“Women of the Diamond Industry” focuses on the issue of gender equality along the entire diamond and jewelry supply chain. The series provides a platform for women in the industry to tell their own stories and describe the particular challenges they have faced in their careers.
The eighth article in the series is authored by Morgane Winterholer, the Sales Director of a leading French diamond company, who transitioned to the world of luxury from the IT sector.
From a chance encounter
to a diamond dream
I have been part of the diamond industry for five years now and I consider myself to be extremely lucky. I didn’t set out to work here, in fact I never even imagined that I would join it one day.
But now I am passionate about diamonds, and extremely happy to be employed by Rubel & Ménasché, a diamond trading company located in Paris, whose history can be traced back to the start of the 20th Century.
It all started out with a casual meeting with Stephan Wolzok, President of Rubel & Ménasché, and Geraldine Sakon, who was then its Director of Operations.
The year was 2016 and I was turning 40. To celebrate my birthday, my husband Jérôme was planning to give me a diamond. Since his offices were in the same building as those of Rubel & Ménasché, he had decided to ask Stephan and Géraldine, whom he had bumped into earlier, for advice.
It was then that he found out that they were looking for a new Sales Director.
It’s only a short step from IT to diamonds
At first glance, I didn’t think I had the right profile for the job, and there was nothing to suggest that I should apply. But at that time, I was looking to change direction in my career.
I had studied engineering at the Women’s Polytechnic School at Sceaux, near Paris. After doing several internships in the United Kingdom, including one with British Airways, I started out an account manager at Atos, a major IT specialist.
Over time, my position evolved. I worked on innovation, and then became the business development director of an international product line. I sold newly developed transactional services for payment solutions, e-commerce and more. The role was very varied, and had an international focus. Many of my clients were in Asia and the United States. I had an intense and fulfilling working life.
After a few years in the position, I enrolled in an MBA program at HEC, a major French business school. That was the start of something completely new.
So I decided to leave Atos, where at that stage I had already spent 15 years. Together with my former boss, I launched Skapané, an IT start-up.
At Skapané, we sold services and solutions based on artificial intelligence. One project, for example, involved data analysis for fraud diversion.
The entire Skapané team was based in the north of France, while I stayed in Paris with my family. But gradually, I became tired of working at home, and missed the camaraderie of the physical workspace. I also no longer wanted to sell intangible services.
So when Jérôme mentioned that Rubel & Ménasché was looking for a Sales Director, I was definitely ready for something new.
Transferring expertise and experience to another world
My first meeting with Stephan and Geraldine not only came at an opportune time, but was remarkably successful. We liked each other right away.
I distinctly remember our lunch at the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré. Looking back, it really was the human element that brought me to diamonds!
The author (right) with her former colleague at Rubel & Ménasché, Elodie Daguzan, who is today WDC Executive Director.
At the time, however pleasant, I wasn’t sure it would lead to anything. After all, I had no knowledge or experience of diamonds or the diamond industry.
But it was precisely the fact that I had honed my work skills in another industry that made Rubel & Ménasché interested in me. The company was looking for committed people with diverse backgrounds from other sectors. To them, my key strengths were my B2B sales experience, my curiosity and my solid international background.
The international element was not only the result of my professional knowledge. As the daughter of engineer working in mining for Total, I was born in Canada and grew up in Africa, moving between Congo, Gabon and Egypt with my parents. Our lives were very cosmopolitan and global.
Having no fear of transparency and traceability
At Rubel & Ménasché, where I took up my position at the end of winter 2017, I discovered a passionate and bountiful world. From the start, I was fortunate to work with extremely kind people, who were patient enough to explain everything. My job rapidly evolved, with their help. Importantly, I developed genuine friendships, such as with Elodie Daguzan, now the Executive Director of the World Diamond Council (WDC).
One thing I love about Rubel & Ménasché is its attitude towards its people. I am very touched by this. Everyone, whatever the level they operate in the company, is very invested. The company grows while remaining human.
In the diamond industry, I have discovered, there are many family-owned businesses. Rubel & Ménasché is not one of them, but it is a family. We all want to move forward together, to continue and to support the company which, like its President Stephan Wolzok, is open and respectful. At Rubel & Ménasché, everyone has a chance. Rubel & Ménasché gave me my chance.
It is also where I discovered the joy of selling a product which is the stuff of dreams – the stuff of my dreams! Part of that joy comes from the contact we have with the major jewelry maisons. Each is magnificent in its individuality, and that is something we help them defend every day.
Our role at Rubel & Ménasché is to help our clients keep the promises they have made to their customers. In this context, responsibility is critical. Coming from another sector, I have never been afraid of demands or expectations regarding transparency and traceability, and these have only increased in recent years.
We need to know and understand our value chain, to advance traceability. In the world of luxury, we have a duty to excel, and that means providing better services, being more effective and more transparent.
In the value chain both our clients and suppliers are partners, and it is those partnerships that make us strong, providing both resilience and tranquility.
The diamond, an ultra-positive product
I am very proud to sell diamonds. They are not only the gems to be set in the magnificent jewelry creations of the grandes maisons, but they are also objects that in countries like Botswana and Namibia provide the promise of a better future. As diamond dealers and as luxury brands, our contribution to making this happen can be real and tangible.
Morgane Winterholder (second from left), together with (from left) Cyrille Vigneron, President and CEO of Cartier International; Stephan Wolzok President of Rubel & Ménasché; and Iris Van der Veken, Executive Director of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, during the VICENZAORO show in Italy in September 2022.
Since the launch of the Kimberley Process (KP) in 2000 our industry has been under great pressure to do the right thing. We chose to regulate ourselves, supported by the important work of the KP and the WDC, RJC and, more recently, the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030.
Rubel & Ménasché chose to be part of this movement. It gives us meaning and provides impetus to the work we all do every day.
When I started my journey in the diamond industry in 2017, I didn’t think I would enjoy it so much. I have a very strong attachment to my job, and to the people who make up this industry. I believe I’m incredibly lucky to walk through the Place Vendôme each morning and admire the sublime pieces of jewelry decorating the shop windows.
Rubel & Ménasché has changed a lot in five years. Transformation is in our genes. We are constantly reinventing ourselves while keeping the lightness that characterizes us.
We have a duty to preserve and cherish our own wonderful maison, as if it were a treasure. It is and must remain a place where people, clients, partners and teams can flourish, where everyone, can walk alongside us for a short or a long time.
I would like to help cut a wonderful new facet to make my maison sparkle.