Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

Wearing his heart on his sleeve

Antwerp diamantaire David Gotlib combines his love of diamonds with a flair for designing daring cuff links, and crafts all his jewels using Belgian talent.

By Sonia Esther Soltani

Image: David Gotlib

David Gotlib’s mother was doubtful anyone would buy her son’s edgy, skull-shaped cuff links with black diamonds, however delicately crafted they were. But that pair was the first to sell online when the Antwerp-based diamantaire launched his collection in the US. Gotlib was in New York at the time, and when he saw that the customer’s address was a few blocks from the Diamond District, he couldn’t resist the chance to find out who had purchased his creation from the Dare to be Bold collection. Playing an impromptu — and incognito — delivery person, he discovered that the client was a classic understated, middle-aged banker.

That moment validated Gotlib’s belief that jewelry design was his calling and cuff links his niche. Following the death of his grandfather — a Holocaust survivor who had founded the family business in the Belgium diamond center — Gotlib received a pair of gold cuff links his grandfather had lovingly worn. The third-generation diamantaire, who had been tempted to make jewels for a while, had a clear idea of what his collection should be.

“[I didn’t want] to be another diamond dealer that is doing something just to make five pieces of jewelry and trying to make a markup on my diamonds. That wasn’t the idea. If you make jewelry, it has to be a passion,” he says. “I told my wife, it won’t be simple cuff links, but I’m going to make them with diamonds because this is my life. I am a diamond dealer, and I like diamonds, and I enjoy working with them.”

Diverse aesthetics
Gotlib launched his first line in 2014, taking inspiration from his two greatest interests: architecture and nature. As such, the cuff links range from geometric, minimalist and organic shapes to more elaborate, sinewy, true-to-life representations. While the Gold Rush cuff links are an elegant diamond-set rectangle, the sensual Vipers shimmer with sapphires and diamonds. Playful motifs based on sports, more traditional round shapes with colored gems, and symbols such as hamsas and peace signs are also part of his collections, which have grown to include more than 50 pieces over the years.

The jeweler has a sharp and perfectionist approach to the creative process. “For every model that comes out, it can be up to five that go to the garbage to be melted again, because this is not how it should look,” relates Gotlib. While he has a team of craftspeople bringing his creations to life, he painstakingly oversees the process to ensure each piece has the right proportions and is as close as possible to his initial vision. He works only with premium diamonds in VVS quality and sends his loose diamonds and finished jewelry to the International Gemological Institute (IGI) for testing.

Gotlib, who is also president of the Antwerp Diamond Bourse, took design classes and courses on colored gems to be able to direct his team and source the most appropriate stones. Diamonds have been his life for more than 20 years, yet he believes that his more recent professional activity has deepened his appreciation of the stone.

“I enjoy trading diamonds every day. But today, my relation to diamonds is a little bit changed because I look at the diamond more as a piece I could use for the jewelry, what’s special about it, not just as a trading material where I can make some profit on it,” he says.

Local loyalty
The Antwerp native is also keen to support local talent. Before Covid-19, Gotlib considered having a workshop in Italy to craft his pieces, but decided it’d make more sense to have everything made in Belgium. Last year, he invited graduates from the local jewelry academy and schools to apply for a place in his workshop, where they could study and practice alongside his skilled craftspeople.

“I think it would be something very nice and unique to say that all my cuff links are manufactured in Antwerp by a mix of young and old manufacturers and goldsmiths, that the whole process is done by hand from A to Z, and that’s the idea of having my own atelier here,” he says.

His creations are available online and in a selection of high-end retailers in the US — including Charles Krypell in Greenvale, New York, and Jay Feder in Boca Raton, Florida — as well as in Belgium, France and Switzerland. Gotlib says he has no idea who purchases online, but he knows that some of his clients are fellow diamantaires. The majority of in-store buyers, he reports, are women buying for men.

“The nicest compliment I sometimes receive from women is, ‘Wow, I’d like to have these as earrings.’ So I tell them, there are enough people who do earrings, let’s keep one thing for the men,” he says. “But I am always very flattered when I hear something like this, because I understand they realize it’s a beautiful piece of jewelry.”


Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2022. To subscribe click here.

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