Name: Guy Burton, Hancocks London
Year established: 1849
Number of staff: 10
When was Hancocks founded?
Hancocks was founded in 1849 by Charles Frederick Hancock, opening on the corner of Bond Street and Bruton Street. He was a quick mover; within a year of opening he had our first Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria and by 1856 had been appointed as the makers of the then new Victoria Cross Medal.
What type of jewellery do you sell?
We sell jewellery from all periods – from the early Victorian, through Art-Nouveau and Art Deco periods to our own contemporary pieces. We specialise in older signed jewels from all the great and celebrated jewellery houses over the years. For the wedding and engagement market we sit in a niche, using predominantly beautiful old-cut diamonds in handmade, unique one-off rings created here in London – pairing the very best old-cut stones with the very finest traditional craftsmanship. This is an area I focus a lot of my time on, mostly working on a bespoke basis with customers creating their perfect ring. In the last year my sister Amy has launched her very first collection under Amy Burton Fine Jewellery. This is a contemporary collection exclusive to Hancocks which also incorporates the highest level British craftsmanship combined with her incredible design talent and gemmology knowledge.
How do you differ from your competitors?
A jeweller is only as good as the stock they curate. Finding and recognising these rare and wonderful jewels to put in the windows is something we work very hard to maintain. What distinguishes Hancocks from others is that we have gained an enviable reputation for selling ‘best-in-class’ pieces of jewellery. In the engagement ring market I don’t believe there is anyone providing a better product or service. You have to be genuinely passionate about the ingredients that go into making the pieces we sell and for me, old-cut diamonds are my passion and I enjoy sharing it with potential customers. These days it is incredibly hard to find top quality handcraftsmanship, with the development of CAD and other factors it is an area which has been overlooked – something we have the complete reverse view on.
What trends have you noticed over the past 12 months?
Wearable gold jewellery has had a real spike, especially pieces from the 60s and 70s. I think people are starting to really enjoy wearing finely made jewellery again in a more casual capacity. There is also an appetite for statement pieces, stand-out design pieces that verge on outrageous move quickly, again putting the spotlight on the 60s to 80s. In the engagement ring market I have noticed over the last 12 months that cushion-cut diamonds and sapphires have been very popular again.
What’s the most impressive piece you’ve ever sold?
There have been some incredibly memorable sales over the years. One item that stands out was an exquisite enamel and diamond butterfly brooch by Rene Lalique in the late 19th Century which he gifted to his daughter Suzanne. It was a work of art. From our contemporary collection, the most recent example is the T ring – designed by Amy, painstakingly handmade by master craftsman with 30 years plus experience, it literally didn’t even hit the shop floor as we took it to TEFAF Maastricht, the world’s largest art fair, and it was sold within days of it being exhibited.
You were named Mayfair’s ‘best independent jeweller’ last year, how does it feel to be recognised for your work?
That was a very special moment for all of us here. We are a relatively small team here at Hancocks and there isn’t anything that happens individually, it’s all teamwork. So from that perspective it was a great compliment and a sign that the way we work and gel together is working.
What’s the next step for Hancocks?
The future is exciting. We have been working hard to bring ourselves into the 21st Century with a new website that we have just launched. We are very proud to be located in the Burlington Arcade surrounded by history and I feel the London market is buoyant and full of potential at the moment if you have the right goods. With that in mind we want to work with that as much as possible and try to improve all aspects of how we sell our jewellery. We will continue to travel around the world to different trade and retail shows, both visiting and exhibiting to find the best of what is out there.
This feature first appeared in the April 2017 issue of Jewellery Focus