For most people, now is probably not the right time to open a new business, but mid-pandemic, business partners Katia Sebagh and Julien Szware have done just that - although it was not intentional.
“We signed the lease on March 6 last year and then 12 days later, we were thrown into lockdown. Obviously we had to renovate the store, install special security systems, protective windows and other fitments which were being supplied by companies here in Majorca and on the mainland, which were also hit by lockdown and the pandemic, so in the end, after one thing and another, we didn’t finally open until November 23,” says Katia who, along with Julien, hails from Paris but considers Mallorca to be home.
Both Katia and Julien’s parents used to bring the family on holiday to Mallorca and, when they were both seven, their paths first crossed when their parents decided to move to the island and enrol their children at the original Lycée Français de Palma, the French international school in El Terreno. They have remained close friends ever since - so much so they have now gone into a new business venture together.
“Mallorca is a small paradise,” adds Katia. “My mother is half Australian and Tunisian and said that she felt the same vibe here in Mallorca as she used to back in Melbourne. I only spent a month in Australia, so I can’t really comment, but I’ve promised my mother I will visit when travel restrictions start to ease.
“In fact, Mallorca, which has always been popular with the French as a holiday destination, is now becoming a top spot for French families looking to move away from France. There is a growing number of French families moving here permanently. More and more families are setting up home here, putting their kids into school and enjoying this lovely island, the great quality of life, the wonderful environment and the openness of the friendly people.
“After years of living and running businesses in Paris, where you are lucky if you ever get to know or speak to your neighbour, it’s so refreshing to live here in Mallorca and work in Palma, which is normally buzzing and busy all year round. I consider myself more Mallorcan than French and many of my old school friends do as well. The perfect example was that when we opened the new business, people I had not seen for some 20 years suddenly began turning up to say hello; it was great.
“After so many years, we’re still like one big family and that is what was so nice about the French school; so many former students and their parents are still in touch today.”
And now with an ex-school friend, Julien, they have opened the jewellers Joyeria Szware on Jaime III. However, this is a jewellers like no other in Mallorca. Apart from offering a wide range of expertise in a host of areas, they buy and sell first and second-hand valuable items. From jewellery to watches, art or antiques, they specialise in a global market and also source exclusive items for the more select buyer or collector.
And they also have Daniel on hand, who is one of France’s leading gemologists and was the advisor to the Chamber of Commerce in Paris for over five years, having spent a great deal of time in Africa, in particular the Congo, working with diamonds. What makes Daniel such an asset is that he is able to identify, grade, and appraise gemstones. He can easily recognise a gemstone’s variety and can identify and evaluate details that are not noticeable or visible to the human eye.
“This not only means that we can provide expert valuations and appraisals, but we also offer a fair and honest price," says Julien. “Clients can consider what we offer and go and compare it with other similar jewellers in Palma or overseas and, more often than not, they will find we’re offering the best deal; that is something we pride ourselves on. Apart from the fact that we in the jewellers, along with our global network of experts and professionals, know what we are talking about, we also know what the real value of the items is.”
Joyeria Szware also offers a pawn option as well as repairs to watches, for example, or modifications and renovations of items of jewellery. The jewellers will also have items of jewellery made to order for clients wanting something unusual or similar to an item they may have seen but slightly modified to their own requirements or style. Their talents and services are multiple and, as one would expect from such a quality business, it is a multilingual global enterprise in a very select location where clients can feel safe and comfortable.
Julien is an expert in the world of art. His father was a great collector and he learnt much of his trade from him before branching out around the world and working with the largest and most prestigious auction houses.
“To be honest, there is a section of the market which is immune to economic recessions and, in fact, can cash in on troubled times. One has to continually reinvent oneself in time of trouble like now, and the auction houses are doing brisk trade using all of the latest technology and social media - very similar to how we operate with our international clients.
“The art market is doing good business and sadly, as furloughs start to end and more people lose their jobs, savings or investments, they will look to other sources to make some form of income. That may involve coming to see professionals like ourselves.
“However, like Katia says, and I would like to stress it again, we are a serious and honest establishment with many years of experience all over the world. We can be trusted and this, I think, is one of the main attributes which sets us apart from similar jewellers and dealers in Palma, not to mention Europe.
“I am constantly fielding calls from clients, old and new, from the States to Japan either looking to do some business or for me to source a certain exclusive item for them. We have our network of leading experts to help in the process, if and when we need advice.
“Looking ahead to the future, due to the geographic location of Palma being so close and connected to most of Europe’s major cities, not to mention the use of social media and streaming systems, Palma could be a great location for a first-class auction house. That would involve a great deal of organisation, but it is certainly something Palma is lacking.”
Plus, a more welcoming team of professionals is hard to find in Palma.