After winning the Éric Horovitz Foundation Award in November 2021, Hugo Massy is now training as a gem-cutter with the prestigious Maison Piat in Paris.
GENEVA – In November 2021, when Hugo Massy was a student at École Technique de la Vallée de Joux (ETVJ), he won the newly-launched Éric Horovitz Foundation Award for his piece entitled Gold & Black. In September 2022, Massy won a permanent contract with the Maison Piat. Founded in 1920 and now headed by Emmanuel Piat, this family firm works alongside creative artists and leading jewellers to combine the tradition of lapidary art and innovation in its Paris studios. It is there that Hugo Massy, originally from the Swiss canton of Vaud, is continuing to learn his trade – in full awareness of his good fortune. Winning the award has changed the young man’s life and career path.
In November 2021, a piece of jewellery created by Hugo Massy – a silver ring with two stones facing each other in a hot-and-cold dialogue – caught the eye of the Éric Horovitz Foundation award jury. The ring was selected as the ‘Foundation’s favourite’ during GemGenève, a trade show for jewellery professionals and enthusiasts.
GemGenève has become an excellent platform for creative jewellery artists, offering them international visibility and the opportunity to be in touch with a large number of professionals. Through its partnerships with schools and the creation of three awards (the HEAD People’s Choice Award, the CFC People’s Choice Award, and the Éric Horovitz Foundation), GemGenève is a springboard for emerging apprentices and students, helping them chart their careers and in some cases find funding for their preferred training.
The Éric Horovitz Foundation
When Hugo Massy won the Éric Horovitz Award in 2021, he could hardly have expected to see his life and career change as fast as they did. The foundation was established in 2020 by Christine Horovitz in memory of her late husband, a dealer in precious stones who was well-known in the world of jewellery. Officially launched at GemGenève in November 2021, the purpose of the Foundation is to support emerging Swiss jewellery talents through training and recognition of their creative output. https://erichorovitz.ch/fr/.
Since its inception, the Éric Horovitz Foundation has constantly strived to encourage emerging creative artists, gradually developing new projects aimed at students studying jewellery and design. For instance, in October 2023 the Foundation will be organising a free 5-day training course for third-year students at the Geneva Vocational Training Centre for Arts & Crafts (CFP Arts de Genève); ultimately, this could be opened up to other students on similar courses. Held during vacation time, the masterclass aims to make students better-prepared for the realities of the professional world by tackling specific and complex subjects. It will comprise a series of modules: one on how to introduce oneself; a legal session looking at how students can protect their creative work, and a session on design and inspiration. It will be run by acclaimed professionals including HR specialist Mathilde Gosteli, luxury product designer Emmanuel Gueit and Maître Victor Benincasa, a lawyer specialising in intellectual property.
The launch of a second project, this time with the Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD) is planned for autumn 2023. The challenge presented to students is to produce a 3-D computer model of their contemporary adaptation of an actual vintage brooch shown them by a notional customer. As with the project undertaken with GemGenève and Federal Certificate of Proficiency (CFC) trainings, a winning student will be chosen to be admitted to the mentoring system offered by the Foundation.
Christine Horovitz, herself a gemmologist, holds a Masters in educational science and is personally involved in the learning pathway of the young people supported by the Foundation. Her excellent network of jewellery professionals allows her to open doors and organise meetings where students can benefit from the advice and guidance of those in the business as they seek to chart their career path.
“I’m delighted that the Éric Horovitz Foundation Award has launched the career of this talented young man. We’ve been able to help guide his choices, introduce him to several professionals, and give him the opportunity to train in gem-cutting.” Christine Horovitz
Guiding and supporting young people in their training choices
After the young man scooped the award, Christine Horovitz lost no time in taking him under her wing and working with him to determine the right training outlet for him going forward. Initially, Hugo was interested in jewel-setting, but Christine Horovitz saw more potential in him. “I felt that with his abilities, he could train for something more ambitous.” Together with the young artist, she explored a range of avenues and organised meetings with a number of professionals in a position to provide sound advice and answer his questions about the options open to him. Eventually, the two of them settled on one: the art of gem-cutting. There are now very few professional lapidarists left in Switzerland, and no more courses leading to a CFC qualification in the field.
