Still going strong after 231 years: The inspiring story of England's oldest jeweller

Still going strong after 231 years: The inspiring story of England's oldest jeweller

Posted: Tue 19th Sep 2017

Founded in 1786 Deakin & Francis is England's oldest jeweller. Still operating from the same building the company opened 231 years ago, the brand is now run by Henry and James Deakin, the seventh generation of bosses.

In this interview, Henry Deakin, an Enterprise Nation member, discusses the amazing story behind the brand, how to run a family business and tips for staying innovative.

What challenges did you face when taking on a business with such a long history?

2017 sees us celebrate an impressive 231 years of jewellery design and manufacture and we have never veered from the high standards of craftsmanship and quality that are our tradition.

Our company is built on a strong set of family values and an important challenge has been to ensure we maintain these going forwards.

It is these values, together with our innovative range of products and a first class service that sets us apart.

How do you ensure that your business keeps innovating?

My brother James oversees the creative department and we are always thinking ahead to our next designs, plus we do like to have a bit of fun!

We offer such a diverse range, from classic and sophisticated to fun and eclectic; there really is something for every personality. We like to think that our pieces become collectables, with a style for all.

Deakin & Francis always wants to be one step ahead in terms of both design and quality and the brand is a good example of craftsmanship at its best.

Our Fundamentals collection is a great example of how we keep innovating. The collection has been designed, developed and crafted in truly innovative ways.

The Mechanicals section, for example, is inspired by everything that powers our world, from engines and cogs to motors and pumps, and features unique mechanical effects. From smooth rotating cogs to blades that spin and whistle, every detail has been perfected.

There are also pieces that have been crafted from aircraft grade aluminium, cufflinks that incorporate ball bearings and designs with laser detailing. This collection will bring cuffs to life!

What advice would you offer other business owners for working with family members?

Seven generations after our ancestor Charles Washington Shirley Deakin developed the product range, the business is now managed by myself and my brother James. Family is at the heart of our business.

My advice to other owners working with family members would be to find a role that works for each member of the family, work to the individual's strengths.

It was very important for us to hold our own positions. My father said to me once "if it does not work for you, don't work for it" and considering Deakin & Francis is a seventh generation company I thought this was very kind!

What advantages does being based in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter bring to your business?

We are proud to be British and even prouder to be within the heart of the Birmingham's Jewellery quarter. We are still in the same building that we started out in back in 1786 and once has as its resident the legendary James Watt.

Being within the Jewellery Quarter enables us to build strong relationships within the industry. At the heart of the country it also means we have strong networks to other areas making us accessible and ensures we can meet tight delivery deadlines and focus on the quality of our work.

How has the company managed to secure such high profile customers over the past 200 years and what tips would you offer other business owners for doing the same?

We manufacture some of the world's finest cufflinks and that means we attract some of the finest customers! We are masters in the art of design, employing tools, traditions and techniques passed from one generation to another.

With customers spanning rock stars to royalty we are also experts in the field of bespoke and work with our clients from start to finish guaranteeing that the end result will be one of the highest quality. My advice to other business owners would be quality, quality, quality.

What have been the key drivers behind Deakin & Francis' longevity?

The guilt of letting the family down after all these years is a pretty big driver and every morning, walking up the steps to the office knowing that seven generations before me have also walked on the same path, is a good reminder!

Every generation has come up against their own issues, be it a world war or a silver crash, and with a legacy like Deakin & Francis, the key driver for James and I was to turn the amazing story into a well known brand.

What three tips would you offer for business success?

Number one for us was to find a niche in the market and own it.

The second would be quality. Without high standards we would not have the reputation that we enjoy today.

Thirdly, have some fun. Remember, you work to live not live to work!

Read more member stories on Enterprise Nation

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