Zena K’dor greets me at the door of her Double Bay boutique, a glass of bubbly in hand.
She’s dressed in a full-length black tulle skirt, a silk camisole and Tom Ford stilettos, with a bold red lip and brilliant diamonds twinkling from her lobes, at her throat and on her fingers.
"Welcome to our home," she declares warmly. "Would you like Champagne or a cocktail?"
I check my phone as my heart starts to pound. Did I get my day wrong? Is she on her way to a black-tie event? Have I arrived at the worst possible time?
Not only would it appear I’m right on time, but I’m made to feel instantly right at home thanks to this hostess with the mostess whose sparkling style and glittering personality outshines any brilliant gem that’s currently on display beneath the large glass cases dotted around the room.
At the centre of it all, in every sense of the word, sits Tarick K’dor, owner, fine jeweller and husband of Zena. He’s as calm as she is excitable, as understated as she is energetic, the yin to her yang: like ‘complementary forces that form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts’ (thanks Wikipedia). It’s heartwarming and awe-inspiring.
"You know, when people ask what I love most about my job, I can honestly say it’s working side-by-side with my husband," Zena explains. "It goes beyond creating jewellery or events. We’re building a platform together for our children because that’s what life is all about.
"Forget the financial investment with jewellery, it’s an emotional transaction." – Zena K'dor
"Don’t get me wrong – we’ve had our challenges and our ups and downs," she continues. "The Universe, or whatever you believe in, will test you to see how much you want something – it’s all about persistence, patience and passion. Luckily we’re both dedicated, determined and incredibly passionate about what we do."
And that’s one thing that can’t be denied: the passion these two have for the family business that they’ve built. A business that started 20 years ago in Tarick’s mother’s garage.
"About a year into my apprenticeship as a jeweller, I took on some private clients, so decided to set up a workshop at home," explains Tarick.
"A year later, I quit my full-time job, and I took a lease out on an office in the CBD and started manufacturing – I was the only guy in my TAFE class who didn’t have a boss.
"It just grew from there. After a couple of years, I had an opportunity to open a store, and then another – we went from one to four stores. Then Zena joined the business, and we decided to take it in a different direction, which has led us to where we are now."
That new direction involves creating a perfectly tailored experience for House of K’dor’s clients or ‘guests’ as they like to call them.
"I wanted to change the way our guests experienced jewellery," says Zena.
"It’s about creating a piece that ties in with who you are rather than trying to fit the ring with the person. We’re not mass production, we want to create a bespoke experience because we’re all unique. I believe everyone’s got their own light and when they wear our jewellery, they shine the brightest."
It’s hard not to shine when you own a K’dor piece. Ranging from A$590 right up to the hundreds of thousands, from brilliant-cut diamonds to rare emeralds and sapphires, all gems are ethically sourced and hand-selected by Tarick.
What’s his favourite stone at the moment?
"I would say it’s the seven-carat cushion-cut – it’s a very special stone, quite rare. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for it, but when it came up, I knew I had to buy it. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass and thank God we were in a position to purchase it. I said to Zena, ‘I’m happy to look at this every day and if we don’t sell it, our kids will’."
And what about buying gems for investment? Any tips he can share?
"Look for stones that are very rare, that only one or two people in the world own," Tarick advises. "That’s where real value and investment comes in. Whether it be pink or white diamonds – even rubies and sapphires – everything precious is the way to go; they need to be exceptional. The nice thing about diamonds is they don’t have many holding costs.
"Property has substantial holding costs, as do cars and wine, but diamonds don’t, other than maybe a safe. And they don’t change either. The way a diamond is today is the way it’ll be in a million years because it’s already a million years old. That’s what makes working with them special."
It’s very clear Tarick has a deep love and appreciation for what he does, now more than ever.
"You know we’re now working with lots of exceptional stones – the likes of which I only dreamed about working with when I first started out," he continues.
"We’re also producing the best we’ve ever produced and we’re only getting better. I absolutely love the thrill of the hunt, sourcing a rare gem, learning about its story, then designing around it, the production of it and then, of course, there’s the delivery…"
"If you want to be the best in your industry, you need to live and breathe it." – Zena K'dor
"It’s the delivery that’s the most special part for me," explains Zena. "Because that’s when you get to see the sheer joy of what you’ve just created. I really believe the diamond finds you – you don’t find it. It’s how you feel when you wear the piece, the butterflies you get.
"Forget the financial investment with jewellery, it’s an emotional transaction. You’re connecting with that piece and creating a moment. We feel so blessed that we get the opportunity to celebrate every single day with our guests who have become part of our family."
And celebrate in style they do. From their lavish Arabian fairytale 20-year anniversary event earlier this year to their highly anticipated ‘Party in the desert’ (at the time of going to press, Zena, Tarick and the team are jetting off to the UAE with a selection of guests for a series of diamond events), this couple doesn’t do things by halves.
"If you want to be the best in your industry, you need to live and breathe it," says Zena. "Our lives revolve around House of K’dor, and we’re constantly challenging ourselves. That’s what it’s all about: pushing and learning and being the best we can possibly be. Tarick always says to me, ‘If you want to be the best, you’ve got to give the best’."
"We have that saying on the wall in our workshop – it’s a saying we live by," says Tarick. Someone said that to me once and it just stuck in my head and I constantly repeat it to my kids, to my jewellers and to myself."
It’s this sense of focus that’s makes the K’dors so remarkable. And the fact they are so united in said focus. Not that it’s always been that way…
"We’ve been tested over the years for sure," Tarick admits. "Working together full-time was super-challenging – last year was our first year where we weren’t separated by stores; we were side-by-side every day. It was initially hard getting on the same page and accepting each other’s roles. I needed to let Zena do what she needed to, and Zena needed to let me take care of what I needed to. It was challenging but this year we really found our feet and now we’re thriving in our roles."
"Being authentic is incredibly important to us; it’s at the heart of everything we do." – Tarick K'dor
"I think our cultural background plays a role in this too," reveals Zena. "You know, I was a stay-at-home mum with three kids and initially I had no business being in his business. I didn’t even visit the store back then.
"Now, I’m immersed in it and so in love with what I do. I think working together successfully is about giving each other space and having that trust so we’re able to fully focus on what we’re doing. This is our purpose – I can’t see myself doing anything else."
I have to agree. When Zena talks about her purpose and her vision, you can’t help but get swept up in it, and brands like Lamborghini (she’s on their Female Advisory Board), and Etihad (who they’ve just signed a partnership with), would concur.
"Being authentic is incredibly important to us; it’s at the heart of everything we do," says Tarick. "In order for people to be in involved in your journey, to trust you and to follow you, you need to be authentic and true to yourself and to your brand. I think we do that very well."
"When I look at the international brands that we have chosen to align with, they share the same values, worth ethics and synergy," says Zena.
"That is very important for us. We want to be able to create, with our partners, the most unforgettable, money-can’t-buy experiences. We honestly cannot wait for the next chapter."
Strangely enough, either can I.