Fondly known as Gopp, 37-year-old Panuwat Sapmaneeanant admits that he didn’t have plans to join Jasmin following his graduation in industrial engineering at Chulalongkorn University. Nor was he interested in taking up a role at the company founded by his parents after he had earned a master’s degree in marketing at the University of Birmingham, UK.
“I was about to start working at another company when my parents and I sat down for a discussion in 2005. They wanted me to come on board with the jewellery business and eventually I turned the other job down. Then I thought, if I’m going to do this, I need to learn as much about the gem and jewellery trade as I can.”
Which is why he went back to school to earn a degree in gemology at the Gemological Institute of America.
Panuwat’s personal ambitions were never far from the surface, however, and after three years with Jasmin he decided to set up his own company, Perfect Emerald, and later another business called Izmargad. Then came a turning point at Jasmin.
“My three siblings were all graduating and wanted to join the business but it was too small to provide roles for everyone—back then we only had one shop at the Dusit Thani and a factory,” he explains. “So we came up with two possible solutions—either to set up a separate company or to expand the existing business so that we could all contribute. We decided to expand and although it is an ongoing process, we are happy with our progress.”
Panuwat oversees the sourcing and buying of precious stones for Jasmin and he is quick to point out that his work is far removed from the glamour of smart showrooms displaying cases of glittering gems. “That’s front of house—the final stage. The sourcing process, however, is much more rugged. You have to go to the mines and inspect gemstones yourself. Often you are accompanied by armed men as a safety precaution,” chuckles the jovial executive. “Once in Colombia, we even took a truck-load of chickens with us as a payment instead of cash, because having cash on us would have been too dangerous.”
For Panuwat the risks are worth it and he has come to be fascinated by precious gems. “They are products of nature and each one is different to the next. The same types of stones from the same source, once cut and polished, come out differently. You’re always discovering new things about them,” he says.
Married to Tharinee Sribenjachote, Panuwat is father to Anya and Vela. Ever the free spirit, he explains that he likes to travel to Japan and Europe. Cliché? Perhaps not, because his choice of destination is often off the beaten track and quite remote.
“I have to contact so many people in my work each day that by the time I get to be on my own, I really want to be somewhere quiet. So when I do have the opportunity to travel for leisure I like to visit remote towns and villages in the countryside. It took a while to convince my wife though. There is this tiny town in Japan where we like to go. It’s full of old people—very quiet, a very lovely place. There’s not much there, but my wife has grown to like it because they have all these vintage stores that are twice as cheap as the shops in Tokyo and Osaka,” he laughs.
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