When I founded Augustine Jewels over 10 years ago, I searched around for manufacturing in England. I was determined that Augustine Jewels would be Made in Britain. I hope that the key learnings from that period might help others to manufacture in the UK.
Step 1 – Manufacturing Strategy
The first thing is to really think. How much volume will I be producing per annum? Are most of the pieces bespoke, complex and high end or low end and simple to make? Am I making it in silver or gold or something else? Will I be wanting to use 3-D printing from CAD or will everything be made by hand? Are there any other specialist techniques I would like such as enamelling? Once you have answered all your questions, write the answers down into a manufacturing strategy.
Step 2 – Research
Now you know what you are looking for, you need to first search online for manufacturers. The jewellery quarter in Birmingham or Hatton Garden in London are good places to start. In the old days you could also have attended International Jewellery London at Olympia, but alas it did not survive the pandemic. Its replacement, The Jewellery Show, London is at Excel in September and may also be a good place to continue your research. https://www.thejewelleryshow.co.uk/
Step 3 – Meeting a Shortlist
Once you have made a shortlist, through your research – say of 10 potential manufacturers, I would suggest that you go to meet them. Manufacturing is actually very personal. And you need to have a meeting of minds on design and proportion. It is no good if your designs are delicate and your manufacturer likes chunky. Their eyes will transpose your designs into their interpretation and it won’t work. Following this take your shortlist down to 4 suppliers.
Step 4 – Test
Choose one piece and have each of your chosen four make the same piece for you. You only want an initial sample of one piece to be made at this point, in the future you may want a run of however many you need. It is important to share this – for example if you say I need a run of five or 100 this will impact their price and attention. Give the same “run” number to all four suppliers. Also be sure to give them all the same deadline and ask for an invoice.
Step 5 – Assess
This is very hard.
Design – Did they follow the design brief?
Manufacturing – If you are casting, be very sure to look at the quality, are there bubbles in the production, marks or any other problems.
Timeliness – Did they deliver on time?
Invoicing – Is the invoice actually correct and what you have agreed? Do they have a VAT number on the invoice?
Pricing- Which provider gave you the best price?
Step 6 – Don’t Despair
The first time I tried this process, the manufacturing quality was terrible, all four suppliers were late, all of the invoices were wrong and the prices were incompatible with making any sales or profit. Whilst this is partly a problem of British manufacturing, it is also because I was not credible and it was obvious. I was low down on their priority list. So don’t despair, just try again with a second piece. Ask around for recommendations. Eventually you will find a match made in heaven and your business can take off.