Top gem in the Philippine jewelry industry celebrates a decade of highs and lows

Published October 23, 2021, 12:48 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Tough as diamonds

PRECIOUS GEMS, PROUD PINOY Homegrown luxury brand Tessera is known for its personalized jewelry and classic diamond retailing

Whether it’s a wedding or a coming-of-age party, Tessera’s exquisite collections of diamond jewelry have been major milestone markers for a decade.

The leading brand has also had its fair share of highs and lows that shaped it to the high-end label it is known for now. Tessera is a one-of-a-kind gem in the fashion industry that brings all that you seek for in a diamond accessory. All its pieces serve as styling essentials with their timeless designs to mix and match, symbols for sentimental moments, and high-value investments.

Refining the diamond in the rough

Carl Fider and Papat Aquino-Fider had Tessera as their first brain child with their shared penchant for the arts.

“I’m a designer by nature. I like to design stuff. I like to draw. Art is something I’ve always done,” Carl said.

In 2011, they entered the market of fashion accessories, curating monograms and custommade necklaces to start their business at home: Tessera by PAF. Papat named it after the small fragments that make up a mosaic for it is art in itself. Later, they veered away from monograms and focused on the diamonds, changing the name to just Tessera.

The couple narrated that Tessera “started with drawing small pieces of jewelry.” “I started small, from almost nowhere,” Carl said. 

As seen in their works, their art is highly influenced by their travels throughout Asia and Europe. The best inspiration they found in these ventures though is the diamond sellers who led them to shift their primary product to these precious gems, even without formal training in the field.

“I traveled a bit to Hong Kong, to Belgium, met a few diamond dealers over there and did tieups with them to expand my business in the Philippines,” he recalled. “I learned from some of the biggies in the industry. I learned by seeing stones of all sizes, colors, shapes. I’ve been to factories where diamonds are cut, where a bunch of experts sit and decide which rough piece will be cut into either a round or a fancy shape diamond and then which grading lab it would be sent to.”

Starting out of nowhere

The company has always valued its clients’ personal choices for its designs, even in its early years. Up until it changed its main materials, it continued to create bespoke pieces for its patrons. 

“You know upgrading diamonds is a completely different story. If you want to upgrade diamonds, you can always come back to us and we’ll be happy to assess and give you a fair deal for your stones,” he said.

Carl explained that the “brand has a vast variety of diamonds, which give our clients complete freedom to enjoy the experience of choosing a stone that represents themselves best.”

‘I learned from some of the biggies in the industry. I learned by seeing stones of all sizes, colors, shapes. I’ve been to factories where diamonds are cut.’

The leading jeweler takes pride in its wide-range designs of naturally-mined and certified diamonds from 0.30 up to 10 carats that were manufactured in India and Belgium.

“Today, we have more than a thousand internationally certified diamonds in our collection, ready to be selected and made into your next heirloom,” Carl said with pride.

Philippine pride

ALAB AT DANGAL Among Tessera’s most celebrated work is this patriotic, gold ear cuff with rubies and diamonds, which was worn by Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray

All its products are top-grade and exquisitely crafted without a doubt. The company even gained worldwide buzz when Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray sashayed the Binibining Pilipinas coronation night donned with the Three Stars and a Sun earrings she designed herself.

With the massive craze, the brand continued to be the trusted maker for the beauty queen’s well-thought-of ideas to showcase the Philippine heritage to the prestigious Miss Universe stage.

The original piece that Tessera created for her is an 18k yellow gold cuff bejeweled with four carat diamonds. The public then urged Catriona and Tessera to upgrade the design to match her fiery look in the Miss Universe competition with Alab at Dangal, studding the gold cuff with rubies and diamonds.

They also collaborated for other various patriotic designs inspired by the Philippine flag including Pearl of the Orient, and the sun studs.

With this fad in 2018, even the ABS-CBN Star Magic Ball had a Filipiniana theme that year. With Tessera’s established credibility in flawlessly featuring the Philippine culture with its regal designs, several artists flaunted their personalized accessories from the household name down the red carpet.

Philippine eagle wings-inspired cuffs, red and blue jewelry to mimic the country flag, and different timeless classics were studded with high-carat diamonds to radiate with the stars.

Yet even before its major rise in the trajectory with nationalistic curations, Tessera has always been a renowned label and status symbol at balls, weddings, gifts, and other major events.

Silver lining

Tessera’s resilience was put to test, however, as everyone was shaken when the global crisis struck in 2019. 

It expected a drastic drop in profit, contrary to the 2020 industry forecast that McKinsey and company published in 2014. The article discussed how fast fashion contributed to the possible spike in jewelry sales for the coming years—with no idea of an international health problem affecting consumers’ economic capacity.

Fortuitously, the strict quarantine protocols were a call for people to invest. Many saw the opportunity to buy valued diamond pieces during this time.

“Since people’s movements were limited—no holiday travels, no nights out, no fancy dinners—our customers had more resources to spend on other luxuries and investments like jewelry,” Carl said. Others invested in their relationships, instead. As a symbol of endless love, diamonds have been essential options in making partners say yes.

“As always, our engagement rings have remained as our bestseller because pandemic or no pandemic, people still get engaged and married,” Carl explained. “In fact, since elaborate proposals are not an option, people end up spending money on nicer rings that make an impact instead.”