Set in Stone

Busi­ness­man, jew­ellery guru and ad­vo­cate for chil­dren’s rights, Suriyon Sriorathaikul is on a mis­sion to bring a lit­tle more beauty to this world, says

Thailand Tatler - - OCTOBER - Pri­jayanat Kalam­pa­sut

Suriyon Sriorathaikul, prin­ci­pal of Thai jew­ellery house Beauty Gems, is a so­ci­ety host with a deep con­science. He tells Pri­jayanat Kalam­pa­sut about his mis­sion to bring more beauty to the world and his de­sire to help pro­tect the coun­try’s most vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple

That Suriyon Sriorathaikul, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Thai­land’s lead­ing high jew­ellery man­u­fac­turer Beauty Gems, would do any­thing other than join the fam­ily busi­ness es­tab­lished by his par­ents in 1964 was never in doubt. Born into the sparkling world of pre­cious stones, he ad­mits to be­ing en­tranced by jew­ellery at a young age. “I think from the time I was three I knew what I wanted to do.”

Groomed to ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty of jewels, Suriyon re­ceived a prac­ti­cal early ed­u­ca­tion in the sub­ject. He of­ten found him­self in his mother’s walk-in safe when she was clean­ing and sort­ing an ar­ray of pre­cious gems. “When­ever any stones fell on the floor, which wasn’t of­ten, my task was to help my mother pick them up,” he laughs. “She would give me money for each stone I re­trieved: 50 baht for a semi-pre­cious stone, 100 baht for a ruby and so on. She would tell me some­thing about each stone as I handed it back. In this way I quickly learned to iden­tify the var­i­ous gems and the dif­fer­ent types of cut and I gained a rudi­men­tary un­der­stand­ing of their re­spec­tive val­ues.”

Suriyon grad­u­ated from Pep­per­dine Uni­ver­sity with a de­gree in busi­ness but given his in­ter­est in all things gem­stone, his next move saw him en­rol at the Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute of Amer­ica in Cal­i­for­nia. Once qual­i­fied as a cer­ti­fied gemol­o­gist, he came home and joined the fam­ily busi­ness at the age of 22.

Since its foun­da­tion 54 years ago, Beauty Gems has de­vel­oped from a mod­est en­ter­prise to be­come a re­spected busi­ness as­so­ci­ated with tra­di­tion­ally re­fined and metic­u­lous Thai crafts­man­ship. “We have ex­panded sig­nif­i­cantly since then and our rev­enue has in­creased ten­fold since I joined the com­pany. I main­tain a very ac­tive role in terms of de­sign­ing jew­ellery for our own Beauty Gems brand and over­see­ing the lines we cre­ate for our ex­port cus­tomers around the world, of which there are al­most a hun­dred,” says Suriyon. “I think we are very lucky to have a resur­gent jew­ellery in­dus­try as a key con­trib­u­tor to our econ­omy. Last year it brought in over US$12 bil­lion in rev­enue, rank­ing it third in ex­ports be­hind the elec­tronic goods and au­to­mo­tive in­dus­tries.”

The vi­brancy of the lo­cal and global jew­ellery in­dus­tries in re­cent years has en­abled Beauty Gems to ex­pand op­er­a­tions in its core busi­ness to 10 jew­ellery work­shops and four re­tail out­lets em­ploy­ing around 3,000 peo­ple. The fam­ily firm has also di­ver­si­fied to in­clude sub­sidiary con­cerns such as golf cour­ses, an as­set in­sur­ance com­pany and a com­mu­nity mall. “In fact, the group cur­rently com­prises 48 in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses but we all chip in to make it man­age­able,” the ex­ec­u­tive ex­plains.

The Sriorathaikul clan work well as a team, each with their own role and set of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties within the or­gan­i­sa­tion. So while Suriyon over­sees the fi­nance, mar­ket­ing and de­sign func­tions at Beauty Gems, his brother Sur­a­sit looks af­ter the group as a whole in his po­si­tion as pres­i­dent, while their fa­ther Porn­sit re­mains an ac­tive group chair­man at the age of 70. “My mother, on the other hand, who has al­ways had an unerring eye for beau­ti­ful de­sign, has re­tired now,” says her 45-year-old son. He adds, “I love wak­ing up in the morn­ings and go­ing to work. This is a beau­ti­ful busi­ness and I am for­tu­nate enough to be a part of it. What I love about what I do is be­ing able to cre­ate beauty that even­tu­ally be­comes a part of some­one’s me­mory, a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment in their lives, be it an en­gage­ment, a mar­riage or a birth­day an­niver­sary.”

