Jewelry industry in Iran is lagging far behind other countries despite the fact that Iranians are among the first five gold consumers in the world, says Mohammad Mortazavi, design director at Rhyton Company.
Mortazavi, 31, is a jewelry genius who worked his way up the top of career ladder over an amazingly short period of time. He has more than nine national and international design awards to his credit and has sat on a jury at four jewelry contests in Italy, Hong Kong, and the Emirates (United Arab Emirates) over the past three years.
In an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times, Mortazavi talked about Iran’s jewelry industry.
In what follows, the interview transcription has been given.
Q: How do you see Iran’s jewelry industry?
A: You may know that gold has different applications in different countries. Among Europeans, the metal is often linked to emotion-laden contexts such as engagement, wedding, birthday anniversaries, and so on.
Arabs consider it a luxury, but Iranians keep it for investment or for a rainy day as they say. Though, Iran is among five first countries in terms of gold consumption, its jewelry industry is not keeping abreast of the latest in the area with a serious shortage of training materials.
This condition can be partly due to the fact that jewelry is a family trade in Iran; people in the business are reserved, not willing to share their knowledge with others. It is, in a sense, understandable as a tiny stone may be worth 300 million rials [about $9,000] sometimes; so it is unsurprising that they cannot trust others. The same goes everywhere else but maybe it’s more the case in Iran. Meanwhile, Iranian jewelers are fond of gem and gold; they don’t like to crack a book and don’t believe in schooling.
And more importantly, there are now about 200,000 people working in Iran’s jewelry industry, but the guild has a far more capacity to attract up to two millions. The industry is very new and its labor market has yet to be saturated. Many companies are obliged to give their orders to Honk Kong because there are not good enough at designing here in our country.
Q: How do you find government’s attitude towards jewelry industry?
A: Well, the industry can generate high value-added tax (VAT) and revenues for the country, but it has been overlooked by the government.
In 2010, the government imposed a ban on gold and jewels imports with the aim of supporting domestic producers, the results were, however, counterproductive as they paved the way for trafficking jewels into the country. I can tell you that if the government decides anytime to take serious measures against smuggling, the jewelry stores will be emptied from jewels and gold.
With the advent of 3D printers and new technologies, the jewelry industry has been revolutionized in many courtiers like Italy, Hong Kong, and Turkey, but in Iran the move is tortoise-like.
Another problem with this business is that there is no copyright law in Iran; therefore, as soon as the commodities appear in the market, their designs are copied by other companies. One reason we have survived so far is that we have been developing about 300 new designs per month; otherwise, we had lost the market long before. Let’s say it is like being chased, one moment of rest means losing.
Q: As far as I know the government is currently backing knowledge-based companies. Is your company included in the program or not?
A: The government’s main concern is knowledge-based companies active in areas such as petrochemistry, physics, and medicine, but gold trade is considered luxurious, therefore, it is hardly taken into account.
Q: Why do producers go after jewel smuggling?
A: Jewelry manufacturing is a time-consuming process, costing dearly. It requires workshops; you should pay tax and insurance costs and lots of other headaches. The sanctions made it even worse because brokers were involved, equipment prices were unreal. Therefore, it was much easier and even less risky to smuggle jewels into the country mostly from Turkey and the Emirates.
Q: How do you see the future of the industry in Iran?
A: The future of the industry won’t be good if the current conditions persist unless a miracle takes place. To boost the industry, the government should step forward to invite foreign companies, particularly Italians, to make investment in Iran as well as provide producers with long-term and low-interest loans.
Q: Which factors do you keep in mind when designing your products?
A: You know, Iran can be divided into 10 slices in terms of people’s tastes. Western and northern parts of the country have different jewelry favorites. In some cities, it is “the heavier, the better” that makes a difference. In Tehran, however, the appearance comes first. Obviously, jewelry designers should bear these points in mind.
On the top of it, we keep in mind geographical and cultural details of different locations and mix it with our products; we have borrowed conceptual elements from Yazd wind-catchers, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan and Arg-é Bam to design our products.
Q: As a designer, what makes you so different from your colleagues?
A: When I started at Rhyton, there were two other designers whose works were better than mine. I told my boss at that time that I would be the best designer soon. Today, 22 designers are working under my supervision not to say that I have trained more than 600 trainees so far.
Given that there were not enough learning materials, I wrote two complementary books about jewelry designing while the first one is the third in the world, and the second one is the best in terms of quality and scope of the materials it covers. The books are now being translated into English.
I thinks what is important, even more than talent, is perseverance. I have seen many talented people who reached nowhere because they didn’t put too much time into it. I have been working 15 hours every day over the past 10 years.
We create about 3,200 to 3,300 designs every year. The designs are exported to some African countries as well as the Persian Gulf (Arab) countries. A few designs are also sent to Hong Kong, the U.S., and European countries.