National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

Who in jewelry is a billionaire?

March 06, 2014

New York--The Oppenheimer family and diamantaire Laurence Graff still rank among the world’s richest while the founder of Firestar Diamond is a “new billionaire,” according to Forbes’ annual list of the world’s wealthiest people, which was released this week.

Nicky Oppenheimer and family are No. 205 on the list, worth an estimated $6.7 billion. After more than eight decades in the diamond business, the Oppenheimers sold their remaining stake in De Beers to Anglo American in 2012. 

Graff ranks No. 305 on the Forbes’ list. The 75-year-old, a United Kingdom citizen whose residence is listed as Gstaad, Switzerland, has an estimated fortune of $4.8 billion. The source of his wealth is described by Forbes as “diamond jewelry, Self Made.”

Graff dropped out of school at age 14 and began his career in the jewelry industry as an apprentice in London’s Hatton Garden, where he scrubbed toilets as part of his job, according to Forbes.

Today, he is the modern-day equivalent of Harry Winston, buying some of the world’s most impressive diamonds, including the 35.56-carat blue Wittelsbach diamond, which he recut and renamed the Wittelsbach-Graff, and a 24.78-carat fancy intense pink diamond that he called the “Graff Pink.”

New to Forbes’ list this year is Nirav Modi, nephew of Gitanjali Gems’ Mehul Choksi and founder of diamond company Firestar International. Modi, a resident of Mumbai, came in at No. 1,372 with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion.

The heads of three of the world’s largest luxury conglomerates also made the list: Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, came in at No. 15 with an estimated fortune of $33.5 billion. François Pinault and family, head of Kering (formerly PPR), ranks as No. 58 with a fortune of $15.5 billion, while South African citizen Johann Rupert, the chairman of Richemont, is No. 173 with $7.6 billion.

Others with a jewelry (or watch) connection making the list include Esther Grether and family at No. 731 with an estimated net worth of $2.4 billion. A resident of Basel, Grether is the second-largest shareholder in the Swatch Group.

Brothers Nicola and Paolo Bulgari tied at No. 1,210 with an estimated net worth of $2.4 billion. Indian jeweler, T.S. Kalyanaraman, founder and chairman of Kalyan Jewellers, a chain of jewelry stores in Indian that advertises itself as a “gold supermarket,” is No. 1,565 with an estimated net worth of $1 billion.

Topping the list again was Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, 58, with an estimated net worth of $76 billion.  Mexican telecom giant Carlos Slim Helu and family came in second, with an estimated net worth of $72 billion.

Spain’s Amancio Ortega, the 77-year-old founder of the company that owns clothing retailer Zara, is the world’s third richest man, according to the list, with an estimated net worth of $64 billion. Business magnate and Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett is No. 4 and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison ranks as No. 5 with a $48 billion fortune.

View the entire list at Forbes.com.