Thai jeweller Sitthidej Chavanaves talks about gems, morals and family
The director of Bangkok-based Mian Teck Jewellery Export offers insights into a multigenerational family company and why trust and hard work are keys to survival in a crowded industry.
"I grew up in the Baan Mor district of Bangkok, which is famous for being Thailand's top jewellery hub. The area is known for local designs rather than international names. It's also a place where shopkeepers and jewellers build their business on trust and long-term personal relationships. For businesses here, any new prospects come from word-of-mouth referrals.
When my grandmother founded our jewellery company, she was always very friendly to customers and placed service as the top priority. This is how she built a good network of customers. Since then, the company has survived and thrived into a fourth-generation family-owned business that spans 100 years.
I learned so much from my family about how to run the business. From my grandfather, I learned about the importance of diligence and hard work. He led by example, and these values were passed onto me and those of my generation.
Moral values are also important to our family, as our line of work requires us to build credibility and trust with customers. This is evident in our company name, Mian Teck, which is derived from the phrase mian de in Chinese and translates roughly to "the continuation of morality".
My father also taught me how to select stones and diamonds. Over time we developed our knowledge so that now we have the specialised skill to sort good gemstones from the bad. I have a strong and intimate knowledge of jewellery and can communicate clearly with our workers spanning the entire jewellery making process.
Although we are based in Bangkok, my family migrated from China. To this day, we still have relatives who live in a city in the country's southern provinces.
In 2014, we launched Chavana with an emphasis on art deco and Edwardian-inspired pieces. Although our company has concentrated on manufacturing jewellery pieces for many brands all over the world such as in France and the US, we felt that the future of the industry would require us to have a brand as well.
As you can expect, this is a very exciting time for us. Through Chavana, we have created works of art that are classic and timeless. All of these products can be found in our newly launched flagship store in one of Bangkok's luxurious malls, Central Embassy. During the launch event, we partnered with a famous local paper artist, who transformed our store into an art exhibition to make the experience extra special.
For the development of Chavana, we will also be launching the Ray of Light collection. This series of simplistic rings and earrings will be inspired by the sun and will feature the same handcrafted attention to detail that our factories are known for. I'm excited to see them when they come out, just as I am thrilled to see any of our creations transform from a paper concept into an actual piece.
Inspiration for our company's jewellery collections sometimes come when I am travelling with my family. Even during trips when I should be relaxing, my family and I are always thinking of new ideas and designs, drawing inspiration from nature, architecture, and so on. We love to see diverse cultures to widen our horizons.
I feel that part of the reason our business does well is the values instilled in us from our Thai and Chinese roots. From the Thai side, we are very humble. We don't like to jump and rush through things. Instead, we prefer to have a business that develops slowly and surely. From the Chinese side comes diligence and a good work ethic. My training with jewellery didn't come from a classroom but from practical life experience that I received through everyday mentorship. At the beginning it was hard for me to discern genuine from fake diamonds. But once you are involved with the stones day and night, you intuitively pick up that knowledge and have a very intimate understanding of this art. Even my grandpa has a close connection to the stones. He is almost 90 years old and still works with us helping to select and sort through the gemstones.
My father is also my hero. There was a time after the recession that none of his siblings wanted to take care of the jewellery business because the financial outlook was grim. Only he decided to take care of it. Because of his courage and hard work, we are now very successful.
Nowadays I run Mian Teck with my twin brother. Our working styles complement each other. I concentrate on the front side of the business, such as marketing, dealing with customers and finding sales prospects. He takes care of the back end side of the business - dealing with production, quality control and factory logistics.
The future of the company is bright. I have my sons and three nieces working in our company. They all have different roles - marketing, sales, design and production - and are all very passionate about the business. We are hopeful and optimistic about the future."
As told to Daniel Kong