Jewelmer's Jacques Christophe Branellec On Diving For Pearls, Playing the Sax, and More

Jewelmer's Jacques Christophe Branellec talks about playing the sax, diving for pearls, and proudly flying the Filipino flag around the world.
IMAGE Medal Elepano


Executive vice president and deputy CEO, Jewelmer Joaillerie.

You grew up surrounded by the beauty of Palawan, playing with the children of pearl divers. What was that like?

Spending a lot of time on the pearl farms was a unique experience. Being in such a beautiful and remote environment really taught me to respect nature. Growing up in that setting with both the beauty and challenges that nature poses gave me a unique set of values and humility towards life. When I got older and would come back to the farm, I saw some of the kids I used to play with, who were now working in the company as biologists or mechanics, among other jobs. This is what inspired me to come back home and join the company full-time to contribute to this story that my father and Manuel Cojuangco had started.

You have about a thousand employees, mostly breadwinners of families, and you know every single one of them.

It‘s a very fulfilling job. What we‘re really doing is giving sustainable employment to people, taking care of communities, and giving them goals. The pearls are merely a tool for that. 

Your pearls have been dazzling jewelry lovers all over the world. Tell us about that.

The Philippines’ South Sea pearls can be found in most of the top retailers and jewelry brands around the world. In recent years, we have been more focused on promoting the Jewelmer Joaillerie brand and can proudly say that the brand is now being carried in top retailers in Asia, the U.S., South America, Australia, and the Middle East. We are not only promoting our national gem but also proudly flying the Filipino flag wherever we go. We have taken it upon ourselves to show them that the Philippines is capable of producing a world-class product that can compete with any of the top brands out there. It has been a great honor for us to be in such a position to be able to do that. In the international market people fall in love with the brand not only because of the product but also because of its story and heritage as well as the Filipino people and culture. 


Any accessories men can use with pearls?

My favorite pearl accessory is my cufflinks. I never travel without them. They are definitely a conversation piece, and it’s nice to be able to wear something that very few people have ever seen. Our leather collection is also popular with men. I am of the belief that pearls are not a gender-specific gem, but rather a gem that reflects the values and uniqueness of each individual.

How do you manage to live in two worlds… the rusticity of Palawan and the sophistication of the global fashion industry?

This was actually one of the biggest challenges I faced, as the mindset of being 60 feet underwater inspecting our oysters one day and being in a suit in Paris the next are completely different. It certainly brought a lot of variety in life, and I’ve learned to be flexible in handling various situations in completely different environments. Most challenging of all was dealing with the different pace of life as well as different philosophies. Through the years, though, I think I have found my own pace and have been able to mold my own approach to things while staying true to the values I acquired growing up on the pearl farm, regardless of the place I am in.

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On his motorcycle in France

You’re used to being at the mercy of nature.

I always say in this job we‘re at the mercy of nature, and at the end of the day she decides all. We‘ve been hit by several typhoons where we‘ve lost everything and we‘ve had to start from scratch. Having that really close connection with nature keeps us grounded and humble. We know that at any given time it can be taken away. As my dad says, we have no rights, only obligations, in our lives. We never take anything for granted. 

You’re passionate about music.

Growing up listening to a lot of jazz, I picked up the saxophone, and I can certainly say that music is one of my passions. Perhaps in another life, I would be playing in an underground jazz bar in New York.

How do you relax?

With an ice-cold bottle of San Miguel after the last dive of the day in a hammock on the pearl farm at sunset, with jazz playing in the background.

Jacques on a boat in Palawan

What would people be most surprised to find out about you?

I am actually a quarter Japanese. My mom is half Filipino, half Japanese. My father is French.

Comfort food?

I love Filipino food like chicharon and bagoong.

What gets you excited the most?

Getting onstage for a concert.

Produced and styled by Carole Cuasay-Tagle

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