The legacy of British expats on Hong Kong’s jewellery scene

© Written by Rachael Taylor for The Financial Times

In 1972, Marcia Lanyon left a job in London with society jeweller John Donald and followed her husband to Hong Kong, where he was working for airline Cathay Pacific. Ms Lanyon says: “As an expat spouse, you were just expected to take up flower arranging, but I was always pretty ambitious.”

Instead of conforming to expat life, she took a job in a “grim” jewellery factory in North Point as a gem buyer, but after the glamour of London’s elite jewellery circles, she did not last long. She quit and started a business out of her home, giving gemmological courses to small classes of bored expat housewives and curious Chinese students. Ms Lanyon stayed in Hong Kong for just three years (“my husband hated it”) but she has been widely credited as the founder of gemmological education in the city — and a role model for the generations of jewellers, local and expat, who have followed her.

“Hong Kong was a big centre for jewellery . . . yet when I arrived, you could count the number of gemmologists on one hand,” says Ms Lanyon, who is retiring after almost 40 years at her wholesale coloured gemstone company. She observed gems passing hands without any form of grading or understanding of their value. “My argument was that people would pay more if they knew what they were getting.”…

This story was originally published in the September 28, 2017, edition of The Financial Times. Read the full story here. Main image: Nathalie Melville © FT.

 

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Looking good

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Retail Jeweller 

Footfall on British high streets is in freefall while online sales continue to rise, so it’s little surprise that jewellery retailers are turning to the internet for inspiration on how to lure consumers back to bricks and mortar with clever merchandising strategies that mimic the best of digital.

“Our brief was simply to create something Instagrammable,” says Lloyd Blakey, creative director of Innovare Design, a retail design consultancy that has worked with jewellery retailers including Hugh Rice, Green + Benz and TH Baker. The client Blakey is referring to, however, is a gin brand called Sipsmith. It was a simple brief, and one that perfectly captures one of the key drivers of footfall today – shareable experiences.

The solution for this particular request was to install what Blakey refers to as a “tasting wall” in the west London distillery, an installation that charts the process of gin making. “It became a natural place to take a photo,” he says. “People gravitate towards it. There is that element of curiosity and intrigue.”…

This story was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Retail Jeweller magazine. Continue reading to see magazine layouts and download full-size PDFs. Main image: Luxe by Hugh Rice.

Carbon copy

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Kensington & Chelsea 

As you wiggle your finger, it dances and sparkles in the light, throwing out rainbow hues that make you gasp and coo. But what if I told you that the diamond you are admiring came not from beneath the Earth’s surface, but a pristine lab in Silicone Valley? Would it change how you feel about it?

This is a question worth considering as science now gives us the option of buying diamonds created by humans. In labs across the world, from Germany to China, men and women in white coats are recreating the exact same conditions that turned carbon into diamonds all those millions of years ago. And it’s working.

Not to be confused with cubic zirconia or rhinestones, lab-grown diamonds are real and have the same optical and gemological properties as mined diamonds. Even trained gemmologists sometimes can’t tell the difference…

This story was published in the March 2018 issue of Kensington & Chelsea magazine. Click here to see a digital version of the magazine (starts p34) and continue reading to see layouts and download full-sized PDFs. Main image: Anabela Chan. 

Bye bye brands…

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Retail Jeweller 

The post-recession explosion of silver jewellery brands in the UK market came at a time when the industry sorely needed a boost. Soaring precious metals prices made gold – until then, the bread and butter of jewellery sales – unattainable for most, and the trade remained shrouded in a dusty, fuddy-duddy image. The entry of flashy, fashionable brands like Pandora was revolutionary and made jewellery relevant to a new audience. Yet all revolutions have a life cycle. After a dazzling peak, are we slipping closer to a trough as some retailers start to move away from jewellery brands?

“Five years ago, 70% of our business was jewellery, and 70% of that was branded jewellery, but [branded jewellery] has shrunk to an almost irrelevant amount now,” says Kyron Keogh, co-founder of Rox. The Glasgow-based retailer still works with select jewellery brands – Thomas Sabo, Gucci and its latest signing Chopard, which Keogh says is selling well to a “young, fashionable crowd” – but five years ago it started to develop its own brand, employing an in-house designer, and reduced its dependency on brands. Now the majority of the jewels it stocks are sold in a Rox box.

A key message within the industry over the past couple of years has been the importance of building a retail brand that is stronger than the branded jewels sold within it. Independent retailers have invested in shop fits and branding that create a memorable identity with signature colours, such as the blue of Kings Hill Jewellery in St Albans, a retailer that has also moved away from brands to focus on its own Kings Hill Collections of fine jewellery…

This story was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Retail Jeweller magazine. Continue reading to see magazine layouts and download full-size PDFs. Main image: Hamilton & Inches.