Suriyon has also ven­tured into some of his own projects, in­clud­ing the launch of multi­brand beauty store Beauty 24 with friends. With

so much suc­cess, it is easy to be­come en­gulfed in the life of mon­ey­mak­ing but the manag­ing di­rec­tor high­lights the im­por­tance of do­ing busi­ness the right way. “For me suc­cess means noth­ing if you lack morals and trans­parency,” he says. Suriyon’s role mod­els in life in­clude His Majesty the late King Bhu­mi­bol for his un­wa­ver­ing ad­her­ence to ethics and his in­tegrity and hard work, and his own par­ents, with­out whom he says nei­ther the com­pany nor he would be where they are to­day.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man, Suriyon is also a proud fa­ther. He and his In­done­sian-born wife Mega have two sons, one soon to turn 18 and the other al­ready 20. The ex­ec­u­tive ad­mits he some­times strug­gles to bal­ance time be­tween work and fam­ily. “We can’t have it all,” he laughs. Con­sid­er­ing Beauty Gems is a fam­ily en­ter­prise, can we ex­pect his chil­dren to join the firm as he did? “It would be nice be­cause a fresh and younger take on things helps to keep the com­pany cur­rent,” he says. “It would be a pity if they didn’t show an in­ter­est af­ter what has been es­tab­lished but I wouldn’t force them to carry on the fam­ily legacy. It’s up to them what they wish to do in life.”

On an­other note, Suriyon and Mega are known for host­ing some of the city’s most lux­u­ri­ous and glam­orous par­ties. But be­hind the glitz and glam of the high jew­ellery in­dus­try and the whirl of elite so­ci­ety is a man who cares deeply about giv­ing back to so­ci­ety. An is­sue that be­came close to his heart was the ab­sence of laws and struc­tures to pre­vent the sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren in Thai­land. This re­sulted in Suriyon be­com­ing in­volved with the es­tab­lish­ment of the Cen­ter for the Pro­tec­tion of Chil­dren’s Rights Foun­da­tion with Sven Philip-Sorensen, an ad­viser to His Majesty King Carl XVI Gus­tav of Swe­den. The foun­da­tion seeks to as­sess, com­bat and pre­vent all forms of child abuse and to

“I love wak­ing up in the morn­ings and go­ing to work. This is a beau­ti­ful busi­ness and I am for­tu­nate enough to be a part of it.”

pro­tect vic­tims of child labour, traf­fick­ing, sex­ual abuse and com­mer­cial sex ex­ploita­tion.

“Back then there were very few laws to com­bat par­tic­u­larly the sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren in Thai­land, which made child traf­fick­ing very easy,” Suriyon ex­plains. How­ever, through the foun­da­tion’s ad­vo­cacy things have changed—to the point where to­day the coun­try has a raft of leg­is­la­tion in place to fight scourges such as pae­dophilia and child pornog­ra­phy. “It was some­thing I had to do. I mean, there I was with young chil­dren. How was I meant to look them in the face if I didn’t help in some way? These is­sues of­ten seem re­mote when in fact they are very close but hid­den from plain sight. And even when a law is passed, it needs to be en­acted and ef­fec­tively im­ple­mented. I make it my mis­sion to help raise aware­ness on this is­sue when­ever I can.”

In what lit­tle spare time he can en­gi­neer for him­self, Suriyon likes to re­lax by swim­ming, read­ing books and watch­ing movies. He con­fesses to a par­tic­u­lar fond­ness for mod­el­ling for photo shoots. “I fly all the time for busi­ness rea­sons but I also like to travel to dif­fer­ent places for photo shoots. I find it fun and re­lax­ing,” he laughs. And which des­ti­na­tions are still on his bucket list? “Oh, so many. I want to visit Brazil, Ar­gentina, Egypt, Alaska, Bora Bora…and I want to ex­plore the Great Bar­rier Reef. These are all beau­ti­ful places and you can never have too much beauty in your life.”

sharp and clean Suited up in Etro, Suriyon is a nat­u­ral in front of the cam­era

Suriyon look­ing stylish in Etro's vi­brantly pat­terned T-shirt and jacket; (op­po­site) he rocks a funky sweater and leather jacket by Coach

Etro's bo­hemian trav­el­lerin­spired bomber jacket looks good on Suriyon; (op­po­site) a laid­back and cool Coach jacket on a laid­back and cool guy

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