Today we interview one of our favorite people in the trade, the charming and quiet Mikola Kukharuk from the legendary Nomad's gem company!
Today, hopefully, we'll learn about how he got to start in the trade, why, and how he began Nomad's!
I don't know about you, but I'm excited to learn more about the birth of this pioneering company and Mikola himself!
Mikola, the floor is yours!
Here is Nomad's Mikola Kukharuk staring happily at the camera while holding a fine cobalt blue spinel - Photo Credit: Nomad's Ltd
AsiaLounges: First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to answer our questions today, Mikola. As it is customary in our columns, could you tell us more about yourself? Who are you, Mikola Kukharuk?
Mikola Kukharuk: That's a big question, I'm many things -- but basically, an all-around nice guy😁. For this conversation, I am a representative of Nomad's, a supplier of beautiful gems to jewelry makers. I buy rough gemstones and coordinate our cutting and sales teams.
AsiaLounges: Before getting into the birth of your company: Nomad's, we'd love to hear how you entered our lovely gem world? Was it a family trade? Was it a fortuitous encounter with the gem world? How did you start?
Mikola Kukharuk: I grew up in a village in southern Ukraine and graduated from university in Odesa, a port city on the coast of the Black Sea. Just after my graduation, the Soviet Union collapsed, and capitalism came rushing in. Those were exciting times. In contrast to the Soviet period, when only the government had the right to buy and sell anything, suddenly anyone could start a business. I went into it headlong, devoured a few books on the science of economics, and started buying and selling anything and everything. After initial success in a few small business ventures, a friend from my old university rock climbing club invited me to partner with him in a gem cutting business. I sold everything and went entirely into it.
A statement cut typical from Nomad's that we affectionately nicknamed the Star Destroyers in obvious reference to their Star Wars look-alike cousins - Photo Credits: Nomad's Ltd
AsiaLounges: Now that we know a bit more about yourself, how did Nomad's as a company start?
Mikola Kukharuk: We were growing fast, thanks to our focus on cutting gems for beauty and brilliancy, not weight, and to our youthful enthusiasm for everything in the business - the wonder of sparkling gemstones, travel, adventure, building relationships with suppliers and customers, and the discovery of many cultures and people of the world.
We've kept doing it ever since. Some years later, the friend we initially partnered with decided that it suited his personality better to work alone and left. I, on the contrary, realized that I thrive in a close group of friends and colleagues. So I took it in the direction of building a team of motivated, cheerful, outgoing people, away from the old fashioned business model of a gem dealer being a lone individual.
Nomad's Mikola Kukharuk at the morning table staring upon a hefty rough Namibian tourmaline meal - Photo Credits: Nomad's Ltd
AsiaLounges: When you and your team started Nomad's, were you already anticipating the massive success that the company is today?
Mikola Kukharuk: Of course not. We focused on living a good life - finding satisfaction in a job well done; beautifully well-cut gems; warm, pleasant relationships with suppliers, customers, and fellow gem traders; and the everyday discovery of something new and challenging in what we do.
If we do these well and have a good time at it, success is just a bonus - a pleasant bonus, of course, but not something at the forefront of our minds.
Nomad's style Rough to Cut delicious Nigerian pink tourmaline - Photo Credits: Nomad's Ltd
AsiaLounges: If you had to define what Nomad's stands for in a few words, what would they be? What does Nomad's stand for? And why calling the company Nomad's?
Mikola Kukharuk: For the customers, dealing with Nomad's means an easy-going gem sourcing experience and access to a wide choice of colorful, artfully faceted gems.
We think these qualities come from Nomad's being a close-knit team of gem aficionados, each with distinct cultural backgrounds. In this way, it is unique. Almost every other gem trading company I know is either a family business or a one-man-band.
The name Nomad's describes our lifestyle - we travel to mining areas in Africa and Asia to source our rough and then bring our faceted gems to the centers of jewelry making. But it also signifies the inner journey for each of us, a growing understanding of the world and people, discovery of knowledge, and new states of mind.
