Masonic Jewellery.co.uk has been passed through several different hands over the past 100 years, under different owners and even different names, but the tooling and the knowledge has remained consistent over the course of a century,” says Mike Jeffreys, owner and director of the manufacturer which provides authentic Freemason/masonic jewellery for men and women.
Mike has been the owner of the business for nearly two-and-half years, which was formerly Midland Masonics and before that traded as Lodge Jewellery. “Before even that it was J H Wynn,” he adds, “and it’s probably had other names before that, going back to the 1920s, in what can be considered the Peaky Blinders days.”
One of the most unique products it manufactures is a reversible signet ring that has a section that swivels, showcasing a different design on each side. “On one side people can have their initials, monograms and on the other their family crest, for example, which offers a lot of flexibility,” explains Mike.
The company uses very traditional methods for crafting its jewellery, utilising stamping presses, where jewellers take a piece of gold or silver and stamp a masonic symbols, and vitreous enamelling, where powdered glass is melted on to a ring to give it its colours, to create its pieces. Mike considers these to be “dying arts”, and says this is because “nobody” has been manufacturing this kind of jewellery for “quite a number of years”, due to the pieces being “very difficult to make, with many processes and containing numerous secrets”.
The masonic orbs it sells, for example, are made up of about 15 different stamped pieces, all put together by hand. Mike says that jewellers need to have the technical knowledge on how to put it all together, making it similar to a puzzle. He notes that it requires very high precision and is done entirely by hand, all without the assistance of machines – due to the fact that “no machine that would be able to do this”.
But as a result of the skill needed to craft these items, Mike says the jewellery market has been very limited in terms of these products for many years, and goes on to say that people who want this kind of jewellery either have to “scour” second hand shops, pawn brokers or the internet to try and find them – as just second hand items. But despite this, the demand is there, insists Mike, as Masonic Jewellery.co.uk has sold its product to a number of countries throughout the world, including America, Australia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Bolivia, China, Japan and Russia to name a few.
He notes that the key to maintaining a good relationship with its stockists and customer comes down to both service and price. “Those are the only two things they mainly focus on, he adds, “and its important to maintain high standards with the products and communicate well, in addition to having dedicated people working on the project.”
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE JEWELLERY MARKET
In terms of the current state of the jewellery market, Mike thinks the footfall for jewellery and retail as a whole is “down overall”. People will still buy “essential” items such as wedding and engagement rings, but where he thinks it “isn’t so strong” at the moment is luxury items such as a tennis bracelet or diamond earrings. “That to us are the premium products, and the people are a little apprehensive about spending larger amounts. But it’s not just jewellery, but the high street in general,” he adds, “Gold prices are going through the roof, and it is making people a bit more hesitant to buy expensive jewellery. Customers are looking for a deal or a discount, something to persuade them to buy it. So it’s not easy at the moment, as people don’t walk into a shop and go here is a £1,000 just like that.”
In terms of his own business, Masonic Jewellery.co.uk exists alongside three other retail shops, which all fall under the parent company Trojan Findings. Trojan used to sell “findings and diamonds” to the trade, but in 2008 “went retail”, initially with Warstone Jewellers, and then with another shop called Vintage and Modern, which is an FCA licensed pawn brokers.
The business are run with his wife Lynn and sons Matthew and Michael, and he claims what separates the business he runs with the others in the jewellery quarter is a “much friendlier atmosphere”. “A lot of the shops work off commission so they have a bit more assertiveness in their sales manner,” he says, “whereas we are much friendlier. When you are spending a lot of money, you don’t want to be pressured or pushed, as some of the shops around here even have people on the steps outside trying to persuade customers to enter their store.”
Looking to the future, Mike says he wants to be able to employ more skilled staff on the manufacturing side of the business, and build up both the company’s capacity and the amount of orders it can take. “Imagine if somebody said ‘I love this ring, I want 100 of them’. We would find it difficult to complete that quickly,” he adds, “ and I foresee that happening because trade orders are not uncommon with this kind of jewellery.”
He concludes by saying there has been a big gap in the market for this kind of jewellery and that business was “on the floor” when he first acquired it. “The previous owners were two elderly jewellers, one who retired and the other unfortunately passed away, so it was a good job I interviewed in the purchase of the business otherwise the knowledge and skills would have all been lost.”
Who are the Freemasons
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. Its roots lie in the traditions and ceremonies of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles. Some rituals are still celebrated today.
According to the group, for some, Freemasonry is about making new friends and acquaintances. For others it’s about being able to help deserving causes – making a contribution to family and for society. But for most, it is an enjoyable hobby.
It added that it teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies, and members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.