Vartkess Knadjian is the Chief Executive of Backes & Strauss, the world’s oldest diamond company established in 1789. Under his leadership over the past 35 years, Backes & Strauss has been transformed from a small diamond procurement office into one of the world’s finest jeweled timepiece creators.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1955, Vartkess was fully immersed into the art of watchmaking at a young age through his father, Antranig Knadjian, who was appointed as the official watchmaker to the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie. In his early childhood, Vartkess relocated to the UK and pursued studies at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he graduated with a BSc. (Econ) honors degree in International Relations in 1976.
That same year, Vartkess joined Backes & Strauss, then based in Antwerp, Belgium; a mere six years later, he was appointed head of that office. Since 1982, Vartkess has grown the company, establishing Backes & Strauss as an unrivalled reference within the international diamond world. In 2006, Backes & Strauss joined forces with the Franck Muller Group.
Other than running, playing golf and cooking, Vartkess has dedicated a large portion of his free time to the Armenian community and AGBU in particular, serving as president of AGBU Belgium from 1992 to 2005. He has also been closely involved with Armenia since 1993, when he first started working with the Shoghakan diamond factory. To bring together Armenian jewelers from around the globe, he and Pierre Akkelian founded the Armenian Jewelers’ Association and set up the Armenian Jewelers’ Foundation to raise funds for research on the history of Armenian jewelers, traders and stone merchants. Today, Vartkess is a partner in Lori Diamond Factory in Nor Keghi, Armenia, and is further tapping into the IT capabilities of the country as business moves more online.
Vartkess and his wife Sylvia Serabian have two adult children, Taline and Levon.
Elected to the AGBU Central Board of Directors in 2019.