Antique revival jewels

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

As auction houses court Millennials with digital bidding platforms, and dusty antique shops in forgotten corners of town are reinvented as sport for weekend vintage hunters, jewels from the past have found a place in the present.

To be classed as antique, a jewel must be at least 100 years old, but each of these future heirlooms came fresh off the bench this year.

These revival pieces are proof that styles from the history books – the linear designs of Art Deco, floral flourishes of Art Nouveau, Georgian repoussé, Victorian mourning jewels – are still very much in demand…

This story was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Sarah Ho)

VICENZAORO TREND REPORT

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Adorn Insight

Vicenzaoro opened a sold-out six-day show on January 19th, 2018, filling 25,000sqm with 1,500 exhibitors. The Italian trade show started on a buoyant note, with Italian Exhibition Group president Lorenzo Cagnoni describing a recovery in demand for gold, Italy’s main jewellery export, and visitor numbers totalling 96,000.

The exhibition also boasted a 10% increase in luxury brands at the show and said that 20% of stands were taken by first-time exhibitors. This increase could be a result of some brands moving away from the more expensive Baselworld exhibition that will open in March with half the number of exhibitors it had last year. One example was luxury Swiss jeweller Baenteli, which has this year abandoned its native show after a solid 20-year run in favour of Vicenzaoro.

The Design Room section of the show returned after its launch last year and featured a well-crafted offering of international boutique brands including Fernando Jorge, Bea Bongiasca, Netali Nissim and Noor Fares…

This story was published on Adorn Insight in January 2017. Click here to read the story in full (subscription required). Main image: Sutra. 

The year in review

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Retail Jeweller 

Prince Harry and American actress Mehgan Markle announced their intention to marry, and after the seismic shift his brother’s choice of engagement ring caused in the global jewellery industry, hopes are high that the latest royal engagement will do the same.

The world’s currently most-photographed ring has a trilogy of diamonds set on a yellow band, and was created by Court Jewellers and Medallists to Her Majesty the Queen, Cleave & Company. The largest of the three diamonds, an elongated cushion cut, was sourced from Botswana, where the couple recently holidayed. The two smaller diamonds flanking it were taken from a brooch belonging to Prince Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

Though a classic design, many in the industry still expect the engagement ring to have an impact on bridal trends next year. “We’re expecting an increase in demand for trilogy rings and have already had several inquiries looking for an inspired design,” says Kyron Keogh, co-founder of jewellery chain Rox…

This story was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Retail Jeweller magazine. Continue reading to see magazine layouts and download full-size PDFs. Main image: Meghan Markle’s engagement ring (credit: Time.com).

GARDEN PARTY JEWELS

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

As divisive politics and humanitarian crises trample global morale, luxury jewellery designers are escaping to the regenerative positivity of nature. There has been a veritable bouquet of jubilant, colourful collections inspired by flora and fauna.

A particular highlight is Dior’s verdant Dior à Versailles côté Jardins collection, laden with clusters of coloured-gemstone flowers, which made its debut in Paris this summer.

Marquise- and pear-shaped gems lend themselves well to floral jewels, as they are perfect doppelgängers of the petals and leaves found in nature. Long and winding drops or chains suggest new growth, while metal settings should appear organic to capture the beauty of a garden in bloom…

This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Dior)

The essential SS18 catwalk jewellery report

© Written by Rachael Taylor for IJL

The month of September heralded the debut of spring/summer 2018 collections from a stream of fashion designers in London, Paris, Milan and New York. And the runways’ romance with statement jewellery was far from over.

Mammoth earrings remained – quite literally – the biggest overall jewellery trend, with oversized, asymmetrical and solo earrings incorporated into nearly every show. Many jewels were with bursting colour, while layering was a strong look on both the neck and wrist, and brooches were phenomenally popular.

Read on for five of the key trends from the SS18 ready-to-wear shows, including the revival of the charm bracelet and the affirmation of the importance of men’s jewellery…

This story was originally published in October 2017 on jewellerylondon.com. Read the full story here. Main image: IJL catwalk 2017. 

 

Fine prints, ceramic 2.0 and high-tech hues

© Written by Rachael Taylor for JFW

As jewellery editor of JFW magazine, I edited three pages of innovative jewels for the autumn/winter edition of the magazine, which was dedicated to new technologies. I explored High-tech Hues like nano-ceramic plating and titanium, 3D-printed jewels for Fine Prints, and considered how jewellery designers are using ceramic in modern ways in the story Ceramic 2.0. Continue reading to see layouts and download full-sized PDFs.

These stories were originally published in the autumn/winter 2018 edition of JFW. Main image: Caratell.  

A bit on the side

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Retail Jeweller 

Those unassuming leather strips, bound in a bundle with rubber bands, hidden in drawers, can so often be an afterthought. Yet the humble watch strap – and other watch accessories – are proving to be a spot of sunshine for an industry still operating under a cloud.