From GemGenève to Paris
Christine Horovitz approached Emmanuel Piat, a third-generation gem-cutter heading up Piat’s workshop in Paris; she knew him to be highly committed to training and passing on knowhow.
Left to right: Christine Horovitz, Hugo Massy, and Emmanuel Piat
In-house, Piat had developed trainings originally destined to enable gemmology students to gain an understanding of the different aspects of the trading business. The trainings were so successful that the firm soon organised similar courses for its customers, similarly keen to broaden their employees’ knowledge. Strictly reserved for professionals, the sessions deal mainly with the two key topics of cutting and appraising coloured gemstones.
A preliminary course to determine candidates’ abilities and eligibility
Emmanuel Piat started out by offering Hugo Massy a two-week internship. The entrepreneur’s aim was to check that the young man had the necessary skills for the trade; the first tests quickly proved conclusive. Their scope includes determining whether the candidate can visualise objects in three dimensions, understand the craftsmanship they will need to engage in – and have the patience to persevere with the same task over long periods of time. During this phase, the boss also evaluates whether the candidate would be a good fit with his existing team; integration needs to be as seamless and hassle-free as possible. As Emmanuel Piat explains, “it’s vital for our people to be relaxed, composed, and in a good working environment when they’re working on gemstones.”
“An important part of the gem-cutter’s work is to ensure that every facet has exactly the same dimensions. This involves keeping a constant eye on proportions, and that’s a skill that you never stop learning throughout your career.” Emmanuel Piat
A permanent contract in Paris to train as a lapidarist
A few weeks later, in September 2022, Hugo was offered a permanent contract in Paris by the firm, headquartered on Rue de la Paix just a stone’s throw from the legendary jewellers of Place Vendôme. The young man – who’ll turn 22 in November 2023 – was in seventh heaven. “It was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse”, he explains solemnly. “Thanks to Christine Horovitz and her network in the world of jewellery, things moved very fast! My piece went on show in November 2021 at GemGenève, then won the Éric Horovitz Foundation Award. I met Emmanuel Piat in May 2022, again at GemGenève, and went on to do an internship in Paris that July. I got the job as an apprentice in September 2022.”
The Foundation has also provided the emerging artist with the services of an HR coach in the person of one of its partners, Mathilde Gosteli, who has given him advice on how to present his CV and his LinkedIn page.
“I’m well aware that it takes three to five years’ training to become a good gem-cutter.” Hugo Massy
So what exactly is Hugo Massy doing in Paris?
The young man from the Canton of Vaud was a little apprehensive about going to live in Paris, but has now found an apartment from which he can get around on foot. He’s also got to know the City of Light, and is fully aware of how fortunate he is to be able to train in such an environment. The only apprentice currently in training with Piat, he has joined a team of eleven people. Former apprentice turned trainer Angèle is in charge of his training and monitors his progress closely.
When he first arrived, Hugo Massy started out by practicing on synthetic stones. “You take an uncut stone, cut it to get it down to size, then polish it with a diamond wheel”, he explains. “To do the cutting proper, you start by practicing circles, then ovals, baguette, cushion, and pear shapes. Before long, you move on to work on real gemstones.”
In their studio, Maison Piat’s lapidarists use traditional tools such as an évention jamb peg faceting machine and mechanical stick, typical Jura inventions that are now used all over the world. Drawing on the knowhow of their forebears, the team constantly strive to improve their cutting and faceting skills, as well as the ergonomics of the studio, its tools, and the materials used. The art of Piat involves revealing and sublimating the brilliance and colour of a gemstone whilst preserving as much of it as possible.
Professional ethics are among Emmanuel Piat’s chief concerns. Piat is committed to setting up responsible coloured gemstone value chains and was the first member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), winning certification in 2020.
Together with two other partners, the firm is highly involved in supporting Moyo Gems, an initiative with its origins in East Africa. As Emmanuel Piat explains: “This commitment is very important to us as a firm. Through Moyo Gems, we strive to provide the women who mine precious stones in Tanzania and Kenya with the means to work safely, exploit the resources in question responsibly, improve their financial security and create equitable and stable markets for fair trade.”