For almost three centuries, El Sirgany family’s jewelry business has catered to Egypt’s royalty and high society since it opened its doors in 1776. Today, the family still maintains its original flagship store in Abdel Khalek Tharwat Street in downtown Cairo, as well as a new location in Zamalek that is the pet project of the young Mahmoud El Sirgany, the son of the famous family patriarch, Cherif El Sirgany. eniGma’s Mariam Nowar, sat down with the young El Sirgany to learn more about his family’s legacy and his own philosophy as one of the most preeminent jewelers in Cairo today.
Mahmoud El Sirgany had big shoes to fill, coming from a long line of master jewellers going back about 300 years. He grew up with a rich heritage and was determined to make his own mark in the family business which he loved and cherished.
El Sirgany recounts how he joined his father in the business and learnt everything from him. He jokes that the learning process included many mistakes initially, but that it definitely paid off in the end. “When I came back in 1999 after earning my degree in casting, mold making, and carving at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), my father had inaugurated our manufacturing facility in the Tenth of Ramadan city, and I worked there for three years. It wasn’t easy at the beginning. But my father, Cherif, taught me pretty much everything I know and I owe it all to him. This period also allowed me to put into practice what I had learned abroad,” he recalls.
El Sirgany’s father has been his mentor throughout his journey, and he had initially joined his two sisters in running the main store in Abd El Khalek Sarwat Street, in downtown Cairo – which has been around since 1950.
“I headed back to GIA in 2002 to study diamond and pearl grading, before joining my sisters a year later at the main store in Downtown Cairo,” he shares. “It was the real beginning of learning how to deal with clients and how to understand what they really want. The time I spent with my father helped me learn everything. I observed how he talked to the clients, and how he dealt with the suppliers. And most importantly, he taught me that honesty and integrity are keys to gaining the trust of everybody you are dealing with,” he explains.
El Sirgany is very proud of his family’s legacy. He recounts how, in 1936, the company was recognised by the Exposition Universelle Liege in Belgium. The renowned gallery, placed two globes made by El Sirgany on display, a silver globe that had all of the continents embodied with copper, and another one which featured all the stars and the planets of the galaxy. In 2006, his father was awarded as a commander of honour for his services to the diamond sector.
In 1992, the original company was dissolved and a new company was created under Cherif El Sirgany Joailliers owned by none other than Cherif El Sirgany himself. The El Sirgany business moved from jewellery retail to manufacturing and design in 1998, and since then, they have gradually introduced their own unique creations as opposed to importing. “It took us a lot of time and effort to reach this level, but now, most of the pieces you find in our store are our original concepts,” El Sirgany explains.
“We are adding new designs to our collection every day, so every time you visit our store, you will find new pieces and designs. Lately we’ve started to work on new lines using lots of semi-precious stones and more unique ethnic designs,” he proudly notes.
El Sirgany does not follow a yearly or seasonal pattern of collection releases, but rather relies on organising by price category and he offers a diverse range of prices. Each display case at El Sirgany’s Zamalek store is dedicated to a specific price category. The designs on display include casual, fine jewellery, and haute joiaillerie pieces. “I try to expand every line in each category,” he explains.
“People tend to buy jewellery as a store of value, and they can pass on their jewellery for generations to come,” he adds. “That’s why this particular business is able to flourish in even the most difficult economy.”
“At the moment we are offering everything from appraisal services, jewellery repair and restoration for our estate jewellery customers, to custom orders, the revamping of old jewellery and design services,” he continues. “We are also launching a new layout for the store soon, including an easier online shopping experience to help our customers follow the progress of their custom orders and repairs.”
“When you repair jewellery at our store, it’s just as if you have sent it straight to Italy,” El Sirgany is also excited about the wide variety of charms, lockets, rings, and unique designs featured on the store’s official website, www.cherifelsirgany.com. “We’re also releasing brand new designs for ‘initials’ that are ready to be picked up from our store,” he says as he scrolls through the ‘Charms’ tab on his website. “We have them in yellow, pink, and even black gold; along with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. We’re working on a special display for them at the moment.”
“My favourite gemstone is surprisingly not the most expensive one,” El Sirgany says. “The Peridot’s light green colour brings joy to my heart, and it’s the one gemstone Egypt is most famous for. While each stone is unique, they are like fingerprints – no pair is ever identical,” he adds.
“There is no such thing as a bad stone, and a good piece is the correctly-priced one. We always make sure our clients find the perfect stone that suits their budget, and we can customise anything from pendants, rings, earrings, necklaces, or else upon request. Today, there are no technological barriers in terms of customisation. It used to take so long before without producing the best results, but today, perfection is easily achieved,” he says.
“All valuable precious gemstones come with international grading certificates. We repair all of our jewellery for free, we accept returns, this guarantees that the jewellery you purchase from us will hold the value that you paid for,” El Sirgany insists. He reassures his clients that even if the jewellery has been used, he remains faithful to its value.
El Sirgany’s final insight on the secrets behind three centuries of the success of the family business, is as follows: “It’s all about keeping your word, integrity, and making new friends every day. You can have a nice design that sells wonderfully for a month, then poof – nothing! You need to have a backbone in the business through your values and ethics.”