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The Multi-Faceted Chris Del Gatto – CIRCA’s Fascinating Founder

Submitted by on October 8, 2011 – 11:37 am499 Comments

chris del gatto

Photos courtesy of CIRCA – photo credits Billy Farrell Agency, Juan La Marca (polo shots)

By Heather Buchanan

If ever someone embodied the phrase “Go big or go home,” it would be Chris Del Gatto.  What started as a childhood fascination with the back room of a cousin’s jewelry store grew into a world leadership role in the jewelry business.  Chris Del Gatto founded CIRCA in 2001 which has become the leading global buyer of jewelry, diamonds, and watches from the public with offices all over the world.

This is a man who was called in by one of the royal families to fly to Geneva to buy a tiara that Napoleon’s sister once owned.  Del Gatto recounts, “I was bidding against a Saudi sheik at the bar of the Four Seasons.  It was a real James Bond weekend, and I wound up winning.”

He’s also travelled half way around the world to buy a 56 carat cushion cut diamond from a wealthy Turkish family and renamed it the CIRCA Cushion.

Circa Jewelry

But CIRCA is nothing if not democratic.

Says Del Gatto, “On any given day we can write someone a check for an $800 gold bracelet or buy an $8 million dollar estate piece.  We write a check right on the spot.”

A gemologist at the age of 17 and diamond cutter by 18, Del Gatto was always on the fast track.  However he reports, “I quickly found out I was a much better business person than a diamond cutter.  I helped the firm grow until they offered me a partnership.  I sold my interest when I was 23 and retired and started travelling the world.”

circa ring

THE TRILLION DOLLAR MARKET

Forget the backpacking version of the go-west-young-man.  “I started buying important diamonds and important estate jewelry at auctions in London and Geneva and St. Moritz,” says Del Gatto, “I saw a huge opportunity in the estate jewelry market.”

What Del Gatto tapped into was the trillion dollars worth of unworn jewelry sitting in safety deposit or jewelry boxes to establish the ultimate eco-luxe company CIRCA recycling existing gems and pieces back into the market instead of having to mine new diamonds and precious gems (think Leo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond.)

 Says Del Gatto, “You can play a part in the reduction of mining which is terrible environmentally.   We have to be the voice of education.  We commissioned a study by NYU of the environmental impact of mining.  We knew it would be scary but it was even worse than we anticipated.”

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Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Dayssi Olarte de Kanovos, Sophie Theallet, Chris Del Gatto, Veronica Webb, Shirin von Wulffen

CIRCA AT MERCEDES-BENZ NEW YORK FASHION WEEK

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff head of Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week noted the importance of not only luxury but eco-friendly brands at September’s Fashion Week.   “Chris Del Gatto has done so much for sustainability,” Wolkoff commented, “He made us understand it is not a trend.”  Wolkoff personally expressed the importance of jewelry be it five dollars or a fortune, “Jewelry is a signature look.  It’s sexy and bold and adds an element of style that you can dress up or down.”  She worked with Del Gatto to create CIRCA’s booth at Fashion Week designed to promote accessories and jewelry and their designers which have traditionally not been featured.  Along with CIRCA’s fabulous estate pieces, the jewelry and accessories of hand-picked designers who embodied the notion of sustainability were also displayed.

CIRCA Jewelry

CIRCA Jewelry

EVERY JEWEL HAS A STORY

Aside from monetary and planetary considerations, however, the success of CIRCA rests on the realization of the emotions surrounding jewelry.  While many women dream of the prince who arrives bearing jewels, where’s the prince when it’s time to sell them?  

Visions of sweaty men in pawn shops or faceless online sites send shivers down a damsel’s spine.  After all, these are pieces which she once treasured and either due to a change of taste or a low down dirty prince she no longer wants to be reminded of, she wants to sell.   In rides the knight in shining armor although in Chris Del Gatto’s case he may be astride his favorite tricked out polo pony Playgirl.  “She’s a beast, I love her,” says Del Gatto smiling.

While he’s a reported fierce competitor on and off the field, the captivating dark and handsome Del Gatto reveals a sensitive side.  “Jewelry has a high sentimental value.  Every piece has a story.  People should go to an equally nice place to sell the jewelry as they did to buy it.” 

So maybe if it’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s maybe it’s time for Cocktails at CIRCA. 

They welcome people into their offices in NYC, Chicago, Palm Beach, Greenwich, San Francisco, Washington DC, Hong Kong or Barcelona.

 Explains Del Gatto, “We have knowledgeable experts who care about consumer advocacy.  It’s not only the price we pay but the experience of our staff.  All the buyers are trained in product knowledge and how to deal with the client.  They’re trained for a year before even seeing a client.”

The part of the business that’s private is what happens with the gems CIRCA buys.  They only sell to vetted private clients.

chris del gatto polo

A PASSION FOR POLO

Chris Del Gatto has also turned his Midas touch on the sport of polo.   “I’m drawn to polo and jewelry because there’s so much tradition,” states Del Gatto.  In his signature fashion Del Gatto took up the sport with no past experience and in a few years was a major player with his CIRCA team reaching the finals in a 20 goal tournament in its first year.  Polo is a huge part of his life with his time spent in the Hamptons, Palm Beach and Argentina.

He made a splash this summer with the CIRCA Championship Field at Bridgehampton Polo – introducing the well-heeled Hamptons crowd to his successful brand.  He was enticed to the sponsorship by Shamin Abas who took the reins this summer.  “I knew Shamin wouldn’t do it unless she had the wherewithal to do it right.  I was really happy and she did an amazing job.”

Circa polo team

THE CROWN JEWELS

Brilliance clearly comes from being multi-faceted whether you’re a prized diamond or a business leader, your light has to shine brightly all around you.

Del Gatto reports, “I gather a polo team the same way I build a company — with people who have the same ideals and passion for winning.  And they have to be people I want to hang out with and who fit in.  As Steinbrenner said, ‘They may be a good player but they’re not a Yankee.’”

Del Gatto’s crowning jewel, however, is not the priceless gem or a ten goal player on his team but his children.  Del Gatto is divorced but reports a fantastic relationship with his ex.  “As passionate as I am about business and polo nothing comes close to my children,” he says,” They’re with me as much as I can.”

While many would think Chris Del Gatto has certainly attained the pinnacle of success, he’s still going bigger before he’s going home.

Like a diamond on glass, Del Gatto says, “I’m Just scratching the surface – I haven’t even started yet.”

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