the diamond itself. Each article in the series is delivered in the person’s own voice.
The third article in the series features Christopher Zoettl Jr., CEO of the Munich-based jewelry retailer Designer Diamonds and the Event Organizer of the WFDB’s Young Diamantaires organization.
When my friend Elodie Daguzan, the Executive Director of the World Diamond Council, asked me to prepare an article for the WDC newsletter that would explain to readers as to why I am active in the diamond industry, it suddenly struck me that I never thought about that before. My immediate reaction was I just do what I love to do, which essentially is anything connected to diamonds and the people associated with them.
Mostly I love bringing people from the diamond industry together through events that I organize, mainly for the Young Diamanataires.
Thinking back, it was a long journey to get where I am today, and it was one that took many unexpected turns.
A detour that included optometry
I was born just outside of Munich, Germany, in 1982, which is where I grew up and went to school. In 1990 my parents opened a small jewellery shop specializing in engagement and wedding rings. It was successful and the business grew. Today we have two retail outlets in Munich and Augsburg, a wholesale operation and even a small-scale natural diamond cutting and polishing operation.
Already as a child I was able to spend the weekends and school breaks in the family business, first helping out with minor tasks, and as I got older larger assignments. I was fascinated by diamonds and gemstones, but my path initially went in a different direction.
After graduating from high school, I pursued a degree in optometry. Indeed, I still practice optometry today by appointment.
It was in college that I met my wife Barbara, with whom I have been together with for more than 20 years and have two children. It is also her I have to thank, for her support in all I have done, even going along with some of my crazy ideas. And probably through my work, she also fell in love with diamonds. Today she is now the main jewelry designer in our company.
If you ask yourself how I went from being an optometrist to working with jewelry and diamonds, I should give you a little insight. In the old days, in Germany and in many parts of Europe, optometrists were frequently trained in other areas that required fine mechanical skills. So, it was not uncommon to find optometrists selling eyeglasses, along with jewelry, watches and even firearms in the same store. Even today you will find eyeglasses and jewelry combined in many stores in Germany.
The author (left), during a visit to the Antwerpsche Diamantkring, one of Antwerp’s four diamond bourses.
The journey has also had a lot of bumps. I don’t come from a traditional background, a well known diamond family, or even live in a diamond center. Munich and Germany are better known for beer, which by the way I brew in my free time, and also cars and football.
It was my dad who urged me to get a Graduate Gemologist diploma from the GIA. Fortunately for me, my mom is originally from Los Angeles. So I headed off to California, where I was able to live with my grandparents while studying.
It was on the GIA campus where I really fell in love with it all. I remember studying a diamond the first time under a microscope, and then seeing pictures of the Hovenierstraat in Antwerp’s diamond district.
I might sound like a geek, but to this day I can talk about my favorite inclusion. It’s a “twinning wisp,” which for those who are less familiar with a diamond’s inner world are veils of tiny needles, clouds, pinpoints and crystals, which are created when a crystal lattice structure forms with another diamond crystal adjacent to it.
Over the years, I’ve grown into the diamond and jewellery business, and today manage major parts of our family company, which I run together with my dad, mom, wife, brother, sister-in-law and several employees. Overall we are a great team, even if working with family sometimes can be challenging.
In this respect, my parents have always supported my passion for going out into the world, finding new possibilities, making connections and learning about the business. It is them who I thank for all the passion in this industry.
A commitment to the diamond community
I am also committed to the professional community in which I have made my career. It was for this reason that I then became a bourse member at the Diamantclub van Antwerpen, and later at the Diamond Club West Coast in Los Angeles.
It was in Los Angeles that I became more active, contributing to the bourses’ Newsletter Committee. That led me to the WFDB’s Young Diamantaires, where I am now part of the Organizing Committee.
Part of my “job” with the Young Diamantaires is to arrange events worldwide, and to connect people. I must be doing something right. A reporter from a diamond magazine once asked if I had a superhero title, and then named me “Connecto Man” for this ability.
Personally I just do what I love. We had great events in 2022, such as at the Dubai Diamond Conference, at the JCK Show in Las Vegas and at the Jewellery & Gem World show in Singapore.
Right now I am part of the group planning the Young Diamantaires trip to Surat and Mumbai in February, where more than 50 of our members will be able to see the heart of the diamond industry. India is of absolutely critical importance to our business, and we all need to understand and appreciate its significance. It is by the far the most important cutting center, a major trading hub with world’s largest diamond bourse, and a massive diamond market in its own right. Historically it was once the world’s largest rough diamond producer, and it could return to being an important mining center with some of the newly found deposits being developed.
The author (sixth from right), with members of the Young Diamantaires group, and WDC and media representatives, during the Dubai Diamond Conference in February 2022.
It’s first and foremost the people
The diamond industry for me is not just about making money, although I do need to support my family. It is first and foremost about the people, who have as many amazing facets, colors and individual characteristics as the gems that we deal in.
And there are so many colleagues, who I have had the privilege of meeting, and whose company I truly enjoy. Rami Baron from Australia, who founded Young Diamantaires, mentored me along the way and became a true friend. Elodie Daguzan, a great leader with a sharp mind, is someone I love to chat with.
I once visited Antwerp to attend rough diamond courses at HRD and met Ayelet Lerner, who is a good friend till this day. She didn’t just see a potential customer, but also a person who shares the same passion about diamonds. She has provided me with support along my journey.
Mike Asscher, from the well known Dutch diamond family, is a person I can always rely on for good advice and a good glass of wine, and Shai Schnitzer from Israel is a person you can talk with not just about diamonds, but also football, and always reaches out to help. Kevin Vantyghem from Canada is a great individual with whom I share an appreciation for the concept of ideal cuts, natural and ethically sourced diamonds, and who can party into the early hours of the morning in Las Vegas.
There are many more I would love to mention here, but I need to keep this article to a reasonable length. So thank you to those who have walked along with me. You are all cherished!
Most importantly, we are a community, with common interests, ethics and principles, despite the long distances that may separate us. My goal in serving the younger members of the diamond industry is to nurture this community, enabling each one of us to appreciate that we are part of something greater than ourselves.