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Walking into the sparkly new store on Northcote Road, appropriately named The Northcote Jeweller, I was struck by how relaxed, contemporary and approachable it felt. I was met by music playing in the background, wide smiles and an array of eye-catching jewellery which reminded me that all that glitters is not (always) gold.
Luke is the owner of the business which he set up down in Exeter back in 1991, so he has 28 years of jewellery knowledge, experience and expertise under his belt. Stuart is the director and the two have been working together for 25 years.
Inspired by his godfather who was a jeweller, Luke successfully applied to The Prince’s Trust for a small business loan back in ’91 and began by selling his small collection of silver jewellery door-to-door, working from his mum’s living room. He travelled overseas to source the pieces, and all these years later he still has good working relationships with many of those original partners. Similarly, they have some long-standing customers from those early days, no doubt thanks to the personal service – Luke would take the order on the doorstep, place the order on the customer’s behalf and then hand-deliver the jewellery back to the same doorstep.
Slowly the business expanded, and in 1996 it moved up to London, opening a shop in Mayfair’s Shepherd’s Market. In the early 2000s two more stores opened, one in Surbiton and one in Northcote Road, full of independents at the time and just starting out on its journey towards becoming the centre of Nappy Valley we know (and love!) today. Hatton Garden became their site for the wholesale business that has now been running for 28 years, supplying over 500 of the best jewellers in England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Austria. But of retail, Luke says, “I have chosen to open my flagship retail store in the area I know and love, the Northcote Road.”
The ‘fine jewellery’ element of the business was introduced around 15 years ago and continues to go from strength to strength, and Luke’s personal passion is coloured stones which he sources from all over the world and, like much of their stock, they design and manufacture themselves.
“I love coloured stones – well, obviously diamonds too, everybody loves diamonds!” he says with a twinkle in his eye, “but I spend a lot of time sourcing stones; we look for them unheated as so many of them are heated and treated these days. Our sapphires and rubies come from Ceylon, Sri Lanka and the Burmese border. We take all of the stones as they are and set them ourselves – two same-sized sapphires can look so different from each other, so we like to set them to best effect.”
So why the move back to Nappy Valley? Back in June, Luke and Stuart had a pizza in Buena Sera (“no wine involved”, Stuart hastens to add) and discovered that the lease was available on the shop they now occupy.
“I’d always loved having a shop here,” says Luke. “We just felt that the time was right for the business and without overthinking it, we just went for it. We signed in June and opened in September, so it’s been quite a whirlwind and there’s more to come in terms of our shop displays and offerings.”
“We think there’s a place in the local retail market for a new jewellery shop. There’s no other shop like it in the area and there’s such a village atmosphere – people like to look and try on in a relaxed environment. We have entry level silver earrings for just £24, up to whatever you want to spend! Fabulous coloured stones – rings, earrings and necklaces – brilliant presents for friends and family starting at £55, and then diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and more, including engagement rings, eternity bands, bespoke jewellery design, men’s gifts, christening gifts, valuations and a repair service,” says Stuart.
The store also offers a ‘Wish List’ so that any husbands, wives, partners or friends can get that present just right. Call in next time you’re passing, try on a few things and Luke and the team will keep what you like noted on file for the next time somebody wants to buy you something lovely.
As well as the contemporary jewellery – much of it designed by Luke himself – they buy in pre-loved pieces so you might find a vintage gem, or if you have anything you’re considering selling, call in to talk. The team is really friendly, not in the least bit stuffy or standoffish, and they even allow you to pay off an investment piece with no interest over an agreed time frame, usually three months. There’s nothing daunting about walking in, apart from perhaps realising how much of it you’d like to own!
“Since opening in September, we’ve been really pleased and it’s exceeded our expectations so far,” smiles Luke. “I really feel the business has gone full circle and we’re back where we always loved the best.”
Talking of full circles, over the years they have mentored other small businesses for The Prince’s Trust, and to this day donate £5 from every sale they make back into the charity. “We’re yet to be invited to a Garden Party though,” jokes Stuart. Now if that doesn’t make you want to try on a stunning coloured-stone ring, a stacking necklace or a diamond tiara, I don’t know what will. Did I mention it’s my birthday soon? And then it’s Christmas…
Managing Editor, Charlotte Peterson met with Luke and Stuart at:
The Northcote Jeweller
57 Northcote Road, SW11 1NP
0203 859 7310