Looking at the stats, the UK watch industry is experiencing a boom. According to market analyst GfK, the value of sales of watches priced at more than £1,000 was up 25% at the start of this year. However, 40% of the value of the market last year was dominated by the top three watch brands and 48% of the value of sales was made in the capital – so if you are outside the luxury London bubble, competition is tougher.

“There’s a lot of talk about the growth of luxury watches post-Brexit, but as a general rule, jewellers are reporting that it is quite quiet on the high street,” says Simon Walker, UK country manager for global watch strap behemoth Hirsch…

This story was originally published in the July 2017 issue of Retail Jeweller magazine. Continue reading to see magazine layouts and download full-size PDFs. Main image: Darlena.

#noglassceiling

I am a proud ambassador of The Women’s Jewellery Network (WJN), the UK’s only dedicated organisation supporting women in the UK jewellery industry. This week, the Women’s Jewellery Network has launched a viral social media campaign to celebrate the ambition and drive of both the organisation and its members.

 

This bold image stating #NoGlassCeiling has been shared widely by those working in the UK jewellery trade, through social channels such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Representing the vision of the Women’s Jewellery Network, the campaign declares that no glass ceiling exists for women working in the UK jewellery industry, and that it’s time to shatter the illusion it ever did.

“We have created #NoGlassCeiling to allow women to visually declare the viewpoint that the so-called glass ceiling designed to hold us back doesn’t exist — what does exist is our shared ambition and determination to grow our careers, businesses and skills to achieve true success in the UK jewellery trade.” – Victoria McKay, founder, Women’s Jewellery Network…

 

Stoked for chokers

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Rapaport

As a new generation comes of age, a decade that might still seem fresh for some suddenly becomes nostalgia. Fashion, music and culture have all zeroed in on the 1990s as a bubble of carefree freedom, experimentation and positive change, and the jewellery star of that decade was the choker.

Every self-respecting ’90s teen strapped a thin length of black material around their necks, and this model has made the transition to the 2017 seamlessly. Along with the classic velvet and grosgrain ribbon, leather bands are giving the look a modern update, and delicate diamond charms sit at the centre.

This time around, the choker is not just for teeny boppers. Runway shows from FW17 and SS18 collections have presented the choker as an elegant accessory for both day and evening looks. For customers who might want to avoid the youthful connotations of all-black chokers, precious metal versions offer a more grown-up alternative…

This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Rapaport magazine. Continue reading to see layouts and download a full-sized PDF of the feature and front cover. (Main image: Ole Lyngaard)

Sparkling stories

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Upward Curve

A diamond is not just about aesthetic. The history locked in a stone lain undisturbed for millions of years – while chaos and seismic change erupts on the surface – lends it a cool magic. And exactly the same allure is mastered by the by the world’s most famous jewellery brands.

Bernard Arnault, French billionaire and chief executive the world’s most exclusive luxury conglomerate, LVMH, once said that in the “luxury business you have to build on heritage”.

In New York, Cartier’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue is brimming with juicy narrative; the foremost being how Pierre Cartier, grandson to founder Louis-François Cartier, acquired the building in 1912. He fell in love with the neo-Rennaisance-style mansion, which was, at the time, owned by financier Morton Plant. When Plant’s wife, in turn, fell for a pricey Cartier natural pearl necklace, a deal was struck to swap the jewel, plus $100, for the building…

This story was originally published in the January-March 2018 edition of Upward Curve magazine. Read the full story here and continue reading to see layouts and download a full-size PDF. Main image: Cartier.

British Academy of Jewellery column

All stories © Written by Rachael Taylor for the British Academy of Jewellery 

To help the students of the British Academy of Jewellery get a broad insight into the industry they will soon be entering, I create a weekly round up of the most interesting jewellery news from around the globe, which you can find here in the BAJ Digest section of the website. I also write a weekly column on a topic that has emerged in the news that week. You can find some of my recent columns below.

BAJ Insight: A new sisterhood for the jewellery industry
BAJ Insight: Jewellery auctions are alive and kicking outside London
BAJ Insight: Five important takeaways from my talk at Graduation
BAJ Insight: Get ready for royal engagement ring pandemonium
BAJ Insight: Why are jewellery shops becoming places to eat?
BAJ Insight: The trailblazer, the original and the mastermind
BAJ Insight: 10 times men’s jewellery didn’t give up at dog tags

Is experiential retailing the future for jewellers?

When shopping can be as simple as a click of a mouse, retailers need to deliver more than just product to get consumers through the door. Join this panel of retailers, moderated by journalist Rachael Taylor, as they discuss how best to create those experiences, from running Michelin-starred restaurants in stores to installing the latest tech or trend-led pop ups. Listen to the podcast here.

