Interview with Muharrem and Osman Gilan

Picture: Muharrem, Osman, and Ferhan Gilan, courtesy of Gilan

Istanbul – a city where East meets West, where history is told on every street corner – is home to modern life and tradition in equal measure. The Gilan family thrives by realising all that was and still is glorious about their city. Masters of the traditional Palace Technique of jewellery setting passed down from craftsmen of the 15th century Sultan’s Court, the Gilans are eager to progress and innovate while preserving what has been handed down to them.

In an interview with Muharrem and his son, Osman Gilan, Tharawat discovered how the Turkish family trace their entrepreneurial and creative roots back three generations, and why Istanbul provides them with endless inspiration.

 What are the core principles behind the Gilan family’s success?

Muharrem: It has been a long journey for us. We started as a small atelier in Istanbul. Today, we enjoy worldwide success as a renowned jewellery house. We attribute this to our ability to dream and to hold on to our values.

Of course, we hold timeless values dear, such as a passion for beauty. I would say that our core family principle is respect for tradition. My brother Ferhan and I always feel like we are only writing a page of our family history, in preparation for the next generation.

Your family has been dedicated to fine craftsmanship and the luxury industry for generations. Where does this passion come from?

Muharrem: We followed in our grandmother’s footsteps. The family’s love story with luxury began in the town of Gilan, where our grandmother tailored dresses for Ottoman Pashas. Later, our family moved to Istanbul, seat of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, a city with a history of almost 8,500 years. We became inspired, focused, and determined to create a high-end jewellery house that reflected this rich past.

Gilan – The Jewellers of Istanbul
Image courtesy of Gilan


Picture: Gilan Shop at the Istanbul Four Seasons Hotel

When you began your business in the 1980s, what was your vision for the brand?

Muharrem: In the 15th century, the craftsmen of the Sultan’s Court developed a setting technique that, to this day, remains a closely guarded secret by families of the trade. Gilan works with the little remaining artisans from families still privy to the Palace Setting Technique. Gilan’s artisanal items are either one-of-a-kind or produced in very limited numbers.

Our know-how of the Palace Setting Technique and our family business philosophy stem from the story of Istanbul and the rich traditions of the Topkapi Palace. The idea is to recreate the opulence of the Sultan Court in our 21st century products.

How have consumer tastes evolved?

Muharrem: Consumers are now very sophisticated and well informed. Our clients look for unique, timeless jewellery. They know what they want and their refined tastes constantly challenge us to push our boundaries even further. The great thing about a piece of jewellery is that it becomes part of a family’s history, often passed down from generation to generation. It is great to know that what we create may become part of someone else’s legacy.

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Is the family angle an advantage?

Muharrem: Being a family owned jewellery house allows us to be responsive, to be flexible, and to create jewellery that carries strong emotional connotations. We are very proud of how far we have come and of what we have achieved thanks to our family values.

As a family we work well together and exchange ideas freely. Being involved in every aspect of the business gives us a major advantage with the consumers, as we are able to take their preferences into consideration throughout the process.

You have two generations working side by side. What are the lessons you have learned from this collaboration?

Muharrem: My son Osman recently graduated and started working with us, adding his ideas and input to the enrichment of the family business.

Osman: After studying finance and management in the United States, I decided I wanted to work with my family. They never forced me to join but it appealed to me.

The global brands we compete with are represented by 4th or 5th generations. Sustainability is required for Gilan to become a worldwide brand. This is only possible if the following generations share the same passion as the founders. I share this passion. My father and I approve each piece of jewellery seven times throughout the process of creation. Sometimes we even remake the piece when we notice a tiny flaw. We perform our job with great love. It works well between us.

 What are your aspirations for the future of Gilan?

Muharrem: Our main objective is to introduce Gilan to every jewellery connoisseur. We want to present clients with a collection that is very different from what other international jewellery houses offer.

Tharawat Magazine, Issue 27, 2015