history & heritage
The founding father, Georg Carl Backes was born in Steinfurth, Germany, on 12 August 1763. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Hanau, near Frankfurt. It was at Hanau, an important jewellery centre in those days, that Georg Carl first registered as a goldsmith in 1789. This marked the birth of the firm Backes & Co.
By the early 1800s Georg Carl Backes was one of Hanau’s most prosperous citizens. Indeed, Backes & Co. had done so well that he sent his twenty four year-old son Johann Franz to London to open up a new office. After Georg Carl’s death in 1819, his son continued trading and manufacturing diamonds and jewellery, separating the London operation from the German one and renaming it J.F. Backes and Co.
Although J.F. Backes continued to trade diamonds, the firm’s core business had, by that time, become jewellery manufacturing, for which the company had such a name that two entire pages of the 1851 Great Exhibition catalogue were devoted to its creations.
By now, Johann had been joined in the business by his sons, Charles and William. In 1856, the company employed an office boy by the name of Max Strauss. 15 years later, Strauss was managing J.F. Backes & Co. and in 1873, the company started trading as ‘Backes & Strauss’.
In 1892, the company decided to concentrate on diamonds. Operating as ‘Diamond and Gem merchants’, traveling was intensified from 1904 onwards; places visited included Alexandria, Vienna, Rome, Bucharest, and Paris. Our historical archives reveal the extent of the significant role Backes & Strauss provided in sourcing the finest rough diamonds, polishing and distributing them to an international clientele.
In 1952, Backes & Strauss opened its office in Antwerp under the direction of Robert Lee and Gustave Ponet. Lee retired in 1986 and Vartkess Knadjian took over as the CEO. The system of diamond manufacturing and trading has continued in much the same vein as it had done during the last centuries involving a high amount of skill and perseverance. Backes & Strauss has been at the forefront of this industry. It is our history and tradition that set it apart from other diamond companies with its ability to survive, endure and innovate.
In the same spirit, after a management buy-out in 2003, Backes & Strauss decided to enter the luxury diamond watch market. We wanted to combine mastery in diamond-cutting with mastery in watchmaking; two crafts requiring a high amount of skill, precision and attention to detail. While searching for a partner watchmaker, we chose to work with the Franck Muller Group because of its revolutionary creative philosophy of combining tradition with modernity, an attribute Backes & Strauss shares.
Today, under the direction of Chief Executive Vartkess Knadjian, Backes & Strauss is known around the world as the ultimate diamond timepiece creator. However, this has only been the beginning; together with his son and daughter - and staying true to the company’s mission to combine tradition with modernity - Mr. Knadjian is preparing to reach new heights with Backes & Strauss.