Panellists: Dominic Gomersall, managing director, Lumbers; Jonathan Pressley, managing director, Pressleys Jewellers; Dinny Hall, founder and creative director, Dinny Hall; Lloyd Blakey, founder and creative director, Innovare Design.

This recording was made during IJL in September, 2017. 

The mark makers

© Written by Rachael Taylor for The Financial Times

In the year 1300, King Edward I had had enough. Rogue goldsmiths were fooling his subjects into buying fake or underweight gold and silver. As an early example of consumer protection, he dispatched a trusted group of assayers to assure the validity of precious metals by testing and officially marking them. The heirs to these inspectors uphold this mission today, but as international competitors swallow Britain’s business, its assay offices are turning from a storied past to a radical future to ensure their survival.

Since its peak in 2003, the number of precious metal items hallmarked by the UK assay offices has dropped by more than 70 per cent, according to the AnchorCert Group, which collates statistics from the four UK assay offices. In 2003, the offices in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh collectively stamped 34.7m items; by 2016, 9.7m passed through their workshops.

The decline since 2007 in particular has been “unbelievable”, says Ashley Carson, who joined the Sheffield Assay Office straight from school and became the youngest assay master (head of an assay office) in history in 1993 at the age of 32. A post-recession drop in retail sales, rising precious metal prices and unfavourable EU legislation all took their toll…

This story was originally published in the September 2, 2017, edition of The Financial Times. Read the full story here. Main image: © Charlie Bibby for the FT.

JFW online

All posts © Written by Rachael Taylor for JFW

Since the relaunch of the website for bi-annual jewellery, fashion and watch magazine JFW, I have been contributing regular stories. Here are some of those.

Beauty is my favourite colour
Show ponies at the polo
Cartier In Motion opens in London
Kate Moss launches jewellery line
London’s lavish new jewellery player
Fawaz on his enormous diamonds
Cool as an Ice Cube
Collector’s item
Diamonds rule on the Oscars’ red carpet
Creative wedding rings forged on the Rhine
Jeweller to the stars
Discover the rarest pearls in the world
Ten jewels from Paris Couture Fashion Week

 

 

 

Staff apathy sends jewellers to brain trainers

© Written by Rachael Taylor for The Financial Times

On a gloomy Wednesday morning in Staines, a town west of London, two women sit at a small table in the plush seating area of Swag jewellers having a congenial chat. They laugh and joke as if friends or close colleagues, which makes the nature of their relationship all the more surprising. Jo Henderson, who will submit an invoice after this and subsequent conversations, is a motivational coach brought in to enthuse Susanne Moschini and her colleagues at the jewellers — to deftly rein in the cocky, bolster the anxious and reflate the deflated.

Ms Henderson is not the only one making a living from motivating shop floor staff. She is part of a wave of trainers in the jewellery and watch industry eschewing flipcharts and sales transcripts in favour of a person-centric approach, and businesses from independent jewellers to international watch brands are paying for it.

This is becoming a more common scenario across the broader economy: staff need motivating as their wages lag. UK inflation outpaced wage growth between 2008 and 2014, and looks like it will do so again this year. The UK was also the only major advanced nation where wages fell — by 1 per cent a year — as its economy expanded between 2007 and 2015, according to the OECD…

This story was originally published in the June 1, 2017, edition of The Financial Times. Read the full story here. Main image: Jo Henderson of JHJC (© Jon Super for the FT).

Men’s jewellery trend report

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Adorn Insight

A recent research report released by global bank Barclays has suggested that British men are now spending more on clothes, shoes and grooming than women, with an average of £300 more spent each year. The report also suggested that men are spending more on fashion than on drinks with friends or on tickets to sporting events. In response to this shift in spending power, the jewellery industry has expanded with new collections and brands that put men first.

 

Fashion Weeks

Men’s jewellery was a key component of the SS18 Fashion Week catwalks. In Paris, Paul & Joe’s Ready-to-Wear show stood out as the male models were adorned with simple silver jewels including pinky rings, pendants and small hoop earrings, while the female models wore none. Givenchy and Isabel Marant followed suit with similar jewellery styles for men, while brands including Missoni and Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood made bolder statements with brooches, layered necklaces and statement earrings.

 

Keynote collections

Shaun Leane and Stephen Webster have been pioneers in creating edgy men’s jewellery collections, and both have released new work of this genre. Earlier this year, Shaun Leane released its first dedicated men’s collection for a decade. The Arc collection is a slick, minimalist silver range inspired by “the power of a single, sculpted line”, and includes stacking bracelets, woven leather bracelets with silver elements designed to patina with age, pendants and tie pins…

This story was published on Adorn Insight in December 2017. Click here to read the story in full (subscription required). Main image: Oscar Graves.