Jewelmer marks 40 years—the golden pearl that’s become the source of national pride

La Mer brooch


In the 40th anniversary gala celebration of Jewelmer, the luxury Filipino jewelry brand unveiled a new, modern logo that the company believes reflects the Filipino values upon which it built its name.


That the black-tie event also had the second-generation owners front and center was also indicative of the new paths the company is taking.


“We feel that we still have a lot of room to grow, especially in terms of educating the Filipino about our national gem,” Jacques Christophe Branellec, Jewelmer’s executive vice president and deputy CEO, told Lifestyle.


“We want the golden South Sea pearl and Jewelmer to be a source of pride for all Filipinos. This serves as our guiding force as we bring the brand internationally. We want to show the world that we can excel as a Filipino brand.”


The golden South Sea pearl, after all, was declared the National Gem of the Philippines by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1996.


Les Classiques 40-ray pendant with diamonds




Branellec, son of co-founder Jacques Branellec, noted that 40 years ago, golden pearl as a jewelry category was nonexistent on the market. But as they developed new techniques in their Palawan pearl farms, the brand successfully created a global demand for the golden pearl.


One of its milestones was opening in 2014 an outlet in Japan, historically the capital of pearl jewelry. Jewelmer is sold in 15 other countries.


“Considering that it has been only about 20-25 years since the golden pearl has been firmly in the global industry, we still have a lot of development and room to grow,” said the young executive.


Design trends, for instance, have changed dramatically in the last four decades. Even the way consumers wear their pearls has changed.


“Before, women wore pearls only to very important occasions,” Branellec said. “Now they see ways to wear the pearl daily. It has become so wearable that women pair it with jeans and a T-shirt. Pearls are now seen as a gem that fits all occasions, and one that can be worn with anything, by anyone.”

La Mer earrings


In its recent collections, Jewelmer has been incorporating more colored gems in its designs, a change from the past when they worked only with diamonds and gold.


“These precious gems contribute to giving context to the rarity and significance of our national gem,” said Branellec, whose sister, Gaelle Branellec, is the brand’s creative director. Youngest sister Marion Branellec-de Guzman is marketing manager.


Still, “The same inspirations can be found in our jewelry, such as being organic and being inspired by the elements we find within the marine and terrestrial environment of Palawan,” said the deputy CEO.


But while many luxury brands are striving to capture the millennial market, Branellec said that hasn’t been Jewelmer’s strategy, though he noted that more young people are wearing pearls. “The buyers of that age group are looking for something that is sustainable and that coincides with the values of their generation.”


At the gala dinner at Shangri-La at The Fort a fortnight ago, which was preceded by an exhibit of Jewelmer designs through the decades, cofounders Manuel Cojuangco, the company chair, and the older Branellec, president, took the stage to look back on their journey.


Berlingot bracelet


Berlingot ring




Cojuangco talked of gratitude for their “adventure with a lot of surprises,” while Jacques Branellec, a Frenchman who moved to the Philippines in the 1970s, underscored how Jewelmer is “the first luxury Filipino brand which is 100-percent Filipino with a touch of French inspiration.” Jewelmer, Branellec added, is driven by the Filipino values of utang na loob and pakikisama. “We are proud to present what is best in the Filipino people.”


The company’s first employee, Rogelio Bas, a manager at the pearl farms, was called onstage to recall his journey with the company. Bas was a deep-sea diver in Cebu when Jacques Branellec tapped him to move to west Palawan in 1979 to start a pearl farm. It was a difficult time, with zero means of communication and no water supply in the remote islands, Bas recalled.


Gorgeous Collection’s Elixir D’ Amour necklace


“It was trial and error,” Bas said of their early attempts to culture pearls. “But with the motivation of Mr. Branellec and Mr. Cojuangco, we were able to overcome everything. We made the golden pearl, and our efforts paid off… Jewelmer is a result of determination, passion and love of nature. We strive to have a clean environment to grow our pearls. The golden pearl is the result of the hard work of people who have a golden heart.”


“Nobody gives a pearl to someone because they’re angry,” said the young Branellec in his speech. “In Jewelmer, we’re in the business of making people happy.”


Berlingot necklace


Sarah Geronimo


Linda Ley tries on a string of Jewelmer necklace.


Gaelle Branellec, Jacques Christophe Branellec and Marion Branellec-de Guzman


Jo Ann Bitagcol, Jenny Rockett, Justin Gabionza, Jacques Branellec, Maxine Medina, Bianca Valerio,Manuel Cojuangco, Angel Aquino, Ann Umali, Fatima Rabago