Scott Bailey, founder of jewellery manufacturer Bailey of Sheffield, explains how the journey of the business all started with “£25,000 raised on Kickstarter in April 2016”. He says it “wasn’t really about the cash” at the time, but about “making a name for ourselves” on the internet and all around the world through the platform.
Bailey says the business was actually in a pre-order stage until October 2016, and by that time had already made as much as £75,000 in pre-orders for its bracelets. He confidently states this was made up of people basically just seeing the jewellery on the internet, through only images and videos, as no one had an actual piece of jewellery in their hands by that point.
Additionally, both Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield became involved in a lot of the research, development and prototyping with the company during that time. Most recently it helped the manufacturer design its patent pending clasp, which Bailey says has “nearly been granted now” at the time of writing.
He says that this type of clasp has “never been seen before in the jewellery industry”, and allows the wearer to take the bracelet on and off with one hand. “It actually works counter-intuitively to how regular clasps work,” says Bailey, “and it is quite fun watching everyone try to open and close it at first. But as soon as they do it the opposite way round they realise how it works.”
THE ART OF STEEL MANUFACTURING
All of the bracelets are hand built in the company’s Sheffield-based workshop, but around half the parts used to create the jewellery are also crafted by precision engineers in the region who are “used to making aerospace screws used for spaceships and satellites”. “That goes to the sort of quality that we try and procure,” Bailey explains.
Some of the parts also 3D printed, which Bailey says are “really popular”. “We do some 3D printed hearts, that are that delicate and dainty that if I were to drop it in your hands you would virtually not even be able to tell it was in your hands due to how light it is” he adds, “You could drive a bus over it as well because it gets its strength from itself with the way that it’s printed.”
Bailey also takes pride in local sourcing and elaborates on how, where possible, “everything that can be done is done in Sheffield”, which he says “supports fellow makers and manufacturers in our city and in our region”.
Part of the project was also about celebrating different manufacturing processes and different materials, says Bailey. The company uses stainless 316L at the moment, widely regarded to be the “finest stainless steel in the world”. It’s sometimes referred to ask surgical-grade, and it’s the same steel used in scalpels. Because of this, the bracelets “will not rust or tarnish”.
The packaging for its bracelets are also all handmade in the UK from recycled cardboard. “That goes to the point of sustainability with what we are doing, because stainless steel is a really sustainable product,” adds Bailey, “some 70% of all stainless steel has already been recycled, and it’s obviously 100% recyclable because no stainless steel should ever really have to go into the ground as it can be reimagined into something else. Basically our footprint is zero plastic and it’s a large part of what we do.”
The company recently sold into its 35th country, and Bailey says what’s important for the company is that it works with retailers that “understand they need to tell a story with the jewellery”. He asks people “not to sell the bracelet”, but instead “simply explain it”.
“We work with retailers that are prepared to tell a story and explain the provenance of the material and the quality of the engineering. The fact that will last forever is also important for us, and it’s our pleasure to keep it looking tip-top during it’s life,” he explains.
When asked about the current state of the industry, Bailey think it is a “really exciting time”, and stresses that the “opportunities are there”. “Before we launched three years ago we really anticipated that we would be a digital business and would need to be able to grow our business online all around the world.”
However, he goes on to say that the jewellery industry really needs to take an honest view about online versus retail. “My point is, is that the world is changing really quickly and I think that we are benefitting from people wanting to make sure that every pound that they spend is spent wisely; on something that will last forever and is fully personalisable.”
Bailey states there “will always be a place” for experiential retailers that want to tell stories and offer a really high level of customer service, but thinks that this is the “only area of that industry that will grow – mainly because people “don’t mind spending £250 on the internet” to buy a bracelet.
He is also “really proud” of his customer reviews, all of which have been “five star and glowing” since it first launched the business. “That’s not by accident”, he explains, “because for customer service there isn’t anything we won’t do”. “It seems so short sighted to me not to do everything for your customers,” he adds, “We are running a business because people want to buy our bracelets, why would I not do everything to keep them happy.”
Bailey says it’s about continuing to “take it steady”. “There is no limit to what we can do with the bracelet, for us, it’s about holding our nerve over the next few months,” he adds, “We are really excited about all the sales we have coming from around the world, and we have also had some very generous offers of investment.”
He concludes by giving thanks to jewellery consultant Judith Lockwood, who was a mentor to Bailey whilst he ran the business. Lockwood has worked with the high end of the jewellery industry for many years and, including Cartier and Gucci, launching numerous branded jewellery in the UK. “She’s given us so much help over the last four years, and we wouldn’t have been able to do half of what we’ve been able to do without her help.”