A picture being worth a thousand words here is the very definition of their team's name: Nomad's in Tanzania's D-Block Tanzanite Mine - Photo Credits: Nomad's Ltd
AsiaLounges: Here's a question that we love to ask, but that probably gets that much more impact when asking it to one of the owners of a gem powerhouse such as Nomad's: What is your favorite gem?
Mikola Kukharuk: It is a different gem every minute of every day. They are all my favorites.
Do you know the Zen teaching story of Banzan? Before he became a great Zen master, he spent many years in pursuit of enlightenment, but it eluded him. Then, one day, as he was walking in the marketplace, he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer. 'Give me the best piece of meat you have,' said the customer. And the butcher replied, 'Every piece of meat I have is the best. There is no piece of meat here that is not the best.' Upon hearing this, Banzan became enlightened.
AsiaLounges: We understand that you, at Nomad's, are partially involved in mining. Could you tell us what motivated that decision? I mean, going to the source rather than heading to the end buyers which you if I'm not mistaken, refuse to serve directly?
Mikola Kukharuk: It's a natural development in relationships with some of our close suppliers. Over the years of working together, we've become friends and do not want to be on the opposing sides of business negotiations. You grow a wish for openness and transparency, mutual success, and support. So you transform a supplier-customer relationship into a partnership. With that comes a feeling of relief - you no longer have to keep each other in the dark; he instantly becomes interested in your success and you in his; you support each other in hard times and grow together. It's enjoyable and works remarkably well.
The same ideas underlie our relationships with jewelry makers.
We want to build a network of cooperating professionals where each party supports each other. It's true; we will not sell to the customers of our customers. We want to be suppliers and partners with our jewelers, not competitors. We are in it for the long haul, and this strategy has the best potential of growth for everyone involved.
Nomad's Mikola Kukharuk buying rough - Photo Credits: Nomad's Ltd
AsiaLounges: Without revealing God's plans and other secrets, what do you expect to be the next big move for Nomad's business-wise?
Mikola Kukharuk: We are creating an online B2B platform for jewelers to source their gemstones in a modern, 21st century way. It is exciting. Jewelers can find gems without having to go to a trade show or wait for a visit from a traveling gem dealer. It's open 24/7, ships to anywhere, and keeps jewelers informed on everything new and exciting in the gem world.
AsiaLounges: The recent market's pet peeve is the whole ethical and whole transparency, what's yours and Nomad's take on it? Do you think it to be a necessity, something good or just another fad that'll eventually pass with time?
Mikola Kukharuk: As gem cutters, we are the link between the mines and the jewelry makers, so we actively trace every gem's story and provide buyers with all the information we have about its source. It is natural for people to want to know where their gemstones come from; we are entirely on board with that.
Nomad's style gem cutting in the making - Photo Credits: Nomad's Ltd
AsiaLounges: We are slowly reaching the end of this first interview with you, looking forward to making more and, as it is customary here, could you please provide three pieces of advice to younger gem fans in the trade that'd like to follow in your footsteps? Could you also offer three books you believe to be a must-have in any gem fan library?
- Do not follow in anyone's footsteps; find your own path.
- Appreciate and value gems, but center your business on people - your customers, suppliers, and colleagues.
- Be nice to your competitors. There is always room for cooperation and mutual help there. And it leads to a pleasant, good life.
Read books that provide insight into how people tick - I'd recommend: "The War and Peace" by Tolstoy, short stories of Checkhov, works of David Foster Wallace, etc.
Listening to this advice a few times a year would also be well worth it:
AsiaLounges: Besides providing our readers, the loungers, a way to reach you guys at Nomad's and where they can meet you (fairs, office, website, IG, FBK, etc.), is there anything you'd like to add to this first interview?
Mikola Kukharuk: There are four ways to get in touch with us: come by to one of our offices, see us at a trade show, buy online, or our salespeople can visit you in person.
Use our website www.gemsbynomads.com to find:
- contact numbers for our offices in New York and Milano
- a calendar of trade shows
- a place for jewelry makers to shop currently available gems
AsiaLounges: Thank you very much Mikola for being with us today, I am convinced that our readers, the Loungers, have enjoyed this interview as much as we did enjoy writing these lines.
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See you again in the Lounges,