photography by Anton Hariev

Reneta Tsonkova, founder, knows what perfection in diamonds and spirits looks like

reneta tsonkova.jpg

A woman in the gold and gem evaluation business – when Reneta Tsonkova decided to follow her passion and to become a diamond expert, she was aware she had set herself for a hard task. The industry is entirely male dominated. With her signature perseverance, attention to detail and strength, and past corporate experience, Reneta Tsonkova successfully became a certified diamond expert and consultant. Twelve years ago, she opened Renéе de Clair, her own boutique for bespoke high-class jewellery. The cosy space in central Sofia quickly became an enchanted world where clients find their innermost desires materialised by the creative mind and skillful hands of Reneta Tsonkova with some of the best precious stones and metals available on the market.

This, however, is not the only way in which Renéе de Clair improves our lives. Reneta Tsonkova has her own line of acupressure mats for yoga and relaxation that boost the health and the spirit.

In times of galloping inflation, why is jewellery a sensible investment?

According to statistics, the jewellery owned by Indian women amounts to 11% of the gold in the world. Jewellery is an investment only when it is made of precious metals and stones. Its value is based on the used materials and/or the craftsmanship. It is a highly liquid asset and can be used as long-term investment.

A couple of years ago, the Basel III bank regulation marked the return of the gold standard – a highly logical move considering the condition of the global economy. Today, people continue to seek stable and highly profitable assets immune to the changes of time. This reminds me of Matthew 6:19-21: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Well, moths and vermin cannot destroy precious metals and stones. They will remain for the future generations. As for thieves, there are ways to deal with them.

The interest rates are also revealing. According to the London Metal Exchange, whose quotes we, at Renée de Clair use, in the past 5 years gold's price in US dollars increased 66.06%, and of silver – 56.77%. I am sure that noble metals' prices will continue to grow.

Does it mean the same for diamonds and other gems?

Yes, this is a clear trend despite the crisis of the past 2 years that caused significant damages to the jewellery industry as well. The prices of diamonds, according to DIAMOND Investing News, increased 32%. As diamonds are my passion and the main focus in our jewellery boutique, I am glad that we managed to keep our prices unchanged for the end clients.

What are the hottest trends on the jewellery market today?

I remeber the times when the elite had a taste for lavish, grandiose and colourful pieces, while ordinary people used to wear primitive and crude jewellery that lacked any character. I am sorry to use these words, but this is how things looked in my eyes. Current trends are also stratified, but this time the division lines are drawn not along the owners' wealth, but along their emotional and spiritual intelligence.

We, at Renée de Clair, often see clients following the global trend for jewellery that expresses one's individuality. They want simple and subtle pieces whose value is in the quality of the craftsmanship and the materials. Pieces with spiritual meaning and of personal importance, such as amulets, are also in high demand.

Both trends are visible in different social groups. What they have in common is the desire to seek one's self, to accept, love and declare your soul to yourself and the others, to use them as a form of nonverbal communication.

How long did it take you to become a diamond expert?

I have not yet reached the limits of my professional competence. The world of diamonds is a turbulent one and changes every day, and is currently flooded with lab-produced or treated diamonds. Professionals still lack the knowledge and previous experience to evaluate and recognise these. By learning how to do this we, as a community of experts, are writing new chapters in our profession's history.

A significant difficulty for me, personally, was that I was a woman trying to break into a very conservative, closed and male-dominated industry. It is a lot like arm business – the largest deals are managed by men. This, however, only made me more determined to succeed.

What is the most important quality a professional in your field needs in order to be really good? Knowledge? Intuition? Something else?

Science and science alone. Gemology is a science and this means more than accumulated knowledge and data. It is all about the ability to think critically, because being a gemologist requires strength, perseverance and constantly striving to be better.

Do you think that some day we will use AI to evaluate diamonds and make jewellery?

Oh, this AI! Everyone is talking about it nowadays. Do you believe that AI would be good in evaluating and creating art? Will we someday use it to tell us if Picasso, Caravagio and Van Gogh were good artists and whether Dostoyevski, Chekhov and Hemingway are worth reading? Would AI be capable of writing novels and poems that would inspire whole nations and generations? For me the answer is no. All of these artists and writers are like diamonds – unique. Their works are not just sums of their technical parameters. It is the same with diamonds. They have not only a physical, crystalline structure, but qualities that can be seen, felt and experienced with the human eye only.

What is the most extravagant piece of jewellery that you have made?

A ring with a large central stone. The ring itself was all covered in diamonds, it was next to impossible to see the metal.

What about the most exciting one?

Last year, we were commissioned to create a piece of jewellery for a man. The only reference that the client provided was a cropped photograph in which there was half a face with a hat. I was expected to deduce from this photo what our client's friend would like, to unleash my fantasy and to create a bespoke piece. An experience that tested our skills. In the end, we created a marvellous two-face necklace.

Have you said "No" to a client?

Yes, many times! Our brand does not want "clients at all costs." I believe that people who seek something and ones who offer it are like lovers. Not every client needs me, not everyone will recognise me as a crucial part of their quest for their perfect jewellery.

Why did you decide to expand your business with the manufacture of acupressure mats?

My love for philosophy has taught me to see business as a system. As we know, a system exists until it evolves. This is the law of nature. We, for example, consider a tree beautiful when all of its branches expand symmetrically and form a rich crown. This is probably the reason to have several different businesses under our brand.

When I started Renéе de Clair, I was not after profits. I just personally believed in the product, its qualities and benefits. I was and remain passionate about it.

Acupressure mats are such a product. They are part of my everyday life. They are my discipline. Along with jewellery, they help me to know my place in the world and bring meaning to my existence.

If I have to be more concrete, we added the mats to our portfolio because I reached a point when I understood I craved air. I needed to be able to breathe deeply and freely, to relax anytime and anywhere, to provide my brain with the oxygen that helps it to calm down. Step by step, by reading the signs and researching history I discovered acupressure that uses the pressure of the tiny spikes to improve one's health.

What are the benefits for health and beauty?

These depend on the person using the mat. In general, the contact of the spikes and the body immediately stimulates blood circulation. It stimulates the body to produce new cells, the brain to calm down, the metabolism to normalise and to excrete the toxins. The skin gets firmer and the muscle memory recovers. For physically active people, using the mat before a training session is a great way to improve their performance as it prepares the body for the upcoming loading. When the body is relaxed, the brain calms down, too, and we achieve the desired result more easily.

I want to conclude with a message to all Vagabond readers: keep developing your exceptionality, because – as we know, in nature survival is an exception and extinction is a rule.


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