Olivier Reza (b. 1974) Olivier Reza is the son of the master jeweler Alexandre Reza who was born in Moscow then fled to Paris after World War II. In the City of Light, he began to trade gemstones for a living. His talent earned him recognition as one of the world’s leading gem experts. In 1984, he opened a store selling his own designs on the Place Vendôme.
Olivier has childhood memories of traveling with his father to exotic countries to source gemstones. “We went to Thailand and I would sit next to him, hearing him bargain and talk about why he liked or didn’t like a certain piece.”
In an online article in Avenue Magazine, Olivier said, “My father strived for the pieces to be well made and three dimensional so it looks good from every angle … In that sense, we overlap.” Unlike his father, who often designed extravagant sets which were worn by kings and queens, Olivier takes a more modern approach.
Olivier also took a modern approach to his career. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in economics and business from Sciences Po Paris, and a Master’s in law, business and tax law from Panthéon-Assas University. After graduating, he served as managing director in the mergers and acquisitions department of Lazard Freres & Co LLC in New York. Later he was founder and managing partner of the financial-services company Myro Capital.
After his father retired in 2008, Olivier took over the operation of Reza, the family jewelry brand. One of his first moves was to consolidate the boutiques of his father’s Maison into just one salon. He closed retail outlets worldwide to concentrate on creativity in the Reza headquarters with its gilded 18th-century salon in the Hôtel de Fontpertuis on the Place Vendôme, home of many of jewelry’s major names.
The in-house creations Olivier has launched each season are very different from the classic ones the brand formerly created. In a May 2018 interview he gave to the magazine, Jewelry Connoisseur, he said, “Our house is dedicated to the creation of extraordinary pieces, with an approach that is artistic, traditional and passionate. We do not believe our brand is compatible with a retail model. It is too unique and very limited.”
Of his now singular atelier, he told the magazine, “The Ritz [Paris flagship store] was an opportunity to give our creations some visibility at an intimate location. Ultimately, this place is a symbol of savoir-faire and savoir-vivre.”
Among the house’s most recent creations is a Reza necklace featuring a 6-carat cabochon emerald, Burmese rubies, and diamonds. Other creations include Y’Dol earrings with sugarloaf cabochon red spinels and diamonds and a Ruban Bracelet featuring 5.43 carats of pink sapphires and 5.74 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds.
While he continues to use some of the large collection of flawless, natural and untreated gemstones his father collected over the years, Olivier has been developing the house’s artistic direction in his own style — putting more emphasis on design, which he considers as important as the quality of the stones in creating jewelry.
He describes his interactions with his craftspeople as a constant dialogue, exchanging points of view, but, above all, the desire to push them to give more and better. Reza’s pieces take a long time to create — anywhere from six to 18 months. It is very slow and demonstrates true craftsmanship.
Reza currently possesses one of the world’s largest inventories of unheated and untreated colored gemstones. Nevertheless, Olivier wants to buy more to minimize the gaps in the House’s stock. He is also on the lookout for opportunities to buy well so the brand can keep prices reasonable for its collectors.
Olivier’s design method is as unique as the finished pieces. There are no collections; each piece is created as he is inspired.
Most of his work centers on unique pieces, like the Arlequin, a pair of diamond-studded pendant earrings with Brazilian sugar-loaf emeralds. A transformable design, the earrings can be clipped together and worn as a brooch. Another piece, the Horn of Plenty earrings, has cascades of pigeon-blood rubies and diamonds.
Both the Arlequin and the Horn of Plenty were presented at the European Fine Art Fair in March 2017. Shortly thereafter, he focused on jewelry that used smaller but still high-quality stones, to create pieces priced at less than $100,000.
Rather than designs targeted at times of day or for special events, he has conceived pieces that are wearable anytime, anywhere. One example: the Ruban (or ribbon) earrings, have delicate diamond-studded loops that are lined in contrasting colored gems like sapphires, rubies, emeralds or colored diamonds, and look as if they dance up the ear.
Another is the diamond-studded Spirale ring, which looks like an abstract sculpture in miniature, and seems to reflect the creative inspiration of Olivier’s personal art collection.
In addition to operating Reza, Olivier holds several high-level positions: He is director of Collector IQ, a private art database of more than 320,000 artists and millions of works of art; he was appointed CEO of the digital high-end watch membership company Eleven James in 2017; and until recently was on Sotheby’s board of directors.
Another venture, Eleven James, makes high-end luxury timepieces available through a digital platform. Users enter their information and get a selected watch shipped within 48 hours to their location. Users can enjoy each watch for a rotation of three months, send it back, and then enjoy another timepiece.
The concept removes the financial commitment usually required to obtain these timepieces. Users don’t need to evaluate which item to purchase or learn about category trends and economics. Instead, with Eleven James, members can pick what attracts them most while discovering new watches. Consumers experience the luxury watch category the same way as they experience other categories like food, travel, movies, music, and/or clothing.
Watch and Earn, a segment of Eleven James is a consignment program that borrows the “sharing economy” model from Uber and Airbnb. Members can consign timepieces in their collections to Eleven James for other members to wear, in exchange for a monthly cash payment or subscription membership. Consignors also receive access to appraisal, insurance, and care management from a single provider, as well as the opportunity to sell their watches.
The second addition, Curated Collections, is a guided experience for members to discover timepieces. The experience launched with 8 themes based on consumer preferences.
“We’ve built our collections to be unexpected and fun and, of course, luxurious and elegant,” said Chief David Lee. “We offer members the chance to go beyond traditional notions of ownership by maximizing the experience of anticipating, unboxing, and enjoying timepieces without the burdens of financial protection and upkeep. This gives everyone the opportunity to indulge [and] appreciate storied timepieces, and casts off the constraints of this industry’s dated, single path to purchase business model.”
Olivier’s advice to aspiring gem collectors: “Take the time to learn and research the world of gems, art and jewelry. Not only will this allow you to make educated decisions, it will allow you to be a smarter collector. Visit ateliers, museums, galleries, major architectural cities, and take the time to understand the exquisite craftsmanship behind what you see. It’s important to understand the creation process so you can influence it in the right way.”