Give us some background about Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery
Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery began in 1998, but moved into its first studio in the North Hertfordshire village of Weston in 2000. In 2004, after a period of growth, the company moved into its newly converted Tudor barn in Halls Green, swiftly followed by a branch in Cambridge the following year.
2011 was a milestone year with the launch of Fairtrade gold. HKBespoke was selected as one of 20 jewellers and the Fairtrade Foundation’s choice of ‘luxury bespoke jeweller’ to hold a Fairtrade licence.
Membership of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) soon followed and the business was the first independent to be certified by both organisations. Today we hold over a dozen key business awards for ethics, innovation and contribution to the industry.
How does being an entirely bespoke jeweller set you apart from other retailers?
Our entire process is geared around bespoke – it’s not just an add-on. It’s our whole method of operation, so it’s actually easier for us to produce bespoke than ready-to-wear. It means we’re the genuine article – clean sheet bespoke jewellers. We hand-forge, assemble from cast parts, use CAD, wax, carve – whatever is right for the job, rather than offer a meccano or CAD-only service which can be limiting to creativity or even sometimes be the wrong answer.
Is there an increasing demand for Fairtrade and ethically friendly jewellery from your customers?
Yes, indeed there is. In fact, it’s just about doubling year on year. While some customers pursue us for ethical reasons, there are many more who just like our brand but who have never considered the ethics surrounding jewellery, or even heard of Fairtrade. However, as we chat about the options, they very often choose the ethical route if they can. So rather than take a definitive stance, we choose to spread the word in a collaborative way, gently opening the door to ethics in the jewellery trade.
It isn’t difficult to explain ethical options because we find that most of our customers are highly intelligent and are intrigued by the complexities of ethics. We’re all more sophisticated consumers now in all areas. As with all ethical issues, the right path forward is not a black and white / good or bad story. For example, it’s not a simple truth that it’s best to go to first world countries such as Australia and Canada for gemstones – because who then feeds the child in the third world country who previously benefited from the standard diamond trade? Our customers get that it’s complicated and that there are choices that they can make.
How important is customer service as an independent jeweller?
We’re very focused on customer service. It’s one of the areas that I believe independents can rise far above the [multiples] in every category. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always room for improvement – but independents are able to give exceptional customer service without corporate training or scripts which often comes across as more natural and heartfelt. All of the retail research shows us that discerning customers want to be able to develop a personal relationship with the person who is selling to them. What better way to do this than in luxurious surroundings, without any pressures, and directly with the designer?
What does the future hold for Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery?
We will continue to focus on expanding our ethical gems, metals and Fairtrade offerings to satisfy the increased customer demand. But I’m also working hard in the industry to improve skills and training – I’ve been an advisor for a number of years to the Government’s Creative and Cultural Skills initiative as well as working to improve training in the industry with the BJA and now hopefully with the new incarnation of the NAJ. Outside of that, we’d be mad to tell everyone what our goals are – all we can say is watch this space.
This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Jewellery Focus